Non Surgical Skin Tightening for the Tummy?

I am a mother of 4 children. I had my first child at the age of 16. I was told that because of my young age my skin stretched a lot, hence all the stretch marks. Ever since I have had a lot of loose skin in that area is there anything that I can do to tighten it without surgery???

Doctor Answers 25

Non Surgical Tummy Skin Tightening Usually Disappointing For Loose Skin and Stretch Marks

Thank you for your question. There are many non surgical skin tightening methods available including Thermage, LuxIR Deep, Titan, Ulthera and others.

The best results of non surgical skin tightening of the Tummy are about 20% improvement. This can be helpful in younger patients who have a small amount of loose skin.

However, from your description I would guess that there is significant loose skin on your abdomen and the stretch marks indicate significant skin damage. Most likely a Tummy Tuck or Abdominoplasty will be required for a satisfactory result. 

Please read the link below to understand the factors you should consider in making your decision.

See a Board Certified Plastic Surgeon for a professional opinion. Good luck.

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Quick fixes are usually temporary

We offer radiofrequency treatments and various fractional and resurfacing lasers in our practice. These offer small benefits in tightening only on the abdomen. Many patients are quite pleased with these treatments in other areas such as the face, as long as they only expect small benefits. They are not pleased if they were expecting tummy tuck results.

Problems around the belly button often require excision of skin, a belly button plasty, or a hernia repair with a belly button plasty, none of which occur with superficial radiofrequency treatments.

For significant looseness of skin in the abdomen, patients should not expect to get tummy tuck tuck results from Thermage, Fraxel, IPL, etc. They are simply no substitute for women who have had children and have a ripped fascia, extra skin, and extra fat. A tummy tuck is designed to address all these problems. For women with more minor problems, there are a number of new tumy tucks available such as the Hybrid tummy tuck or various minitucks, depending on the problem.

Brent Moelleken, MD
Beverly Hills Plastic Surgeon
5.0 out of 5 stars 103 reviews

Skin Tightining Without Surgery: It Can Work if Applied Carefully and with Appropriate Expectations

Noninvasive Skin Tightening Work! ..or Does It? Claims, Fact and Fiction

The problem with noninvasive skin tightening is that everyone wants it and everyone wants to believe it works.  The result is practitioners of all sorts capitalizing on this demand.  The truth about skin tightening interventions is that almost all of them work AND NONE OF THEM WORK.  What I mean by this is that there are many ways to convert energy into heat inside or below the skin causing contraction.  The problem is that to deliver clinically effective results the tissue needs to reach at a minimum 43 C which is uncomfortable and can be scary for the patient and the practitioner.  This often results in ineffective treatment and wasted time and money.  I have developed extensive experience with noninvasive technologies mot because I'm a fan but because my patients demand it.  After using several "best in class" technologies to deliver definitive results, my patients were relatively pleased but I was underwhelmed.  THis is why I started using  a treatment that we call Maerckks Multimodal Therapy(MMT) in my practice.  All this is is an intelligently designed multitechnology treatment customized for the individual patient.  I use multiple diffferent frequencies and administration systems for radiofrequency delivery, three different ultrasound frequencies, infrared pulsed light, two different laser systems in concert to deliver immediate significant results that are hard to argue with and continue improving for weeks.  I think the only way to get real results is to combine technologies under the direction of a plastic surgeon that understands the capabilities and limitations of noninvasive skin tightening.  No one technology really delivers anything significant.  Also realiize that even my MMT results that I am very proud of do not remotely compare to what I can achieve with surgery and the cost can approach or exceed that of surgery depending on location and individual patient findings

Rian A. Maercks, MD
Miami Plastic Surgeon
5.0 out of 5 stars 39 reviews

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No great solutions for non-surgical tummy tightening

Thanks for the question -

Unfortunately there are no great solutions for the problems that you raise. These are extremely common problems after childbirth. There are several issues:

  1. Post-pregnancy abdomens commonly suffer from "rectus diastasis". This means that during your pregnancy the muscles that make up your six pack have actually separated and moved towards the sides of your abdomen. This causes your core to look significantly less tight. Unfortunately working out will not correct the position of the muscles.
  2. Pregnancy also stretches the skin. Tears in the deep layers of the dermis are manifested as stretch marks. They are actually scars where the dermis has torn.
  3. Many times pregnancy pounds can be hard to shed and normal work-out patterns can be disrupted because of the new arrival.
  4. Extra skin - pregnancy can actually create more skin. Many times your natural skin elasticity will make up for some of this, but when the elasticity isn't there the extra skin can be quite noticeable.

