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 27

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.

Beverly Hills Plastic Surgeon
4.9 out of 5 stars 167 reviews

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.

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
4.9 out of 5 stars 149 reviews

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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
4.9 out of 5 stars 50 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
4.0 out of 5 stars 18 reviews

Tummy tuck: the only real solution to loose abdominal skin

I agree with the other plastic surgeons who have responded. You are best off either doing nothing or doing a tummy tuck. Anything in between will probably lead to disappointment.

The basic question is whether you are willing to accept a long lower abdominal scar as a trade for a tighter abdomen. If so, do a tummy tuck. If not, leave things alone.

Ronald Friedman, MD
Plano Plastic Surgeon
5.0 out of 5 stars 45 reviews

Skin tightening without surgery not a reality

If only unicorns were real.

Skin cannot be tightened by:

  • exercise
  • improving the underlying muscles "toning"
  • creams
  • lasers
  • massage

Skin is like a bathing suit. Skin tone is like the elastic in the suit. When the elastic is gone, it is gone. The only way we have of tightening skin is to cut it out. Volume makes skin look better (ie fat under the skin), as it puffs out the skin. Hydration keeps skin better, though drinking lots of water doesn't go to the skin. I do see lasers which improve the look of the skin for a short time -- 3-4 weeks -- due to the swelling following the procedure.

Don't let someone sell you a rainbow. Many people use tricks with photography to try to convince you.

Lauren Greenberg, MD
Palo Alto Plastic Surgeon
5.0 out of 5 stars 17 reviews

Non-surgical skin tightening does not work.

If a significant amount of skin is part of an aesthetic problem, the only way to solve that problem is to remove it surgically. Modest shrinkage of skin may occur with some non-operative techniques (laser for instance), but the amount is very limited-maybe 5% or so (nothing scientific has been published). Don't be ripped off by techniques that don't work I see about one patient a week who has wasted money on Thermage or something else that can never be expected to supplant surgery for large amounts of excess skin.

Vincent N. Zubowicz, MD
Atlanta Plastic Surgeon
4.7 out of 5 stars 34 reviews

Improve your skin without surgery

Yes, tightening lasers (ultrasound or radio frequency) work by heating up the dermis and stimulation

collagen formation and giving you a bit firmer skin. You may also consider an ablative resurfacing lasers

to improve texture of the stretch marks. Most patients often need multiple treatments for optimal


Hooman Khorasani, MD
New York Dermatologic Surgeon
4.8 out of 5 stars 29 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.

Tom J. Pousti, MD, FACS
San Diego Plastic Surgeon
5.0 out of 5 stars 1,461 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.