A body that is in proper proportion is actually perceived by the human eye as being more attractive and healthier looking than one that is not. This, in turn, helps to make it look more youthful. But life can take its toll on the skin and tissues of your body. Pregnancy, age, fluctuating hormones and weight gain/loss can all stretch out different areas of your body such as the breasts and abdomen past their ability to “bounce back”. This throws off your body’s proportion, making you look and feel dumpy. In some cases, no amount of proper eating or time logged at the gym is going to make enough of a difference. Loose skin and “Fit Fat” typically need more work than weight loss and exercise. Thankfully, there is a wide array of surgical and non-surgical body contouring procedures that can restore symmetry and proportion to your body. The key is picking the right procedure or procedures for your anatomy, lifestyle and goals.
Board certified plastic surgeon Dr. Sean Doherty is an expert in all areas of body contouring from breast surgery to liposuction and tummy tuck to SculpSure. Having studied ancient Greek and Roman art and sculpture for his undergraduate degree in Art History and then attending medical school, he has a deep understanding and appreciation of the human form both inside and out. He knows how all of the elements of the body need to work together in order to deliver proper proportion. This is why he always takes a 360° approach to everybody contouring patient that he sees.
Body Contouring Consultation
If you are someone who no longer loves your reflection in the mirror, it may be time to schedule a body contouring consultation with Dr. Doherty at one of his Boston area locations to discuss your options. During your consultation, he will listen closely to exactly what bothers you about your body. He will then perform a thorough physical exam. Together, you will discuss the best procedure or procedures for delivering your desired outcome. The funny thing about body proportion is that though you may be fixated on your abdomen, actually restoring proper proportion may entail liposuction of your flanks and/or an increase in the volume of your breasts. Bottom line, no part of the body exists in isolation.
In general, restoring proper body contour will involve:
- Fat reduction
- Skin excision
- Ability to endure downtime
- Tolerance for scars
Surgical Body Contouring Procedures
Most patients who have had children and/or gained weight from hormone fluctuations such as menopause are going to present with excess fat, loose skin or, in most cases, both. The advantage of surgical body contouring procedures is that they are, in most cases, a one and done, meaning that there is no need for more than one treatment. They also give Dr. Doherty the most control over your outcome. The disadvantage is that each requires some degree of downtime. In addition, surgery always requires an incision which will leave a scar. Surgical body contouring procedures include:
Despite the proliferation of non-surgical fat removal devices, liposuction is still the gold standard for removing excess areas of fat. In this procedure, Dr. Doherty will insert a cannula or thin hollow tube through a series of tiny incisions in the treatment area. He then removes the excess fat with the tumescent liposuction technique. This helps to ensure minimal post-operative bruising and swelling. In certain patients, this procedure may be performed in an office setting under local anesthesia. Whether or not this would be right for you will be discussed in detail during your initial consultation.
*Each patient is unique and individual results may vary.
The great thing about liposuction is that it can treat almost any area of the body in which there is excess fat such as the:
- Bra roll
- Thighs, inner & outer
Furthermore, it gives Dr. Doherty complete control to literally re-sculpt your treatment area, subtracting fat only where needed. It’s incredibly precise. The biggest downside to liposuction is that you will be bruised and swollen for a few weeks following surgery, and will need to wear some type of compression garment for about a month. In general, though, most patients find the downtime to be completely worth it.
While liposuction is ideal for eliminating excess fat in the abdominal area, it does nothing for loose skin. And, unfortunately, childbirth, Father Time and weight gain/loss often result in loose skin as well as extra fat. A tummy tuck or mini-tummy tuck is the ideal procedure for addressing loose skin and muscle as well as extra fat in the abdomen. While most patients will need a full tummy tuck, some only have an issue in the area below their belly button. For them, a mini-tummy tuck can remove the excess skin and tighten the muscle in the lower abdomen without leaving quite as big of a scar.
*Each patient is unique and individual results may vary
The great thing about a tummy tuck is that is can literally deliver a smooth, flat abdomen where a patient used to have rolls of excess fat and skin. However, it does leave a scar. Typically, it is located low on the belly where it can be hidden by even the smallest swimsuit. Dr. Doherty prides himself on his meticulous surgical technique, delivering the smoothest scar possible.
