The arms can be one of the most difficult areas to keep firm and sculpted. Diet and exercise can build muscle and reduce fat; however, the combination of genetics, weight loss, and aging can still leave us with loose arm skin and disproportionate fat deposits in the upper arms. Even after a significant amount of weight loss, arms generally do not contract back to their original shape. As the skin stretches to accommodate excess fat, it loses resiliency and often remains loose, even after the weight is lost. Our skin also loses elasticity and stretches as we age, which frequently results in flabby, hanging skin that affects how clothes fit, and has effects on our self-confidence, as well. 

Fortunately, our board-certified plastic surgeon, Joseph A. Mele, MD, offers advanced arm lift surgery (brachioplasty) procedures that can reduce excess skin, tighten the remaining skin, and give the upper arms a more youthful, contoured, and firm appearance. 

What is an Arm Lift (Brachioplasty)?

Arm lift surgery, medically referred to as “brachioplasty,” is a surgical procedure designed to improve the appearance of the arms by carefully removing the loose excess skin and tightening the flabby upper arm tissue. 

For large skin excesses, an incision is made along the inside of the upper arm. This allows for the direct removal of any loose skin and excess fat, and a closure that tightens the remaining upper skin. The result is a firm upper arm that stops waving when you do. 

When the skin excess extends down the sides of the chest, brachioplasty can be extended to reduce the excess skin on the lateral chest, too.

Brachioplasty (Arm Lift) Before-and-After Photos

Results shown are specific to each patient and individual results will vary

Tired of Covering Your Arms? 

Popular fashions often expose the shoulders and arms. Despite being fond of the styles, some people may not feel comfortable wearing them because they are embarrassed by the appearance of their upper arms.  Loose, long-sleeve shirts are often worn to cover sagginess in the upper arms. Moreover, sometimes after weight loss, there is so much excess arm skin that the redundant skin does not fit into a normal sleeve. These issues limit wardrobe choices and are frustrating, in addition to potentially causing a range of other problems.

Skin stretches and grows with weight gain. If you have recently lost weight, it may take several months for the skin to catch up. Diet and exercise certainly help with weight reduction and to tone the muscles of the arms. Unfortunately, diet and exercise do not tighten the upper arm skin. Loose upper arm skin is a very common side effect of effective weight loss. The good news is that cosmetic enhancement procedures such as arm lift surgery are designed to address this concern and can ultimately provide exceptional new contours and enhanced firmness of the skin.

Am I a Good Candidate for Arm Lift Surgery? 

If you have loose upper arm skin, an arm lift (brachioplasty) can help. Arm lifts are most frequently performed after weight loss, but genetics also play a role. Elastin is a protein that allows the skin to resume its original shape after stretching. Reduced amounts of elastin can genetically predispose us to have flabby skin. Collagen is the main structural protein of the skin. Thinning of the collagen fibers in the skin reduces the strength of the skin and allows it to fold more easily. The more elastin and collagen you have, the fewer wrinkles you have. While we cannot change our genes (yet), good genes result in enhanced quantity and quality of elastin and collagen proteins in the skin, and this means smooth, firm, stretchable skin that retains its shape. 

Even good genes, however, are affected by age and behavior. As we age, we gradually lose elastin and collagen. Sun exposure damages the genes that contain the programming to maintain our skin. Sun exposure results in tougher, less elastic skin, and excess exposure can result in leathery skin, sun damage, and skin cancer. Smoking, too, attacks good genes, causing thinning, stiffening and wrinkling of the skin, and not just on the arms. Weight gain and loss stretch the skin, uncoiling our elastin springs and over-stretching our collagen fibers. An entire branch of plastic surgery is based on reconstructing the skin after massive weight loss: Post Bariatric Plastic Surgery

The best candidates for brachioplasty have redundant arm skin. Their skin is not just loose, but they have more skin than they need to cover their arms. It is best to think of an arm lift as a procedure for tailoring the skin even more than tightening the arm skin. While brachioplasty tightens the arm skin, it also removes redundant arm skin and the fat under it. The downside is the scar. While we can choose the least obvious placement, there is still a scar (more about that below). The ideal candidate for brachioplasty has excess, redundant arm skin between the elbow and the armpit, wants it removed, and is not overly concerned with the scar. 

