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What is Body Contouring?

Hillary Flynn
Updated May 21, 2024
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The term body contouring is an umbrella term for a wide range of surgeries and procedures intended to reshape, redefine, tighten, tone, and/or improve the overall appearance of the physique. Procedures falling under the body contouring category include implants, a redistribution of body fat, abdominal etching, spider vein treatment, cellulite treatments, expended abdominoplasty, a full body lift, and many others.

The number of people undergoing weight loss procedures such as gastric bypass surgery and lap band placement has increased dramatically over the last few years. These are the patients most often considered suitable candidates for body contouring procedures. The result of the rapid and dramatic weight loss experienced by those who were once obese frequently results in excess skin that has lost its elasticity and tone. Bothered by the appearance of this extraneous skin, weight loss patients often opt to undergo continued surgeries to tighten and reshape the areas affected.

A full body lift is a popular body contouring choice in these situations because issues created by rapid weight loss tend to affect several areas and for a dramatic improvement, and because all skin is attached, the skin must be tightened in all. This procedure usually begins with abdominoplasty, which is also known as a tummy tuck.

A circular incision is made around the belly button to keep it separate and attached to the body, and another incision is made near the pubic bone. The surgeon then begins to pull the muscles taut and stitches the overlying layer together so that the muscles will grow back together. Sometimes pregnancy causes these muscles to split apart as well, so this is a procedure used on women with sagging belly skin due to pregnancy also. Excess fat and skin is trimmed or removed by


, and the remaining skin is pulled tight and stitched. The belly button is then relocated.

The other areas adjusted during a full body lift usually include the breasts, upper arms, legs, upper thighs, and buttocks. Again, the surgeon makes an incision near the area, removes excess fat via scalpel or liposuction, pulls the skin tight, trims, and then stitches the patient back up.

Each procedures last several hours and is performed under general anesthesia. As with any surgery, patients should be cautious and understand the risks, as well as have realistic expectations involved in the body contouring procedure. Most surgeries are followed by some discomfort, swelling, soreness, and bruising.

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Hillary Flynn
By Hillary Flynn , Writer
Hillary Flynn's insatiable curiosity led her to join the BeautyAnswered team, where she contributes well-researched articles on various topics. In addition to her work with BeautyAnswered, Hillary manages an electronic publishing business that allows her to develop her skills in technical writing, graphic design, and business development. With a passion for satirical writing and traveling to historical places, Hillary brings a distinctive voice to her content.

Discussion Comments

By anon941847 — On Mar 24, 2014

Thanks for the post WiseGeek! I really like that you pointed out that surgical body contouring doesn't just stop with liposuction. Most likely, people that have had lipo will have to do a tummy-tuck to remove that excess skin left over. After a tummy-tuck, a lot of doctors suggest getting laser treatments to generally smooth out the skin from the procedures.

My clinic specializes in a new medical procedure that does body contouring and cosmetic weight loss without surgery. It also tightens loose skin and reduces the appearance of cellulite, so you wouldn't need to do other treatments afterwards. No surgery, no pain and no downtime. Pretty awesome.

By browncoat — On Jun 14, 2011

I remember I was talking to someone a while ago about how I didn't like the idea of cosmetic surgery and he mentioned that his parents had had the dentist take out some of his teeth when he was a teenager, and straighten the rest.

I didn't think that was bad, even though it was purely cosmetic.

So, I guess I don't really think any kind of liposuction or body contouring is bad. I just think it is a lot of money to spend on something. But, if it makes you happy and improves your life, you should do it.

If you do it and it doesn't make you happy, don't just do some more surgeries... try to figure out what would really make you happy and do that instead.

By croydon — On Jun 12, 2011

I think there should be a distinction made between people who have gastric bypass surgery and people who are having pure cosmetic surgery.

I know this is on a kind of spectrum, and I'm not against people doing to their own bodies what they feel needs to be done. But people who have the gastric bypass surgeries are often at a large health risk and are having the surgery as a last resort to save their own lives.

I just think that should be put in a different category to someone who wants their tummy to sit a little bit tighter.

Hillary Flynn

Hillary Flynn


Hillary Flynn's insatiable curiosity led her to join the BeautyAnswered team, where she contributes well-researched...
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