Tummy Tuck vs. Thermage: Do You Need More Than Skin Tightening?

A woman relaxing on the beach enjoying her abdominoplasty results.
The tummy tuck offers results that are far beyond the abilities of a nonsurgical procedure.

Undergoing any major surgery can be nerve-wracking, even if it’s the best option to suit your body’s needs. You should never rush into a tummy tuck surgery, although it is often necessary to use surgical means to achieve a patient’s desired results. Instead of tightening the belly through surgery, some patients are able to choose the nonsurgical Thermage technique. Is this right for you? And how can you tell? Compare the two techniques, their pros and cons, and the results they offer to make the right decision for you.

Your Abdomen and the Aging Process

As the body ages, the skin gradually slows its production of collagen and elastin, the two elements that keep it flexible, elastic, and plump in appearance. The effect of this is sagging loose skin that crepes and stretches easily. While loose skin like this becomes more noticeable on highly visible areas like the face and hands, that doesn’t mean it isn’t affecting other parts of the body. The abdomen may change many times throughout your life, either by fluctuations in your weight or pregnancy. The skin becomes stretched when these changes occur, breaking down the skin’s elastic bonds and creating stretch marks and sagging.

In addition to changes in the skin, some prospective patients may experience weakened muscles and ligaments. This is most typical among patients who have experienced one or more pregnancies. The muscles can be the weakest in cases of previous abdominal surgeries, including Cesarean deliveries. Severed muscles may have trouble repairing themselves and regaining their own strength without assistance.

Finally, the abdomen is a common spot for fat deposits to collect and create a lumpy, uneven contour. Pockets of fat may be stored around the hips, waistline, and the “pooch” above the pubic bone. Such fatty deposits are often resistant to proper diet and exercise, leaving patients unhappy with how they look even after reaching their ideal weight.

Tummy Tuck Before and After pictures 

Thermage Offers Nonsurgical Skin Tightening

Using controlled radio frequency to tighten tissues and loose skin, Thermage can reverse much of the effects of aging on the skin without surgery. It can be applied to many areas, including the forehead and brow, the lower face and neck, the eye area, arms, thighs, buttocks, and even the abdomen. Thermage can provide many benefits to patients, including non-surgical toning and wrinkle treatments, acne treatments, and even acne scar removal.

The Thermage procedure lasts about one to two hours and may cause some minor discomfort at first. A topical anesthetic cream and/or an oral sedative may be used to provide patient comfort throughout the procedure. Next, an activated laser is used to pass over the targeted areas multiple times. Some minor redness and tingling are common after a Thermage treatment, but these will resolve themselves within a few days up to a week. There is neither downtime nor any type of recovery involved, so you can return to your normal activities immediately.

Thermage results will gradually appear within a few weeks, building up to the final results that will be achieved within four to six months. Typically for the majority of patients, only one treatment session is needed to help Thermage patients achieve the results they desire, which should last three years or more.

Abdominoplasty’s Multi-Level Approach

As a surgical procedure, a tummy tuck, or abdominoplasty, offers results that are far beyond the abilities of a nonsurgical procedure. The surgery provides changes to the loose skin, muscles, underlying tissues, and even fat deposits. While it cannot be used as a substitute for weight loss techniques, it does provide a drastic change in the contour of the abdomen.

Abdominoplasty is performed under general anesthesia and tends to last about two to five hours. The surgery begins with a u-shaped incision along the pubic area between the hip bones. The loose skin is then separated from the abdominal wall. Your plastic surgeon will tighten the underlying muscles with sutures. Any excess fat can be removed, sometimes using liposuction techniques if needed. A second incision is then made around the navel, which is reconstructed in a more natural location on the new surface of the abdomen.

Because it is a surgery, abdominoplasty does require some downtime and a recovery period of about two weeks, with some restrictions lasting longer. You will experience swelling, redness, and bruising in the area, which can be managed at home with pain medication and other techniques. Your results will emerge gradually as the area heals and the swelling subsides. While it is a more involved process, the results achieved through a surgical abdominoplasty are multi-leveled and highly effective.

Abdominoplasty Before and After pictures

Are there other alternatives to these Skin Tightening procedures?

Yes, other alternatives to abdominoplasty or Thermage may be suitable for some people. These include non-surgical procedures such as laser liposuction, cool sculpting, and ultrasound-assisted liposuction. Laser liposuction is a procedure that uses high-intensity laser beams to liquefy fat cells, resulting in reduced fat pockets and overall body contour. Coolsculpting is a non-invasive treatment that freezes targeted fatty areas through applied cooling plates, again reducing the size of fat cells and resulting in a slimmer waistline. Ultrasound-assisted liposuction utilizes ultrasound energy to break down fat cells and remove them from the body through suctioning. All of these alternative procedures are safe and effective ways to reduce stubborn fat without having to undergo major surgery. However, they are fitter for people with not much fat to lose in the first place since they do not deal with loose skin better than abdominoplasty.

Planning for the Right Surgery for You

Deciding on the right body contouring procedure can be a difficult thing to do without the right tools. To learn more, plan a consultation with Dr. Rubinstein, who will be able to project his expected results from your procedure with a revolutionary new technology. The VECTRA 3D Imaging system allows the surgeons at Laser & Cosmetic Surgery Specialists to modify a 3D photo of you with your planned surgical changes. VECTRA gives you a chance to preview the results any procedure would deliver so you can make a more informed decision.

Contact Laser & Cosmetic Surgery Specialists, where Dr. Ran Rubinstein can help you to achieve the surgical results you desire.

Renowned facial plastic surgeon Dr. Ran Rubinstein at Laser & Cosmetic Surgery Specialists of Newburgh, New York. Laser & Cosmetic Surgery Specialists is the only specialty plastic surgery practice in the Hudson Valley area with an on-site joint commission-certified surgical suite. To contact Dr. Rubinstein, please call 845-863-1772. Laser & Cosmetic Surgery Specialists is located at 200 Stony Brook Court #2 in Newburgh, New York.