Ask a doctor

Will Tightening Arm Skin Leave Severe Scars?

I have lost about 100 lbs and I have super loose arms and arm-pit skin to the point that I look like an 80 year old woman and I am only 23.

I really want to get rid of it but am weighing the cost of having a major scar down my arm verses the extra loose skin. Is the scar as bad as people make it out to be? Is there something called and arm pit tuck to tighten the skin between the chest and arm pit?

Doctor Answers (32)

Brachioplasty scars are frequently bad, BUT. . .

+4

For loose upper arm skin, whether by weight loss or age and genetics, there is no exercise, laser treatment, RF (radio frequency, like Thermage), or other alternative that can remove or successfully tighten this loose skin without scars. These scars usually run from armpit to elbow, occasionally further down the arm, and the skin thickness and innate healing in this area of the body yields scars that are all-too-often thick (hypertrophic), wide, contracted (like a burn scar), or otherwise unsightly--regardless of the surgeon's skill or precision of closure. Of course, a poor closure makes any scar, however good or bad, even worse. Poor incision placement further complicates the issue, since proper placement can help you hide the scars in many arm positions. Liposuction can help contour arms with good skin tone but is generally not helpful at tightening skin, even laser or ultrasonic versions. Mini-brachioplasties give mini-results and smaller but still-bad scars (rarely recommended).

That's the bad news. Now for some good news: Because of the popularity of gastric bypass and lap bands, many more patients are now candidates for brachioplasty, and well-trained, experienced, board-certified plastic surgeons are getting better at mastering this challenging procedure and giving patients good results. Photos don't really help you--who would show you bad scars? Honesty and experience are often the best predictors of who can give you the best results.


Minneapolis Plastic Surgeon
5.0 out of 5 stars 109 reviews

An Arm Lift is right for you when the idea of the scar is more attractive to you than the loose skin you have

+3

A scar will, ideally, fade over time.  A scar can be carefully camouflaged with makeup, if needed.  But that loose skin can only be hidden by wearing long loose sleeves.  The time to have the arm lift surgery is when the idea of the scar is more attractive to you than continuing to hide the loose hanging skin.  And, yes, there are methods to remove the extra skin near the armpit as well.

Carmen Kavali, MD
Atlanta Plastic Surgeon
4.5 out of 5 stars 17 reviews

You might also like...

Arm lift scars

+2

The benefits of an arm lift overcome the unappealing contour of sagging arm skin.  However, the choice to undergo surgery with well-hidden scars is a personal choice.  I would recommend choosing a surgeon who understands your individual desire to minimize scars.

Raffy Karamanoukian, MD, FACS
Los Angeles Plastic Surgeon
5.0 out of 5 stars 46 reviews

Brachioplasty scars

+2

Hello kat 1775.

I would agree with previous posts regarding the quality of brachioplasty scars.  I find that these are some of the poorest quality scars.  This must be well understood prior to surgery.

There are a few tricks to help get the best scar possible

  • Avoid closure under excess tension (up to your surgeon)
  • Layered closure taking the tension off of the skin (up to your surgeon)
  • Avoiding significant use for a period of time (6 weeks)
  • Early scar maintenance (Mederma, vitamin E, silicone sheeting)

York Jay Yates, MD
Salt Lake City Plastic Surgeon
5.0 out of 5 stars 39 reviews

Brachioplasty patients are generally delighted

+2

Brachioplasty incisions are generally placed on the inner aspect of the upper arms from the axilla to  elbow.  People with very minimal loose skin,  may  achieve improvement with an axillary incisionan incision brachioplasty.  While the incision is red and visible at first, it fades in time to a thin white line.  Most patients find the scars highly desireable to living with loose skin.  Brachioplasty often gives patients confidence to wear clothing they never considered prior to surgery.  Occasionally, a small area of the incision may not heal as desired.  This is easily revisable with a minor secondary surgery using only local anesthesia. 

Malcolm A. Lesavoy, MD
Encino Plastic Surgeon

Arm lift is a trade for improved arm appearance with a scar

+2

Despite the efforts of generations of surgeons- the scars for arm-lift procedures tend to be some of the poorest quality scars we put on our patients- the inner arm skin is very thin and inelastic- its constantly moving- since its cylindrical, there is always tension on the scar- my experience has been that women with 'skinny' arms with lots of loose skin tend to have more acceptable scars. All of the arm lift revisions I have done for my own patients have been on women with fatty/heavy arms AND loose skin. I stage these patients- lipo first, and then arm lift 3 months later. The short scar arm-lift procedure is only appropriate for patient with laxity limited to the upper 1/3 of the arm.

Scott C. Sattler, MD, FACS
Seattle Plastic Surgeon
4.5 out of 5 stars 32 reviews

Scarring after brachioplasty

+2

If you have a large amount of loose, hanging skin in the arms, the only way to really tighten it is to undergo a brachioplasty procedure. The scars are long and typically do not heal as nicely as scars elsewhere. They are placed on the under surface of the arm so they are not visible when your arms are down by your side. It is definitely a trade off -- scars for better arm contour. I would advise you to look at lots of pictures of brachioplasty scars so that you can judge for yourself.

Not all scars are unsightly but in general, these scars are more noticeable than others. If you decide that you do not want to have long arm scars, you can opt to have a more limited form of brachioplasty where the scar is kept in the armpit. However, there is a limit to how much tightening can be done with this shorter incision.

Caroline Min, MD
Los Angeles Plastic Surgeon
5.0 out of 5 stars 2 reviews

Scars from a brachioplasty

+2

The scars from a brachioplasty are not great looking narrow scars because the skin in that area is very thin and has poor elasticity. Therefore thy tend to spread wider than other scars. Nevertheless, if you have enough extra skin that it really hangs down the scar will be a good trade off in the opinion of most patients. If your deformity is only moderate or mild, the scar might be worse than the skin excess.

Richard P. Rand, MD, FACS
Seattle Plastic Surgeon
5.0 out of 5 stars 47 reviews

Mini vs Full Brachyplasty

+2

First of all yes the scar down the inside of the arm always tends to be bad. Often it is widened or red or both but occasionally it can be a good scar. In addition to this incision usually an incision in the armpit is also done. What I have done in the past is take out as much skin as I could with the armpit incision only then gone back later and repeated the procedure. This gives almost as good an improvement as the long inside arm incision. Just an idea.

Christopher L. Hess, MD
Fairfax Plastic Surgeon
5.0 out of 5 stars 16 reviews

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.