Exercise and healthy eating can help with the third issue. The rest are more difficult.

There are many marketed creams. None provide significant results.

Laser techniques can make small differences but these are usually not effective at addressing the patient's concerns.

In our San Francisco office most patients with these concerns require some procedure such as liposuction or abdominoplasty.

Explore your options, talk to as many people as you can but beware of the marketing surrounding creams and laser.

I hope this helps.

Surgery is your best answer

While there are treatments that can give you mild skin tightening (ultrasound, laser, lipo etc), the degree of loose skin that you have sounds like you require a full abdominoplasty. Patients who have had several children and are now left with loose skin, benefit the most from having their muscles repaired and all of the skin between their belly button and their pubis resected and put in the trash can. The remaining skin is then elevated and sewn down at the level of your panty line. I can't tell for sure without seeing pictures, but most patients in your situation will get a fabulous result.

I hope this is helpful.

David Shafer, MD
Shafer Plastic Surgery
New York City

David Shafer, MD
New York Plastic Surgeon
5.0 out of 5 stars 61 reviews

Tummy tuck is likely the best option

Most women who have been pregnant not only have stretched loose skin and stretch marks but also laxity of the abdominal wall muscles-- simply put, nothing can correct this without an operation, and this muscle laxity is often the major issue.

In addition, I would be very careful trusting any nonsurgical modality that promises to tighten your skin with stretch marks. I would ask to see LOTS of before and after photos and personally talk to patients who have had the procedure. Be careful and invest your hard earned money wisely.

Shahram Salemy, MD, FACS
Seattle Plastic Surgeon
5.0 out of 5 stars 112 reviews

Options limited so get several opinions

First, let me say that in general the question of how to tighten skin without surgery, especially when there are stretch marks, has not been truly solved. Many propose laser-assisted liposuction procedures with claims of skin tightening, but this is surgery and the concept of skin tightening with laser-lipo (for example, cool lipo) has not been objectively proven. What has been reported in the medical literature does not support claims that it is any better than liposuction using traditional techniques.

You may wish to look into Thermage, or liposuction + Thermage. Last year I participated in a clinical trial in which we proved, with objective measurements, that there is more skin tightening of the abdomen with lipo immediately followed by Thermage. Often, it can be done under local anesthesia, so it is pretty minimal as far as surgery goes.

Most of the time, though, if there is a lot of laxity in the skin, a tummy tuck is going to give the best result by far. There is no such thing as a "nonsurgical tummy tuck" so as I said, shop around before making a decision.

Richard Baxter, MD
Seattle Plastic Surgeon
5.0 out of 5 stars 30 reviews

There are several newer therapies that people are using post-baby to tighten skin

Thanks for your question and let’s review this several years after the question was first asked. I think it is
important to have a consultation with a board-certified dermatologist or plastic surgeon to learn all of
your treatment options in today’s world.
These include the surgery, and that is always available and in the mix. If you do not want surgery, there
are several newer therapies that people are using post-baby to tighten skin and these are the newer RF
skin tightening devices. The Venus Legacy, the EndyMed 3Deep, the BTL Exilis and the Syneron VelaShape
III all can play a role here as a minimally effective treatment option for lax skin post-baby. A series of
treatments are needed and proper maintenance is required.

Michael Gold, MD
Nashville Dermatologic Surgeon
4.5 out of 5 stars 10 reviews

Non Surgical Skin Tightening for the Tummy?

 Thank you for the question. For patients who present with abdominal wall muscle laxity after pregnancy and/or weight gain/loss, there is no good noninvasive modality to improve their situation.  This includes cool sculpting, which targets diet and exercise resistant adipose tissue ( assuming good overlying skin elasticity).  Although there are a lot of gimmicks that come and go, there is no good alternative to tummy tuck surgery to remove excess skin/adipose  tissue and tighten abdominal wall muscles after pregnancy or weight loss. Be careful: if it sounds too good to be true, it is!  Best wishes.

Nonsurgical Skin Tightening

Nonsurgical options do not usually achieve the dramatic and effective results that a tummy tuck can achieve. However, you can consider nonsurgical medical aesthetic treatments like laser skin tightening or micro needling. These treatments are designed to tighten the skin by stimulating collagen and elastin production. Results may take several sessions and are not as predictable as a tummy tuck, however you may want to consider them. Microneedling may also help with your stretch marks, but again, the results may be long in coming. Best of luck!

These answers are for educational purposes and should not be relied upon as a substitute for medical advice you may receive from your physician. If you have a medical emergency, please call 911. These answers do not constitute or initiate a patient/doctor relationship.