So, you’ve decided you want to have a tummy tuck. Congratulations! Tummy tuck surgery (abdominoplasty) is one of the most popular plastic surgery procedures today—and patients who have had this life-changing procedure report very high satisfaction with their experience and outcomes. You’ll be joining the club of incredibly happy patients who love their tighter, flatter tummies.
But not all tummy tucks are created equal and getting a safe, beautiful result is fully dependent on choosing the right plastic surgeon. After checking out a plastic surgeon’s credentials, making sure they are board certified by the American Board of Plastic Surgery, reading their reviews, and scoping out the qualifications of their staff, your next stop should be their online before and after photo gallery. Before and after photos are one of the best ways to truly see the quality of a surgeon’s work—in addition to getting an idea of what you can expect from your own procedure.
To help you know what to look for and choose your plastic surgeon with confidence, Dr. Larry Schlesinger has put his years of experience and insight into the art of body contouring to work and created this guide so you can review before and after tummy tuck photos like a pro.
First, find patients who look like you
When you first start browsing tummy tuck before and after photos, your eyes are going to be immediately drawn to the “after” photos. Look at all those flat tummies! This is a totally normal thing to do, but to get the most out of your review, we’re going to ask you to work in reverse—do your best to ignore the end result and instead focus on the “before” picture.
While most before and after galleries will showcase a variety of body types, it’s important to pay close attention to patients whose before photos resemble your body or reflect the same concerns you have. Every body is unique—and your natural anatomy plays a large part in what procedure techniques are right for you and how your final results will look.
Even when you are looking at a specific procedure like tummy tuck surgery, it’s important to consider the motivating factors and concerns of the patient as you compare photos. If you’ve had multiple children and are hoping to both repair uncomfortably separated abdominal muscles while also correcting extensive sagging on your stomach, a patient who had only minimal sagging or a small “mummy tummy” won’t be an accurate comparison.
Here are a few things to ask yourself:
- Are this patient’s “before” body proportions similar to mine?
- Do they have a similar degree of sagging as I do?
- Are there any special considerations, such as excessive skin laxity or stretch marks?
Become a tummy tuck pro & know what to look for
At first glance, you may think you can tell whether a tummy tuck result is good or bad—but it’s not often that simple. Once you have a set of photos that seem promising, it’s time to start looking deeper. While all results are unique, there are a number of factors that a successful tummy tuck should have in common.
For tummy tucks, here’s what you should pay attention to:
Belly button shape & placement
Most of us don’t spend much time considering our belly buttons, and you may not think there’s a right or wrong shape—but if you look, you’ll definitely notice when a tummy tuck has resulted in an awkward looking belly button.
Because tummy tuck surgery pulls abdominal skin taut, it makes sense that the belly button may end up lower on the stomach or expanded vertically if care isn’t taken. When this happens, the elongated belly button can make the entire abdomen look unnatural or stretched. Therefore, a good tummy tuck result is not complete without a round or oval-shaped belly button that appears natural on the abdomen.
Overall shape of the abdomen
Does the after picture look natural? Are the contours of the abdomen rounded or angular, or does the patient have an aesthetically pleasing hourglass shape? It’s common to see post-tummy tuck patients whose torso ends up look squared or boxy, which can often look unnatural or even masculine. A successful, natural-looking tummy tuck should result in both a smooth tummy and a symmetrical, feminine contour around the hips, waist, and flanks.
“The limitations of traditional tummy tuck methods are what inspired me to design the Ultimate Silhouettplasty for my patients. Abdominoplasty only addresses lax skin and how it lays vertically. But humans are three dimensional beings with natural curves, so a tummy tuck alone often cannot create a pleasing result. By including post-tummy tuck liposuction, I am able to sculpt a beautiful, natural contour around the circumference of the body and enhance results.”
—Dr. Larry Schlesinger
Sometimes, however, an unnatural looking outcome can be the result of a patient’s body shape and natural contours. An experienced plastic surgeon can do some pretty incredible things, but there are limitations. When it comes to contouring procedures like tummy tuck surgery, it’s important to be aware of what it can and can’t do—and how a patient’s body shape and circumstances can impact final results. Understanding the difference between a bad tummy tuck result vs. a result that was shaped by a patient’s natural anatomy is key.
A few factors that can impact the final shape of the abdomen include:
- The width and contour of the rib cage
- Natural width of hip bones
- Quality of the skin
- Length of torso
This is where your time spent reviewing the before photo comes in—while excess skin may be hiding a patient’s body contours, you can often get a good idea of the natural lines of their body, where their waist falls, and their proportions so you can compare to their after image.
