The Right To Bare Arms

Health News Digest

by Health News Digest | August 10, 2010 @ 10:00AM

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Call them 'batwings' - flabby upper arms can seem to swing when you hail a taxi or wave goodbye. Along with inner thighs, upper arms are one of the pet peeves of more women than we can count. If you're longing to go sleeveless without embarrassment, read on. Intensive upper extremity exercises with weight training help greatly, but over a certain age or if gravity has taken a toll on the thin skin of the arms, improvement won't be dramatic or anytime soon. The application of circumferential compression after a 'burning workout' may tighten up bat-wings temporarily, but surgery is the most predictable method to correct it.

If you have good, elastic skin, liposuction can be the answer to your prayers. Plastic surgeons can recontour the upper arm through tiny incisions around the elbow to take out fat, and give you 'cuts'. You won't necessarily end up with trim, defined arms like Jennifer Aniston's or Halle Berry's, but most women will be able to go sleeveless proudly. The skin contracts to a better, slimmer shape after about three weeks, when the bruising and most of the swelling has gone. After about three months, you can see the final contour change. Tumescent liposuction is commonly used on areas that require enhanced precision, like the arms, calves, and ankles. Proteges of external ultrasonic-assisted liposuction suggest that applying external ultrasonic energy to a liposuctioned arm can produce greater contraction of excess skin. With external UAL, the fatty deposits of the upper arm are debulked and acompression garment or sleeve is fitted, or ace wraps are applied.

This procedure works well for women in their 20s and 30s, but over 40 the skin may be too thin and saggy to contract well. An armlift (called a 'brachioplasty' in doc speak) involves a scar that runs from the elbow to the armpit to remove excess skin. A long scar is not an ideal trade-off for a woman dying to wear one of this season's chunky sleeveless turtleneck sweaters or a tank top, because the scar is permanent and it will show when you lift your arm. Some surgeons do a modified incision to remove excess skin that is confined to the armpit fold, but this only works for small amounts of skin and is not always successful. Another tip for maintaining youthful arms is to load up on the sun protection. The tops of the shoulders and the thin skin on the inside of the upper arm are particularly susceptible to sun damage and brown spots.

Wendy Lewis is an international cosmetic surgery consultant. For more information visit,

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