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

Thomas P. Sterry, MD
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.

Before a tummy tuck, woman’s torso is marked in ink along incision lines. After photo shows flat belly and very faint scar.

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.

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

  • Michele DeJarnette says:

    I have lost 100 pounds and am aging. I want to regain my confidence and obtain an optimal me. Unfortunately I am not happy with the small Areas of inner thigh sagging skin, abdominal flap, labia, upper vaginal pooch, back fat, and bra line. Not too much, huh? I had flat lined adrenal fatigue which is currently resolving. Meaning I can be active without risk of compromising my health. Need to build muscle and loose About another twenty pounds. What would a rough estimate of all that surgery be?

    • Congratulations on the weight loss!
      You are asking for a variety of treatments and it’s hard to know exactly what it would cost you sight unseen. We would be happy to continue a conversation if you want to send some photos to: appointments@drsterry.com
      In the meantime, I wish you continued success!

    • I apologize for the last reply, but I’ve been busy setting up my new office.
      The vast majority of people complain about feeling “tight” more than having “pain”. Most patients with desk jobs need something like 10 days to two weeks off work. Patients with more physical responsibilities need 2-3 weeks off work.
      The best examples I have are these:
      Patient 1 is an administrative assistant and returned to work in 8 days.
      Patient 2 is a 1st Grade Schoolteacher and went back to work in 14 days (carpet time, reading to 6 year olds etc), but she wished she had 3 weeks.
      I hope this helps you understand what to expect.
      Good Luck!

    • I apologize for the late reply, but I’ve been busy setting up my new office.
      The vast majority of people complain about feeling “tight” more than having “pain”. Most patients with desk jobs need something like 10 days to two weeks off work. Patients with more physical responsibilities need 2-3 weeks off work.
      The best examples I have are these:
      Patient 1 is an administrative assistant and returned to work in 8 days.
      Patient 2 is a 1st Grade Schoolteacher and went back to work in 14 days (carpet time, reading to 6 year olds etc), but she wished she had 3 weeks.
      I hope this helps you understand what to expect.
      Good Luck!

  • Desi says:

    I lost weight. A surgeon was recommended by my Podiatrist, he did work in his wife. Out of network, several thousands of dollars, I look like a freak! My stomach is huge, huge horrible scar. My incision popped open, the healed is atrocious. I have been embarrassed for years. Dr. Azouz, claimed he would fix and what happened to me is normal because of my bad skin in the area. I’m 54 now and my mid area has gotten worst. Went back to Dr. Azouz, however, he was always busy when I was available. He even made the comment, it wasn’t my fault I had a weight issue, it was hereditary. Needless to say the verbal treatment pushed me to further depression and mistrust of Dr. Azouz. He promised contouring and liposuction of my back, waist, middle area. My other doctors examined the area and comments were very unfavorable. Can a bad tummy tuck be corrected? What is the liability for the doctor who did the bad tummy tuck?

    • I’m so sorry to read about your trouble. Yes, we can many times improve on previous tummy tuck operations. No, the other doctor probably has very little liability for a poor cosmetic outcome. I suggest you find a board certified plastic surgeon near you to start helping to make some improvements.

  • Princess Palmer says:

    This is awesome !! I often tell my friends I can tell a tummy tuck by the belly button. Your the only Dr. This far who has mentioned this.

  • Kelly says:

    Could I send you a pic of my tummy tuck as I believe my scar is to high and wondered what could be done about it

  • Evielys Rodriguez says:

    Would it be possible to send you a picture of my tummy tuck as I believe my scar is to high and have what I think is “dog ears”. I am wondering what is best to do about it and when. I am one month post-op.

  • Dana Emerson says:

    Hello, I live in Louisville, Kentucky & I had a tummy tuck a year ago in January… I HATE my belly button scar! I look like your example picture of a bad scar. Bulls eye around my bb.
    I feel so disappointed that I didn’t do more research, I only thought about the hip to hip scar which I don’t mind and it’s low enough for me. It I have bought like 5 high waisted swimsuits. I was wondering about a bb revision?
    I’m actually a recovery room nurse and I take care of lots of plastic surgery patients but I don’t ever see them after recovery so the belly button scar wasn’t something I thought of.
    Thank you-

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