Abdominal tension and how results look in day-to-day life
What do you do when someone puts a camera in front of you? If you’re like nearly everyone, you put your best face forward—whether that means angling your chin just the right way or sucking in your tummy. Now, imagine someone taking a picture of you while showing off an area of your body you’ve felt self-conscious about for years. Are you starting to get the picture (pardon the pun)? Chances are, a huge percentage of the photos you’re reviewing of tummy tuck patients show their results in ideal conditions: standing straight and tall with abdominal muscles engaged. While you can learn a lot from these images, one thing you can’t discern is the amount, or lack, of tension on the abdomen.
One look at Dr. Schlesinger’s plastic surgery before and after gallery will show you that his tummy tuck pictures look a bit different than other surgeons: he has patients sit down for their photos. He does this for a very specific reason, which is to show how flat and tight the abdomen is, in real-world positions. The unspoken goal of many women who have put up with stretch marks and rippling of skin or fat is to have a flat abdomen with absolutely no wrinkles between breasts and thighs—and Dr. Schlesinger’s technique achieves this, as his gallery shows. When viewing standing before photos, you’ll notice that even patients who have a lot of loose skin on the lower stomach don’t have wrinkling higher up, thanks to the natural effect of gravity. The same holds true for after photos—if you’re only viewing a standing patient, you won’t know what their results look like when they’re sitting by the pool in their favorite bikini.
Location and quality of the incision
Surgery will always result in some level of scarring—but where the scar is placed is a direct result of your surgeon’s skill and technique. How well your scars will heal also largely depends on how your surgeon handles the finer points of the surgery. (Your following post-op instructions to the letter is the other key to healing beautifully.)
Every surgeon has their own philosophy on where a scar should be placed and how far it should extend, so you’ll likely see a variety of scar types across different plastic surgeon’s results. Dr. Schlesinger, for instance, favors long incisions that are placed very low on the abdomen, below the natural top of the pubic hair line, where they can easily be hidden by even the tiniest of bikini bottoms. He also takes great care with closing incisions, giving patients the best chance of having thin scars, provided they don’t stress the areas post-operatively.
Regardless of variations in incision types and surgeon preferences, there are a few things to look for:
- Is the scar straight and uniform in appearance? Or is it misshapen and irregular?
- Are there any “dog ears” (extra protrusions of skin) at the edges of the scar?
- Does the scar follow natural lines of the body? Or does it seem at odds with contours?
- Can the scar be easily concealed by low-cut underwear or swimsuit bottoms?
Once healed, a surgical scar should be relatively flat, light in color, and as inconspicuously placed as possible. That said, it is important to remember that even in the best surgeon’s hands, occasionally scars can be unfavorable due to the patient’s genetics. To that end, Dr. Schlesinger offers laser and IPL treatments to modify any overly visible or unattractive scars.
When the images were taken
Did you know that tummy tuck results can evolve for a year or more? While you’ll be feeling great and looking awesome much sooner than that, when you are comparing results, it’s a good idea to take into account how long after surgery patient photos were taken.
One reason is that scars fade over time. Additionally, post-surgical swelling, bruising, and inflammation around the incision can mask an excellent result in the weeks after surgery. For example, residual swelling can make results look asymmetrical or lumpy, while fresher scars that are still raised or red can look alarming and make it hard to judge the quality of incision placement.
Because so many after photos are taken within just a few weeks or months after surgery during follow-up visits, it’s important to ask questions and see photos of patients over time. Before you let a questionable image change your impression of a plastic surgeon that sounds promising in every other respect, find out when the picture was taken—and ask the practice to show you photos of patients at various stages in the healing process.
The stand-alone quality of the after results
The dramatic changes possible with a tummy tuck can make it easy to view results as “wow, that’s a big improvement,” even if the final outcome has some of the obvious aesthetic flaws mentioned above. However, what is important to each patient is not what a herculean job the surgeon did, but rather how youthful, flat, and attractive the abdomen is after.
Be sure not to fall into the trap of appreciating how bad things were before, and therefore giving the surgeon the break because he or she was dealing with a difficult case. Instead, make sure you assess outcomes with “wow, that’s a great looking abdomen” as your standard, taking into consideration all of the aspects of a beautiful tummy tuck result we have already discussed.
Don’t be afraid to reach out to the surgeon for more details
Not seeing enough patients who look like you or wishing you had more examples of a plastic surgeon’s results? Give them a call! Often, because not every patient gives consent for their photos to be posted online, practices have many more before and after photos at their office for you to review. This is also a great opportunity to ask any questions you may have about a particular set of pictures, a surgeon’s experience, what you can expect from a procedure, and even logistics, such as how far out you have to book or how you can finance your procedure.
Once you’ve got your list of surgeons who create results you love, it’s time to schedule your consultation. Tummy tucks are one of Dr. Schlesinger’s favorite procedures—that’s why he invented his Ultimate Silhouettplasty—so if you’re in the area, contact us to get started. We’d be happy to talk about your concerns, explore your options, and help you start feeling comfortable and confident again. Additionally, a number of our Honolulu tummy tuck patients are happy to chat with you about their experience, recovery, and results. (Hint: they’re thrilled!)