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Do you find yourself window shopping for shorts and skirts but feel self-conscious about baring your legs in public? If you answered yes, you may be interested in a common plastic surgery procedure called a thigh lift.

Thigh lift surgery helps reshape and tighten the skin to achieve slimmer, more youthful-looking legs. But what exactly does the procedure entail? How long is recovery? And is it dangerous? Summit Health plastic surgeon Jain Joseph, MD, shares everything you need to know about thigh lifts and how the surgery can help you feel more confident in your body.

What does a thigh lift do?

Over time, many individuals notice loose, droopy skin on their inner and outer thighs, which can occur from a combination of aging and weight loss. A thigh lift can remove that sagging skin, along with unwanted fat, to create a smoother, more toned appearance and nicer proportions compared to the rest of your body.

Types of thigh lifts

There are two types of thigh lifts:

  • Inner thigh lift: This procedure involves firming out the entire thigh area, including saddlebags — an accumulation of fat that develops on the outer thigh area. Fat is also removed from around the knees.  
  • Outer thigh lift: This surgery is a more time-consuming and extensive procedure that often requires an overnight hospital stay. It’s usually combined with a lower body lift as well as a buttock lift or augmentation.

How does a thigh lift differ from liposuction?

Liposuction can be a great way to remove excess fat from certain areas, but it won’t do anything to improve the look of sagging skin. A thigh lift may be done in combination with liposuction. When a thigh lift uses both liposuction and skin tightening techniques, it can reduce, reshape, and tone the entire area.

“Patients who come in for body-contouring procedures often have different areas of concern,” says Dr. Joseph. “To address these areas more effectively, they may choose to combine a thigh lift with other procedures such as a tummy tuck.”

Who should consider a thigh lift?

The best candidates for a thigh lift are healthy individuals who have not been able to achieve the results they want from diet and exercise alone. Many individuals who have thigh lifts underwent dramatic weight loss that caused them to have unwanted, saggy skin. Dr. Joseph recommends that patients do not have surgery until they are finished losing weight because it will affect the toned appearance in their thighs.

The thigh lift process

A thigh lift is generally a two- or three-hour procedure that is performed under general anesthesia. Incisions are made in the thigh area that can be strategically hidden by clothing including swimsuits. Patients should expect to have some scarring in the groin or down the inside of the thighs. 

Recovering after a thigh lift

After a thigh lift, patients may experience some mild swelling, bruising, and discomfort that is treated with painkillers. Patients only need to take a couple weeks off work, depending on the nature of their job. While they recover, Dr. Joseph recommends limiting physical activity and wearing a supportive compression garment to help promote circulation. Patients usually say they feel better when the swelling subsides, approximately three to six weeks after surgery.

Is anyone unable to get a thigh lift?

Patients who are not good candidates for a thigh lift include individuals who are obese, not at a stable weight, or active smokers.

Why should I consider a thigh lift?

“At around three months after surgery, we show our patients their before and after photos side by side,” says Dr. Joseph. “They’re excited to see and show off their new figure, and they are taken aback by how drastically different and better they look. Having a thigh lift also helps instill the motivation to keep working on maintaining their healthy and active lifestyles.”

Where can I get more information?

Every patient has different concerns and goals they want to achieve. Schedule a consultation with a board-certified plastic surgeon to discuss what procedures may be right for you.