When I look at my stomach in the mirror, I never think I have a particularly good-looking belly button. But if I pull the skin above it tight, it suddenly looks better. However, I wouldn’t (at this point) turn to plastic surgery to correct it. It’s just a belly button after all. But, it turns out there are many women who feel more strongly about their belly button aesthetics—Kim Kardashian West gets hers lasered—and plastic surgeons are seeing a rise in requests for procedures to give them a new look. With crop tops becoming a wardrobe staple and summertime around the corner, are we really that surprised?
Although some women just don’t like the look of their belly button, Orlando, FL, plastic surgeon Armando Soto, MD, says, “The most common reasons women want belly button surgery are because of an old piercing that hasn’t aged well or because the skin around it is loose and saggy after pregnancy. Sometimes a small procedure can be done to achieve the patient’s goals, but most often, these half-measures only leave the patient more concerned about the appearance of her belly button, which now ‘looks strange and ‘operated on.’”
Another common complaint, according to Troy, MI, plastic surgeon Anthony Youn, MD, is outie belly buttons. “Making an outie into an innie could be a relatively straightforward procedure,” he says. “Basically, there is a hole at the base of the belly button, allowing fat from the inside to pooch out. The surgery (referred to as an umbilicoplasty by plastic surgeons) involves closing this hole. It’s also called an umbilical hernia repair (by general surgeons) and is often paid for by health insurance. The reason health insurance often pays for it is because if a loop of intestine gets stuck in that hole, the person could get very sick. The surgery takes about 30–40 minutes to perform, and the patient is usually under sedation.”
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In the case of post-pregnancy belly-button fixing, Dr. Soto says women request for their belly button to look like it did before babies, which is difficult to achieve with a minor procedure. “This is simply not going to be possible through a minor procedure because in truth, the pregnancy stretched the entire abdomen. A minor procedure designed to tighten only a very small amount of skin around the belly button would be like trying to straighten a blanket on a bed by only rearranging a few inches of fabric—it won’t work. You would need to redistribute the entire blanket over the surface area of the bed in order for it to look smooth.”
If this is the doctor’s verdict, a more invasive surgery is usually recommended. “The difficult reality for most of these women is that they need a tummy tuck,” says Dr. Soto. “Once they accept that this is their best option, their goals are usually achievable, but pursuing short cuts through minor procedures usually leads to much unhappiness.”