Arm Lift

What you should know

What Is An Arm Lift

If you have a lot of excess skin after weight loss in your arms, or the skin on your arms is just inherently loose, an “arm lift,” or brachioplasty, may be needed. This surgical procedure begins th an incision in the armpit region that, depending on the degree of correction, may continue along the inside of the upper arm down to the elbow. Excess fat is reduced if needed; the underlying tissue is tightened and reshaped and sagging skin is reduced.

Who it is for

Women with hanging skin on the upper arms.

According to Seattle plastic surgeon Phil Haeck, MD, “The ideal candidate for an arm lift is someone who has lost a massive amount of weight or someone whose skin is so thin that it won’t recoil after fat is removed with liposuction.”

Who it is not for

Those who are not willing to accept the often prominent scar that can run from a few inches to the full length of the inner upper arm—from the armpit to the elbow

What to Expect

This procedure begins with an incision in the armpit that, depending on the degree of correction necessary, may continue down to the elbow. Excess fat is removed if needed, and the underlying tissue is tightened and reshaped before excess skin is removed. 

Traditionally those who choose an arm lift have to accept the trade-off that comes along with surgery—the scar that often runs the length of the inside of the upper arm from the armpit to the elbow. But New York City plastic surgeon Lawrence Reed, MD, is among a handful of surgeons who have improved the modified surgical lift of the upper arm to limit scars to the underarm region and the side of the chest in a majority of patients.

As Dr. Lawrence Reed describes it: “Traditional brachioplasty delivers youthful, firm arms, but most patients won’t show them off because of the scar.” However, the promise of a less visible scar has a trade-off of its own; while recovering from this modified procedure, you can’t lift your arms above the shoulder for four to five weeks. 

Post-Treatment Care

To promote better healing after surgery, you may be given compression garments and silicone tapes or gels.


Once you have healed, Intense Pulsed Light and other light- and laser-based treatments may also help refine scars, but there’s no way to completely eliminate them. 

Inside Tips

  • If you’re not a candidate for an arm lift or you’re looking at surgery as a last resort, skin-tightening treatments such as Thermage, Exilis or Accent Your Body, may be able to provide minimal improvement. More appropriate for very mild laxity or for those who are extremely active, these procedures are unpredictable and it’s impossible to predict who will see results. 
  • Thermage can also be used during arm lifts to address skin laxity at the time of surgery for optimal results.

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