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Many dieters struggle with loose skin after weight loss. Whether you’ve lost a lot of weight or just a few pounds, it’s common for skin to sag in certain areas. Loose skin on your arms, abdomen, or thighs can be especially frustrating to manage.
For many people who have been successful at weight loss, surgery is the best option. But going under the knife is not the only way to tighten loose skin. There are new medically-approved methods that are safe and effective for some patients.
Surgery vs. Non-Surgical Methods to Get Rid of Loose Skin
Not every patient is a good candidate for non-surgical skin tightening procedures. In some cases, surgical skin tightening procedures work best. So, how do you know which method to choose?
Dr. Bruce Katz, a Clinical Professor of Dermatology at The Mount Sinai School of Medicine, Director of the Cosmetic Surgery & Laser Clinic at Mount Sinai Medical Center, and Director of the Juva Skin & Laser Center in New York., has some tips.
“In general,” he says, “good candidates for non-surgical methods are patients who have skin that is not pendulous or redundant.” He explains that pendulous skin is loose skin that is folding over on itself. Patients who have folds of skin make better candidates for surgery. But he emphasizes that a full examination by a board-certified physician is the best way to determine which method is best.
Dr. Katz also says that patients who have healthy skin are likely to see the best results. “Sun-damaged skin, for example, is harder to work on. But skin that is in good condition,” he says, “responds better to treatment.”
How to Tighten Skin Without Surgery
If your loose skin can be treated without surgery, there are several non-invasive or minimally invasive options to choose from.
This popular treatment is non-invasive, painless and requires no downtime after the procedure. During treatment, two different radio frequencies are applied to the skin to tighten both the top layer and the deeper layer of skin. Most patients require 4 to 5 treatments and the results generally last 2 to 3 years. vShape can be performed anywhere on your body to tighten loose skin.
The typical cost is $500 to 800 per treatment.
This minimally invasive procedure also uses radio frequency, but the results are permanent. During a ThermiTight procedure, local anesthesia is applied to the area where you want to tighten loose skin. Then a tiny probe is inserted under the skin to deliver radiofrequency energy and stimulate the production of new collagen. ThermiTight can be used to treat loose skin on your neck, jowls, upper arms, abdomen or thighs.
The typical cost is $3,500 to $5,000 (depending on location).
VelaShape is very similar to vShape but uses slightly different technology. Treatments are non-invasive and painless. During a procedure, the VelaShape machine combines four different technologies — infrared, bi-polar radio frequency, pulsed vacuum, and massage rollers to treat the thighs, buttocks, love handles or abdomen.
Patients generally see a gradual tightening of the skin and cellulite reduction. Most patients require 4 treatments to see results.
The cost varies depending on body par but can range from $300 to 800 per treatment.
EMSCULPT is a non-invasive treatment that builds muscle in the abdomen or buttocks without exercise. While the treatment doesn’t necessarily change skin laxity, it can help to promote muscle growth and muscle shape beneath the skin to make your body look tighter. Each procedure lasts about 30 minutes. You’ll need a minimum of four sessions, scheduled 2-3 days apart. Results are permanent, but maintenance treatments are required.
The cost varies based on location but each treatment is typically around $1000, making the complete four-session procedure about $4000.
Are Skin Tightening Procedures Worth the Cost?
Even though you can tighten loose skin without surgery, it doesn’t necessarily mean that you should. Dr. Katz cautions that patients must be willing to commit to a healthy diet and exercise program to maintain their tighter skin after a treatment. He says that patients should maintain a consistent weight to keep the skin from stretching out again.
Unfortunately, data suggest that weight gain following weight loss is likely to happen. Even a small amount of weight gain may change the way your skin looks.
If you lost weight recently, you may want to wait up to a year to see if you regain some or all of your weight before investing in a procedure.
A Word From Verywell
For some patients, the time and money invested in their skin-tightening procedure may provide enough motivation to stick to their new diet and keep the weight from coming back. But every patient is unique. Be sure that you evaluate all of your options and consider your long-term plan before you choose the best treatment for your loose skin.