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Thomas P. Sterry, MD

How to Keep Your Tummy Tuck a Secret – Even at the Beach

tummy tuck model

The Secret Tummy Tuck

Want a smoother, flatter belly but don’t want your friends to know you’ve had a tummy tuck? Lucky for you, it can be done. There are two simple keys to achieving a “secret” tummy tuck, or abdominoplasty.

  1. Get the operation during the cooler months, preferably fall.
  2. Choose a plastic surgeon who knows how to hide the telltale signs.

By following these steps, you can hide out under a sweater during your recovery and then emerge like a butterfly in the spring with no scar to be seen. Following is more detailed information on how your plastic surgeon can help you achieve a secret tummy tuck you can be proud of.

Tummy Tuck Recovery Can Take a While

I wish I could tell you all that you can have the operation, then wake up the next day and look great, but I’d be lying.  The truth is that it takes about 3 months for most of the healing to take place.  Most patients are looking and feeling much better by 3-6 weeks, but there is clearly some swelling that needs to abate and there is no medical therapy that will speed the process.  Tincture of time is the only medicine that will help.  So, if you want your tummy tuck to be a secret, the most important advice I can give is to have the procedure during the cooler months when you can cover up – and nobody will notice!

The Telltale Signs of a Tummy Tuck

As a New York City plastic surgeon, I see many patients who have had cosmetic surgery work done by other surgeons, both from outside the New York metro area and outside the country. Three problems I often encounter are:

  • Absurdly high tummy tuck scars that are visible in a swimsuit.
  • Upside down “T” shaped scars that extend upwards in the center.
  • Obvious Belly Button scar that looks artificial.
bad tummy tuck scar with unnatural belly button

High Tummy Tuck Scar with Unnatural Belly Button

Unfortunately, even when I can fix these poorly executed procedures, the patients often need the equivalent of a completely new tummy tuck. That means double the discomfort, healing time and expense, all of which could have been avoided by going to a respectable, board-certified plastic surgeon in the first place.

The Secret to a “Secret” Tummy Tuck

While no surgeon can promise a patient that their tummy tuck scar will heal nicely—that depends on a number of factors—I can and do make sure that the scar ends up hidden under a bathing suit of their choosing. I accomplish this in a few different ways.

First, before the surgery, I have my patients don the garment they want to wear after the tummy tuck and I mark the outline of this garment in red ink. I then plan out the abdominoplasty and mark all of my incisions within that boundary. This ensures that when the procedure is done, the patient will be able to wear at least one bathing suit to the beach or pool next time she ventures out.

tummy tuck markings and scar placement

Left: Tummy Tuck Markings                                         Right: Final Scar Placement

Next, I make sure my initial incision lies about 2 1⁄2 to 3 inches above the upper portion of the external labia on stretched skin. That is typically below 95 percent of the Cesarean section scars I come across and means that the C-section scar can be removed and replaced by the tummy tuck scar. This low scar makes the final result much less obvious to onlookers.  You can view many more examples of tummy tuck photos here.

Fine-Tuning the Belly Button

Browse any fashion magazine or Victoria’s Secret catalog and you will notice that belly buttons follow one fairly common theme: They all have a little hood above and a groove leading upward.

During the final stages of a tummy tuck, I strive to mimic this look by using a variety of techniques, some of which I have developed myself. The result is a rather small umbilical scar that is hidden beneath the belly button hood. If the initial result isn’t perfect, I may adjust it at the three-month mark at no extra charge. Patients don’t mind this extra procedure as there is no significant discomfort, since the procedure involves skin only.

Not all plastic surgeons devote so much time and attention to these final steps. However, during surgery I often spend 20 to 30 minutes on the belly button alone, both for the client’s sake and because the belly button is the only part of my operation that the public is likely to see.  That makes it worth the time to get it right and make it look natural.

Interestingly, this process has actually spawned a whole new area of expertise for me—belly button repair, or umbilicoplasty.  Many people are unhappy with the appearance of their belly button, even those who haven’t had a tummy tuck.  Some of them have found my photographs online and come in asking me to cosmetically improve the look of their belly buttons, too.

This patient wanted her belly button to look better but specifically did NOT want to have a Tummy Tuck

This patient wanted her belly button to look better but specifically did NOT want to have a Tummy Tuck

These patients invariably leave very satisfied with my umbilicoplasty procedure.  It is performed under local anesthesia in the privacy of my office and they have very little discomfort afterwards.

Secret Tummy Tuck Summary

If you are looking for an amazing tummy tuck that will leave your friends wondering, make sure your surgeon is board-certified, and ask detailed questions about what procedures will be followed.  If you are in the New York metro area, contact my office and we’ll schedule a consultation at your convenience.

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Dr. Thomas P. Sterry

Thomas Sterry, MD, is a board-certified New York City plastic surgeon with over a decade of experience. At his inviting, boutique-style practice in Manhattan, he focuses on each patient's unique needs and aesthetic goals so that he can provide the most attractive and natural-looking outcomes possible.

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