How can I eliminate excess skin in my arms?

I had lipo Sept. 09, and this was performed to remove slight wings under my arms. I am 5'6" and weigh 118 lb., but the result was less than desirable. I now have very loose and wrinkled skin that is very embarrassing, and cannot wear anything that reveals my arms. I can pull the skin up on my arm toward my armpit and gather about two or three inches, and my arm is literally thinner at the upper portion than at the lower portion. Is there any procedure that can fix this? Please help!

Doctor Answers 13

Arm liposuction is not good in my opinion

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Any kind of liposuction (laser, Smart or traditional) requires good surgical technique and good skin elasticity for a great result.  The upper arm has the thinnest skin on your body other than the inner thighs.  These two areas are best avoided for liposuction in most cases in my opinion because of the potential for the result you have.  The fact that your upper arm is thinner than the area farther down speaks to not the greatest technique and unfortunately now your only solution may be an arm lift with it's scars.

In your case I would have recommended serious triceps muscle exercises and no surgery as I never do arm liposuction.  It makes me frustrated to hear stories like yours and I hope other patients read about what you are experiencing because many doctors don't seem to be as concerned about the potential for poor outcomes in these areas as they should be.  All just my opinions.

How can I eliminate excess skin and my arms?

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Judging from your description a brachioplasty for "arm lift" would be the only effective treatment. You have already had liposuction. Presumably this has removed the excess fat but loose skin remains. In performing this procedure an incision is made on the inside of the arm extending from the elbow into the armpit. Sometimes it is necessary to extend the incision further into the armpit and sometimes past it. Utilizing this incision excess skin is removed and the wound is closed. It is very important to position the scar properly so that it is concealed as much as possible. A well-placed incision should result in a scar that is only visible when the arms are raised. This operation is normally performed as an outpatient. It is very important for the surgeon to discuss the resultant scar thoroughly with the patient preoperatively. Very commonly this scar takes a longer time to undergo the full healing and maturation process. Maturation refers to the process whereby the scar becomes less apparent. Brachioplasty scars commonly take up to 2 years to fully mature. Be sure to consult a surgeon or certify by the American Board of Plastic Surgery who has extensive experience in all forms of body contouring. Good luck.

John J. Edney, MD
Omaha Plastic Surgeon
4.8 out of 5 stars 133 reviews

Arm Lift Helps With Excess Skin

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                  In the vast majority of patients with excess arm skin, liposuction isn’t indicated. This procedure wouldn’t improve loose saggy skin and in some cases might actually make it worse.

                  For these reasons, loose upper arm tissue usually requires an arm lift. This procedure actually removes excess skin and fat. It’s associated with high satisfaction rates in most patients, but can be associated with severe scarring in some cases.

                  In your case, an arm lift is probably necessary. It’s important to consult a board certified plastic surgeon with experience in this area. This surgeon should be able to formulate a treatment plan that addresses your concerns. 

Arm Lift

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A brachioplasty is essentially an upper arm lift. In this procedure, the excess hanging skin and fat in the upper arm is removed. Its the procedure used to correct the common "bat wing" of skin that manifests in patients who have lost a significant amount of weight.  Best wishes.

Dr. Basu

Houston, TX

Excess skin around the arms

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Liposuction alone, when one does not take into account the elasticity of the skin at the start will yield loose baggy skin.  In order to take care of this issue, skin must be excised.  Some additional liposuction may be performed to smooth out your arms.  In order to properly formulate a treatment plan, the physical exam must be performed.  Please visit with a board certified plastic surgeon.

Eliminating Excess Skin

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Excess skin in the arms is a common result for patients that have the liposuction procedure on their arms. Liposuction solely will remove the fat in the area, but it just depends on your skin quality and the way that it retracts. Some patient’s skin does not shrink back into place and this causes them to be unhappy with their results.

You should consult a board certified plastic surgeon to see if you are a candidate for a limited brachioplasty or a full brachioplasty. Limited brachioplasty involves a smaller incision in your armpit area, a full brachioplasty will have that same armpit incision but it will extend down to your elbow.

I have included a link below that may be of interest to you. Best of luck.

Skin Laxity after Arm Liposuction

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It is hard to determine the specific surgical procedure that would be best for you without an exam, but it sounds like you are a candidate for brachioplasty (arm lifting) surgery to address the loose skin in your upper arms. Liposuction removes the excess fat, but does not address skin laxity and can make the skin appear looser if there is not enough skin elasticity to retract around the treated areas. 

Incision length and pattern vary based on the amount and location of excess skin to be removed, as well as the judgment of your surgeon. Incisions are generally placed on the inside of the arm or on the back of the arm and may extend from the underarm (axilla) to just above the elbow. If additional fat is to be reduced during your arm lift, it will be excised at that time.

Jourdan Gottlieb, MD
Seattle Plastic Surgeon

Arm skin laxity after lipo

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Lipousuction is designed to remove fat and does not result in skin or soft-tissue tightening.  If you have excess laxity following liposuction that laxity will need to be corrected by a tightening or lift procedure.  There are a number of different arm lift procedures.  Discuss your options with your plastic surgeon.  Ask lots of questions and make sure to look at the before and after photos of previous arm lift procedures the plastic surgeon has performed.

All the best,

Dr. Remus Repta

Remus Repta, MD
Scottsdale Plastic Surgeon
4.9 out of 5 stars 173 reviews

Loose skin after liposuction of the arms...

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Some patients after having Liposuction, in any area, may experience sagging due to poor skin elasticity.  Skin on the upper arms is thin, so it is possible to see it post operatively after liposuction because it doesn't contract as well.  If there is enough skin to be removed, then a Brachioplasty may be needed.  A Brachioplasty is when an incision is made from the under arm area down to the elbow and the excess skin is removed.  After healing you are left with a faint line on your inner arm and a slimmer upper arm area.  Consult with your plastic surgeon to see if you are a candidate.

Arm Lipo vs. Arm Lift

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If you can gather that much skin, my guess is that you were probably a better candidate for brachioplasty (arm lift) than you were for arm liposculpting.  Arm liposculpting can be a good choice for those with:

--Elastic skin tone and not a lot of excess skin

--Good muscle tone

-- Fat in their arms that is not excessive, and is localized in a one or more specific areas

If you don't have good skin elasticity and muscle tone, or you have a lot of excess skin, as you described, an arm lift is going to be a better choice.  Scars are the greatest drawback of this operation, and will extend from the armpit to mid-way down the arm to the elbow, however, those with extremely saggy skin tend to find this exchange (scars instead of saggy excess skin) very worthwhile. 

Steven Svehlak, MD
Los Angeles Plastic Surgeon
4.5 out of 5 stars 31 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.