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Is Skin Removal Surgery the Best Answer for Loose Skin?

Everything you need to know if you’re considering plastic surgery to remove excess skin.

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Skin Removal Surgery

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What are the Costs?

Unfortunately, most insurers view the procedure as simply cosmetic, though it’s often not, says Dr. Daigle. That’s why many people opt not to have their skin removed, because out-of-pocket costs range from about $5,000-$15,000 for a tummy tuck and $10,000-$20,000 for a full body lift, says Dr. Salzberg. You may be more likely to get insurance approval if you lost the weight due to bariatric surgery, says Dr. Salzberg, because if they approved that surgery, they may have to also cover any complications associated with it as well.

It also helps to document any physical aliments the skin is causing, so you can argue that it’s a medical issue. Still, it’s difficult to get coverage. Dr. Daigle believes surgeons like himself need to push for more coverage of this procedure. A study he worked on showed that bariatric patients who had excess skin removed actually fared better and were more successful with continued weight loss than their peers who did not have skin removed after bariatric surgery, likely because they had improved self-esteem, felt more comfortable working out and had improved mobility. There are also metabolic benefits, says Dr. Daigle. For example, tummy tucks have been shown to increase good cholesterol. 

What is Recovery Like?

Recovery is very dependent on how invasive your surgery is, but can range anywhere from two weeks to two months. The pain can often be managed with medication, but discomfort is usually the main issue. There are often issues with fluid collection in the area, so drains have to be put in to help keep swelling down, says Dr. Salzberg. “Patients have to be careful about movement and may wear a compression garment to help,” he says. Once the draining process is done, patients can get back to regular movement and exercise, Dr. Salzberg says. Surgery can be outpatient or require a stay; it all depends how intense your operation will be.

For Diaz, it took between two and three months after each surgery to feel pretty much back to normal, but his surgeries were very invasive and removed large amounts of skin. He said the worst part for him was the discomfort (he thought he had a tight belt on when he first woke up, and it was difficult to even stand up straight for some time) as well as the dissonance he felt toward his completely new body. “It’s like waking up in a different house and being told I live there now,” Diaz says. But he’s starting to regain sensation in his entire body and feel more at home in his skin. He’s been stared at for his scars, but before that, he says, he was stared at for his excess skin. “The difference now is that I feel more comfortable.”

What are the Benefits?

Despite the physical and emotional scars the surgery can leave behind, patients are usually very happy with their results. “After this surgery, they can move on to their new life—this is life-salvaging for a lot of people,” says Dr. Salzberg. “This can help them identify with their new body image.”

“There’s clearly a psychosocial aspect where people just feel better about themselves and their body image overall,” Dr. Daigle says.

“At the end of the day I feel so much stronger and just generally better because I don’t have the literal stuff hanging on me,” says Diaz. He’s back to doing some light cardio and plans to start lifting again when he can, and feels good. While he still has his insecure moments, overall, he’s very happy with the procedure, and he hopes others aren’t ashamed to have it done.

He recently got a sunflower tattoo in the middle of his chest to represent a new beginning. “I had had no feeling in the center of my midsection last year, and in this weird serendipitous moment, when I got hit with the tattoo needle it was like my nerves woke up and I could feel it,” says Diaz. “It made me feel grounded in my skin.” 

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