Arm Lift: All You need to Know About Scars

I know I need an arm lift surgery but I am really concerned about the appearance of the scars.  What should I do?????

  • Where the surgical scars are located and how they differ among the different types of arm lift surgeries
  • Ways that we manage scars after surgery.  

Hands down, a full upper arm lift surgery is one of the most transformative surgeries that we offer in our office.  It takes your loose, sagging and fat filled arms and definitively transforms them with a less than a 2 hour surgery.  If your arms ripple and sway when they move, it will make them tight and toned.  If your arms bulge out of your clothing and are hard to hide, it can make them noticeably smaller.  Even if you have crepe and aged appearing skin, this surgery removes most of the damaged skin and makes the residual skin look much more youthful. Honestly, these results are just awesome.  But as with most things in life, anything this good comes with a cost: in the case of arm lift surgery, the cost is often a visible scar.  

So what do you do if you know that you are a great candidate for a full arm lift surgery but the idea of having scars that are visible makes you extremely concerned?  This concern is real and understandable.  First and foremost, with a full arm lift, the scar will fade and in most cases, the scar will be almost imperceptible by 12 months after surgery.  Therefore, if timed correctly, you would only have one cycle through the warm seasons to keep your upper arms covered if you are concerned about the appearance of the scars immediately after surgery.  Secondly, the placement of the scars with a full arm lift surgery are discrete and not visible with your hands down to your sides and with your palms facing your body.  In actuality, these scars are only clearly visible when your shoulder is extended away from your body and your elbow is flexed (as you would do when you flex your biceps muscle).

To make you feel more comfortable with your decision,  lets go though the things you should know about arm lift surgery scars starting first with the location of the scars:

  • Scar placement depends on the shape and size of your arms and in most cases, it is one of three types.  If fat is your primary problem and you don’t have much loose skin, then you are likely a candidate for liposuction alone.  The 2-3 very small scars (¼ inch) with this procedure will be placed in less visible areas and they are rarely visible long term after the surgery.  For those of you that have fat and loose skin only near your armpit, you may be a candidate for a mini arm lift. The scar with this surgery is placed in or near the hair bearing area of your armpit.   This scar is also much less visible due to its location.  For those of you who have visible loose skin along the full length of your upper arms, you are likely a candidate for a full arm lift.  This places a linear scar from your armpit to your elbow, following the axis of your arm.  To better understand this placement, extend your arm at the shoulder and flex your elbow.  If you also flex your biceps muscle and feel where the biceps muscle ends and the triceps muscle begins on the inside of your arm there is a groove.  It is along this groove where the scar will be roughly located. 

Many of you are also concerned with the length of the scars.   Here is a description of the scar lengths depending on the type of surgery:

  • The length of the scars can vary and will depend on the size and shape of your arms.  For those of you who only have excess fat and minimal loose skin, the treatment will often be liposuction alone.  In these cases, the scars will be extremely small, barely visible and hidden.  If visible loose skin is present, the scar will be placed either near your hair bearing armpit (mini arm lift) or along the axis of your upper arm, extending from your armpit to your elbow (full arm lift).  For scars placed in the armpit area,  these are usually 2 to 3 inches in length.  From there, the scar length increases dramatically, especially for those with a lot of loose skin.  The scar in these cases will be the length of your upper arm which usually fluctuates between 9 and 10 inches in length. In severe cases of loose skin, as with massive weight loss patients, the scar is extended through your armpit and onto the chest.  The length of these scars can vary depending on your anatomy and your clinical exam. 

If a full arm lift is your only option, what options do you have after surgery to ensure the scar heals the best:

  • When the surgery is successful, you should expect that the scars will slowly fade, especially between six to twelve months after surgery.  After one year, the scars will be light, not obvious and difficult to visualize without a bright light.  If scars are slow to fade or are more visible, many treatments and therapies exist to help them along. In our office, we have a comprehensive approach to treating these scars after surgery. This often includes silicone gels and strips, LED light treatment, IPL and laser therapies, deep needling, radio frequency treatments and steroid injections.  By mixing these treatments and therapies, we can ensure that you have the best possible healing of your scars after surgery.  Avoiding things that make scarring worse, like smoking and sun exposure, is also really important to having the best outcome.