The Mommy Makeover is a catch-all phrase for any combination of procedures. These typically include some kind of breast surgery:
And a tummy tuck because these are the two areas of the body that are most affected by childbirth. However, a patient does not need to be a mother to have a Mommy Makeover. Age, genetics and hormone fluctuations can also do a number on the skin and tissues of the breast and abdomen. The advantage of combining the procedures is that you will only have one anesthesia which brings down the cost of the surgeries, and one recovery. No one wants more downtime than absolutely necessary so getting everything done at once can be a huge time saver for many patients.
Non-Surgical Body Contouring Procedures
Though surgery does give Dr. Doherty the greatest ability to re-sculpt your body contour, not every patient needs or wants a surgical body contouring procedure. Luckily, there are quite a few non-surgical body contouring procedures on the market today that deliver truly exemplary results. These include:
SculpSure & Coolsculpting
For non-surgical fat reduction, Dr. Doherty is a huge fan of SculpSure. It’s a laser that heats and destroys the fat cells in the targeted area. In time, these destroyed fat cells are eliminated through your body’s lymphatic system. Patients can expect up to a 20% reduction in fat in the treatment area. There is little to no downtime associated with SculpSure, but it will take at least two treatments, spaced 6-8 weeks apart, in order to deliver your final results.
*Each patient is unique and individual results may vary.
Coolsculpting is another effective method for removing fat non-surgically. It works in basically the same way as SculpSure only it uses cold to destroy the fat cells instead of heat. While both work really well, there is thought to be a slight skin tightening effect with SculpSure that a patient will not get with Coolsculpting. This can make SculpSure a better choice for certain patients. All of this will be discussed with you during your initial consultation.
Another easy method for reducing fat in small areas is the injectable Kybella®. Originally conceived and FDA approved to treat the submental fat under the chin, Dr. Doherty has had great success using Kybella® in other areas of the body such as the:
- Bra rolls
- Upper arms
- Inner & outer thighs
- Above the knees
The nice thing about Kybella® is that there is no downtime. However, it will take multiple treatments spaced 6-8 weeks apart. So, not only does Kybella require patience, but, depending on the size of the treatment area, deep pockets as well. For the right patient, however, Kybella® can be a great option.
FAQ’s about Body Contouring
The best way to determine which procedure is right for you is by scheduling a consultation to be assessed in person by a board-certified plastic surgeon. However, if you have droopy, loose skin in your abdominal area, you are likely going to be a candidate for a tummy tuck. In fact, removing excess fat without addressing the sagging skin could make your skin sag more. It’s not worth having liposuction when you actually need a tummy tuck because you may end up being disappointed with your results.
It isn’t really about one procedure being better than the other. It’s about choosing the one that is the right fix for your body issues. The mini-tummy tuck is only an option for patients whose excess fat and skin is isolated below their belly button. To be honest, this is not a huge group of patients. Really, any women who is over the age of 40 or who has had a child is most likely going to need a full tummy tuck.
Body contouring is one of my specialties. It’s also a term that encompasses a lot of different surgical and non-surgical procedures including breast surgery, a tummy tuck, liposuction, SculpSure and RF treatments. In order to determine which procedure would be right for you, I would need to see you in-person. If you only have a moderate amount of excess skin on your abdomen, for example, we may be able to improve your body contour with a non-surgical skin tightening treatment with RF. But if you have a moderate to severe amount of loose skin, you will need a tummy tuck which ranges in price from $15,000 to $17,000.
The scar is understandably a huge point of fear for most patients. Genetics play a huge role in how your body produces scars. However, there is a lot that can be done to make any scar as inconspicuous as possible. This starts with practicing impeccable surgical techniques. It is one of the many reasons why it is so important to see a really experienced plastic surgeon such as a board certified plastic surgeon. Passing that test is hard. It means that we have the experience and training to deliver exemplary results. There are also great scar therapies and laser treatments on the market today that can suggest that a scar lay down and mature smoothly. But one of the most important things to remember with any scar is that it takes time, often up to a year, for a scar to fully heal. So, patience is paramount. However, scars do respond to treatments earlier rather than later.
When a product is used in a way outside of the one for which it was FDA approved, it’s called off-label use. Assuming that you are seeing a reputable plastic surgeon, this does not mean that it is unsafe. It just takes a long time for things to go through the FDA approval process. In fact, Botox was only recently FDA approved for use on the forehead yet plastic surgeons have been using it safely there for years. But it is always important to speak with your surgeon about the appropriateness of the off-label use of any product.