Post Bariatric Plastic Surgery

Dr. Mele is an active member of the American Society of Bariatric Plastic Surgeons—board certified plastic surgeons dedicated to reshaping bodies after massive weight loss. Dr. Mele has extensive experience helping patients after successful weight loss. Whether following bariatric surgery or due to changes in diet and exercise, massive weight loss often leads to significant skin laxity. Dr. Mele prides himself on helping his patients look and feel better in their skin. 

As a board-certified plastic surgeon and an active member of the American Society of Bariatric Plastic Surgeons, Dr. Mele is a post weight loss and post bariatric plastic surgery expert. His extensive training, numerous prestigious plastic surgery society memberships, and board certifications all demonstrate his commitment to superior outcomes and patient safety, and make him uniquely qualified to shape your post weight loss body. Please don’t hesitate to contact Dr. Mele for more information on arm lift surgery or other procedures that can be ideal for patients who are experiencing the effects of loose, excess skin after massive weight loss. 

Brachioplasty (Arm Lift) Videos

What Are My Arm Lift and Arm Rejuvenation Options?

What many people do not realize is that they have options for eliminating aesthetic concerns affecting the upper arms and achieving the toned, slender arms they’ve always desired. Men and women with any amount of excess upper arm skin or fat can choose from a variety of arm lifting procedures and say goodbye to droopy, flabby arms forever. 

Arm Lift Surgery

Traditional arm lift surgery, or brachioplasty, is for patients with a large amount of excess tissue in the upper arms. This procedure improves the appearance of the arms by carefully removing excess skin and fat to tighten slack upper arm tissue. An incision is made along the underside of the upper arm, generally from the underarm to the elbow, and the loose skin and fat are removed. Internal sutures tighten and secure the underlying elastin and collagen tissues, and the skin edges are carefully aligned. The remaining upper arm skin is smoother over the new contour of the arms. This procedure results in firm, lean upper arms that don’t wave until you do.

Mini Arm Lifts and Mini Brachioplasty

Men and women with minimal skin laxity in the upper arms can benefit from mini arm lift surgery, or mini brachioplasty. This procedure utilizes a shorter incision along the arm, or an incision concealed within the underarm if possible, to give patients the sleek arms they’ll love to show off.

Arm Liposuction

Patients whose upper arm fullness results mainly from excess fat may be candidates for arm liposuction. If your skin elasticity is generally good, and the skin is only minimally stretched, liposuction can remove the excess fat through small incisions in the underarm or near the elbow. Candidates for this procedure can achieve svelte arms that will look fabulous in any sleeveless top or dress. While liposuction is extremely effective at removing fat, when the arm skin is significantly loose, brachioplasty is often still the most effective choice. 

You can learn whether an arm lift or an alternative to the arm lift is best for you at your consultation appointment. Call us at (925) 943-6353 or use the contact form on our website to find out today.

Arm Lift (Brachioplasty) Presentation

Click on the video below to view an Arm Lift Video Presentation. While this cannot substitute for an in-office consultation with our board-certified plastic surgeon, it can give you an idea of what to expect before, during, and after your brachioplasty. 


What Can I Expect During Arm Lift Surgery Recovery? 

After surgery, a recovery period is needed. This allows you to heal quickly and minimizes complications. It is not possible to do this procedure in the morning and return to work that afternoon – which is a question that Dr. Mele has been asked before. Recovery after brachioplasty is a few weeks in most cases, but it is variable.

Your recovery will depend on several factors including the extent of surgery, the activity level you are returning to, how well your body heals, and if you have any underlying medical conditions. Planning for recovery can often speed the process and reduce the time away from the other things you like to do. 

Extent of Surgery

The extent of skin that needs to be removed can affect the length of time needed to recover. The location of the excess skin is more important than the amount. Excess skin that crosses a joint, the elbow or shoulder, requires extending the incision across the joint and can increase the recovery time.

Activity Level

The activity level you are returning to can affect the recovery time. It takes less time to return to desk work than it does to return to manual labor. The more you use your arms, the harder it is on the surgical repair. Physical activity increases the stress and strain on the suture line and increases swelling. Compression sleeves are prescribed after surgery for several weeks to help secure the repair, increase comfort, and minimize swelling of the arms.

