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Photo Credit: weightwatchers.com


04-29-13 | Posted by

First Lady Michelle Obama has devoted much of her time in the White House to ending the childhood obesity epidemic through her “Let’s Move” campaign. While her steadfast dedication to this important cause is impressive, it’s actually her upper arms that we admire most!

In fact, her toned, trim and tight arms—and our worship of them—are likely one of the reasons behind a huge 4,378 percent increase in the number of arm lifts performed over the last decade. Perhaps you’ve caught a glimpse of a new Weight Watchers television ad featuring  Ana Gasteyer in a bright red cocktail dress singing a parody of the famous songstress Peggy Lee’s rendition of “Fever,” updated to “Sleeveless.” Women of all ages are obsessed with their upper arms.

In 2000, more than 300 women got upper arm lift procedures, and more than 15,000 did so in 2012, according to the latest statistics from the American Society of Plastic Surgeons (ASPS).

ASPS was so intrigued by the leap that they commissioned a poll to find out why these procedures are becoming more and more popular. They asked 1,219 women aged 18 and older whose arms they most admire. The winner? The 44th first lady and wife of President Barack Obama, Michelle Obama, who was followed by actress Jennifer Aniston. Jessica Biel and Demi Moore, and daytime TV talk show host Kelly Ripa also made the list of celebrities we think are armed and fabulous.

“There are public figures out there with good looking arms and there is a growing general awareness that arm lifts are an option,” says ASPS Public Education Committee Chair David Reath, MD, a plastic surgeon based in Knoxville, Tenn.

But there’s another reason for the uptick, he says. Some of the increase is driven by dramatic weight loss whether through diet and exercise or bariatric surgery. “When you lose weight, you lose fat, not skin,” Reath tells Beauty in the Bag.

The result? The dreaded bat wings, a/k/a bingo wings or lunch lady arms .

Before and After an Upper Arm Lift

Body contouring after massive weight loss is increasingly popular. “We are seeing more people who need this,” he says. “They usually have surgery on their torso first, and then follow with something else such as their arms or breasts.”

This group will likely continue to drive increases in arm lifts, he says. “All procedures that have to do with body contouring after weight loss will continue to go up and up as more and more people successfully lose weight.”

Know Your Arm Lift Options

If there are just localized fat pockets on the upper arm, liposuction alone may do the trick, he says. In other cases, when there is hanging skin, a brachioplasty (arm lift) with or without liposuction is the only option. In general, this procedure requires an incision from the elbow to the armpit, usually on the back of the arm, leaving a very visible scar. “This doesn’t bother people as much as you would think it does,” Reath says.

It’s a fair trade, he says. “They are willing to accept a scar for improvement in the contour of their arms,” he says. “They want to wear sleeveless attire, and the scar can be seen but even with a scar, their arms looks better, and they never would have worn those shirts before the surgery.”

Still brachioplasty is a major surgery and as such does confer its fair share of risks. These may include swelling, infection, areas of numbess or loss of sensation, and/or blood loss. Recovery takes about about one to two weeks, Reath says.

There are some noninvasive options to improve the look and feel of the upper arm, says Jennifer L MacGregor, MD, a dermatologist in New York City. For example, VelaShape™ employs radiofrequency energy to heat the skin, infrared light energy to boost collagen remodeling and a vacuum/mechanical massage to knead away at dimply cellulite. (Collagen is the main structural protein in our skin, and it provides the supple elastic quality most associated with youth.) “VelaShape works by building and tightening collagen and shrinking fat cells,” she says. “It is not a permanent solution. The benefit is temporary lasting several months so that maintenence is required to maintain benefit,” she says.

“VelaShape does not help with weight loss, and is best for people who are at or near ideal body weight,” MacGregor says. It will not tighten skin if it is very loose and hanging,” she say. “If you have cellulite on your arms though, it can help.”

Will it make your arms look like the First Lady’s? Probably not, she says. “Michelle Obama has nice muscle tone that is only accomplished by lifting weights. I recommend weight lifting to all of my patients looking to ‘tighten’ a body area.”


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