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Post-Weight Loss Surgery Possibility: Cosmetic Surgery

Your skin is the largest organ in your body, and after working hard to lose so much weight, you may be discouraged to find that your skin drapes down in unattractive folds or looks damaged with stretch marks. This doesn't happen to everyone, but if it happens to you, what do you do about it? Do you live with it or do you have it taken care of through plastic surgery?

Excess skin isn't just a cosmetic issue. If your skin starts to sag, hygiene can become a major issue. Any skin fold can be prone to rashes, which are usually a type of yeast infection. Common areas are under the breasts, in the belly button, and above the pubic area and groin. Yeast infections occur as these areas get very hot and moist. Using an antifungal powder and keeping the area dry can help, but if the problem is something you battle continuously, you may decide to opt for surgery.

Chafing is another major problem, and this can occur between the thighs, under the arms, and in areas that rub against the bra. Wearing longer fitted garments on the arms and legs can decrease irritation and breakdown of the skin in these areas, but again, you may decide that surgery is your best option.

Plastic surgery following weight loss surgery often requires individualized body contouring. In body contouring, excess skin and pockets of fat are removed from the abdominal area, thighs, buttocks, upper arms, and breasts. It is a total reworking of the body that is becoming more popular. Body contouring can require several days' hospitalization, six weeks off work, and a year until scars heal. A complete body contouring with a facelift can cost $30,000. The total number of surgeries is usually spread over several months.

The plastic surgery procedure will most likely be more painful than your weight loss surgery.

Knowing whether you'll need plastic surgery

It would be nice if your skin just snapped back to where it should be, but that doesn't always happen. Your skin is like a balloon that you blow up and deflate. When you lose a huge amount of weight, your skin can look like that deflated balloon.

The good news is that not everyone who has weight loss surgery will require plastic surgery. Before you lose all your weight, you can't really be sure whether you'll need plastic surgery. Although there are no guarantees, here are some factors that affect whether you'll need plastic surgery:

  • Your age: People who are younger have more elasticity in their skin, and their skin will snap back more easily.
  • How much weight you have to lose: The more overweight you are, the more your skin is stretched, and the more likely you are to need plastic surgery.
  • How many times you've gained and lost weight in your lifetime: Your skin is like that balloon that goes up and down. The stretching and deflating cause the skin to lose elasticity.
  • Where you carry your weight: If the majority of your weight is concentrated in one area, such as your abdominal area, rather than all over your body, then your chances of needing plastic surgery are increased.
  • Whether you've ever smoked: Smoking breaks down collagen, a major component of skin and other structural components of the body. Smokers develop more loose skin than nonsmokers.
  • Whether your skin has been exposed to a lot of sun over the years: All of that sunworshipping makes your skin less elastic.
  • Your skin type: Some skin types have more elasticity than others. Genetics plays a part.

Looking at steps you can take

It would be nice if there were something you could do about hanging skin, short of plastic surgery, but generally there is not. Although exercise will help your weight loss, it won't do anything for your excess skin. What exercise can do is give you very nice, well-defined muscles under all that skin, which can help fill out the sag.

Hydration and the elasticity of your skin go hand in hand. Be sure that your skin stays well hydrated by drinking lots of water.

In the months leading up to plastic surgery, doing the following will help give you better results:

  • Exercise so your muscles are toned.
  • Eat a lot of protein so you'll heal faster.
  • Be as close to your goal weight as possible.
  • Take all your vitamins so you're healthy.
  • Don't smoke. Smoking will directly affect your ability to heal. As you smoke, less oxygen is available for the healing process, and removing pounds of skin requires a lot of healing.

As you lose weight, before you have plastic surgery, you may find that your hanging skin significantly impacts what clothes you can wear, and your clothing size can vary because of the "spare tire" you're carrying. You can find many different elastic or spandex girdles to strap yourself in and give yourself a smoother silhouette — these can really be effective. Unfortunately for guys, these options are mostly available for women.

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