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Arm Lifts Soar in Popularity

Arm lift - see our weight loss surgery results

Arm lifts have grown in popularity over the past few years, with an increase of 4000% since the year 2000. Driven mostly by patients who have lost massive amounts of weight, the procedure has received a shot in the arm by celebrities’ sleeveless physiques (hello, Michelle Obama!). Known affectionately as “bat wings,” the extra hanging skin dangling from outstretched arms is difficult to improve through exercise or weight lifting. After working hard to improve their arms, many people come to us seeking help. Here are their FAQs.

Q: How can I get rid of this hanging skin?

A: If the hanging skin were loose fabric on a mannequin, you could get rid of it by cutting it away with scissors. That’s roughly the idea of an arm lift, formally known as a “brachioplasty.” The result is a scar extending along the length of the inside back of the arm. In most arm positions, the scar is hidden.

Q: Can’t you just pull the skin and remove it with a scar in the armpit?

A: That seems like a great idea. After all, while patients are pulling their skin, it looks great. The problem is that once that pulling force is removed, the skin relaxes and falls back into place. Patients who are fortunate enough to have extra skin only near the armpit might be candidates, but usually the skin hangs from armpit to elbow. Removing it requires an incision that extends along the inside of the length of the upper arm.

Q: Can you tighten the skin without surgery?

A: Non-invasive treatments, such as Thermage, tighten skin by heating the tissues. This is a great option for patients who have lost some tone, but don’t have a significant amount of hanging skin.

Q: Can liposuction help?

A: Patients with full arms with adipose (fatty) tissue can benefit from liposuction, but in general those with loose skin won’t see an improvement. It is possible for liposuction to result in loose arm skin, so we often combine liposuction of the arms with a skin-tightening laser liposuction for Marin, Sonoma and Napa County patients.

Q: Can I prevent loose arm skin?

A: Most patients seeking a brachioplasty (some as part of post-bariatric surgery) have lost a significant amount of weight or have lost skin and tissue tone as they have aged. Often patients do triceps exercises in hopes of tightening up their skin. Unfortunately, the skin doesn’t tighten, but the shape can improve as the lovely hills and valleys of a fit arm become more visible.

Over 15,000 women underwent brachioplasty in 2012. After the procedure, our Sonoma and Marin County surgery patients tell us they love being able to wear sleeves without breaking the elastic, and they love to be able to go sleeveless. Although the scar is long, it can be concealed, and our patients love saying “good bye bat wings!” Contact our plastic surgery practice in Santa Rosa to find out more about this popular procedure.

Dr. Heather Furnas

About Dr. Heather Furnas

Inspired by watching her plastic surgeon father operate in African bush hospitals, Dr. Heather Furnas followed in his footsteps, training at Stanford and serving on the Harvard clinical faculty. She and her husband, Dr. Paco Canales, practice together in Santa Rosa, California, where they raised their two children. (To learn more about their practice, visit She believes an informed patient is more likely to be a happy patient and is committed to providing that education. If you have any suggestions for topics you'd like to learn more about, she would love to hear from you!

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3 Responses to Arm Lifts Soar in Popularity

  1. linda hamik says:

    do you have before and after pictures on your website? also, is Thermage on the arms permanent or temporary?

    • Yes, we have photos listed in our Photo Gallery under the Body Contouring section. Thermage has been documented to last for years. Results vary person to person, according to genetics, skin tone, skin thickness, etc. Alas, no tightening treatment, whether surgical or nonsurgical, can truly be permanent in the human body, since all skin will relax and age if given enough time.

  2. Bush says:

    This is awesome. I’ve always enjoyed reading your blog. 

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