Your Healing

Everyone heals differently. The amount of inflammation, the time it takes to heal, and scar formation all influence recovery. RICE therapy: Rest, Ice, Compression, and Elevation can help. Proper nutrition helps. Avoiding smoking (all kinds) helps, but you have to quit a month before surgery, at a minimum. Smoking increases the risk of wound problems six-fold. If you have healed quickly after other injuries or surgery, you would be expected to heal more quickly after an arm lift. Topical scar treatments can also help scars look better, faster.

Underlying Medical Conditions

You must be healthy to have elective surgery. If you have medical problems, they need to be well controlled. Be honest with any underlying medical conditions you have and medications you take. This allows us to optimize your recovery and your surgical result. 

How Noticeable Are Arm Lift Scars? 

Some scars heal better than others, but there is always a scar. There are two ways to make a scar less noticeable: improve the scar and improve the scar location.

Scar Care

Scar improvement begins before surgery. Avoiding NSAIDS, herbal medications, and medications that interfere with healing is a must. Dr. Mele will go over this prior to surgery. Meticulous technique and care of the tissues during surgery improve the chances of an excellent scar. After surgery, proper aftercare and topical scar treatments can also help.

Scar Placement

The scar is placed longitudinally, from the inside of the elbow to back of the armpit. This provides the least visible location for the scar when the arm is down. Other surgeons place the scar on the front of the arm in the bicipital groove. This seems more obvious, and is not our first choice for most patients.

In general, there is a tradeoff between removing the redundant skin and leaving a scar. There will be a scar, and hoping that the scar will be invisible is not realistic. The goal is always to minimize the appearance of the scar while maximally reducing the skin excess. 

Complementary Procedures 

Brachioplasty is one of several Post Bariatric Plastic Surgery procedures. With massive weight loss, often excess skin is left elsewhere on the body. The most common locations are the neck, arms, breasts, back, abdomen, buttocks, and thighs. Many patients with excess arm skin also complain of excess skin in one or several of these other areas, too. 


When excess skin accumulates on the lower face and neck, a rhytidectomy is an option. The procedure, also known as a face lift or neck lift, tightens the skin of the lower face and neck to smooth the jowls, jawline, and neck line. 


Excess skin on the breasts results in deflated or droopy breasts. Breast augmentation is used to restore breast volume, while a breast lift can lift and tighten the breast skin. Breast reduction can also be performed when the breasts are too large. 


Excess back skin is divided into upper and lower back skin excess. The upper back skin is treated with a bra line back lift, while the lower back skin excess and saggy buttocks is treated with a lower back lift. When a lower back lift is combined with a tummy tuck it is termed a lower body lift


Abdominal wall laxity is one of the most common complaints after both weight loss and pregnancy. A tummy tuck, or abdominoplasty, is used to tighten the belly and restore more youthful contours. The procedure tightens the skin and the underlying muscle, while also removing any residual fat from the lower belly. 


Deflated buttocks can occur with weight loss. When fat is available, volume can be restored with a Brazilian Buttocks Lift. The skin can also be tightened with a buttocks lift designed to remove the excess skin. 


Thigh lifts are used to tighten the thighs. There are two types of thigh lifts. Which to use is dependent on the location of the excess skin. More information is available on our thigh lift page. 

How Much Does Arm Lift Surgery Cost? 

There are several components contributing to the cost of the arm lift. They include the surgeon’s fee, the anesthesiologist fee, the cost of the operating room, and the cost of post-operative garments and scar gel. While the last two are consistent, the other fees are dependent on the length of the procedure. The longer the operation takes, the more it costs. A price range is available by calling the office or completing a contact form, but an accurate estimate is only possible after an in-person consultation.

Financing is available via third parties specializing in cosmetic surgery financing. Details are available on our Plastic Surgery Financing page.

Schedule Your Personalized Brachioplasty Consultation

If you have questions about any of our arm lift procedures, Dr. Mele is the board-certified plastic surgeon with the knowledge and experience necessary to help determine which procedure is best for you. Call our practice at (925) 943-6353, or fill out our online contact form to schedule a personal consultation and obtain the trim, attractive arms you deserve.

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