How long does it take for a tummy tuck to heal and look normal?
Sagging abdominal skin and bulky belly fat frequently occur after pregnancy or aging and can be difficult to resolve with dieting and exercise. Abdominoplasty, or tummy tuck, surgically rejuvenates the lower body by removing excess fat and skin while repairing stretched or torn stomach muscles.
Tummy tuck recovery is approximately three months long. While post-op swelling may last several weeks, a tummy tuck generally takes six weeks to heal and look normal. However, many factors influence the amount of time it takes for the abdomen to heal and for the final results to appear, so this timeline varies from patient to patient.
Swelling influences tummy tuck recovery and results
Swelling is usually the main reason why your tummy may not look flat during recovery. As this resolves, the tummy will begin to show its new shape with little visible swelling left within three to four months. However, it can take one full year for your final results to appear.
Additionally, your abdomen's skin, muscles, and fat were repaired or altered during the tummy tuck. These structures need time to heal and settle into their new positions, which causes:
- Other temporary side effects contribute to how your stomach looks
Genetics also influence tummy tuck recovery and results. While a truly flat stomach may not be possible depending on your starting anatomy, Dr. Anthony will get you as close as possible to ensure you love your results.
Some other influencing factors include:
- The tummy tuck technique that was performed
- The extent of skin laxity
- Your general state of health
Three phases of healing for a tummy tuck to look normal
Tummy tuck recovery can be broken down into three healing phases:
Immediately following a tummy tuck, some swelling will continue and gradually decrease over several weeks. The first week is considered to be the most difficult phase of tummy tuck recovery due to the pain, swelling, and bruising.
You’ll be walking bent over at this point and will be spending most of your time resting. While walking every day is vital to recovery, avoid vigorous activities.
Most patients can return to desk jobs within two weeks, but additional recovery time may be necessary before returning to work for more physically demanding jobs. Between six to eight weeks you should be able to resume all physical activities.
After the second week, discomfort and swelling decrease day by day. Because your tummy may still feel tender, you will likely need help around the house. By day ten, most patients will start walking upright.
Most patients can start driving after a tummy tuck at the two to the three-week mark. However, you’ll still need assistance with heavy items and anything requiring lots of activity. Swelling, discomfort, and bruising decrease greatly by this stage.
The second phase of tummy tuck healing lasts three to four months. Because the remainder of the swelling should be gone, most people can see their final shape at this stage and can fit into smaller-sized clothing. There shouldn’t be any pain or discomfort at this stage, and you will be completely independent. However, the scars will still be red at this stage, as it can take several months to years for surgical scars to mature and fade.
This is also the point where Dr. Anthony may clear you to resume exercising. Exercising after a tummy tuck can improve your tummy tuck results by keeping you fit and healthy. At this point, you’ll also be able to lift heavy objects such as groceries without assistance.
This final healing phase can take up to one year or more. Incisions will continue to heal and fade during this time, and you’ll have the flatter, toned belly of your dreams!
How to maintain and maximize your tummy tuck results
Tummy tuck benefits should last many years. However, getting pregnant or gaining weight will affect the results, so avoid them after having a tummy tuck. Some other suggestions for maintaining and maximizing your tummy tuck results include:
- Pay attention to post-op instructions
- Be at a stable, ideal weight
- Maintain a healthy diet and exercise
- Practice good scar care
- Protecting the incisions from sun exposure
- Apply topical creams
Let Dr. Anthony guide you through tummy tuck recovery
With over two decades of expertise, Dr. Anthony delivers an outstanding patient experience and nuanced, elegant cosmetic results. His skill, artistry, and compassion make him among the most sought-after plastic surgeons in San Francisco, CA, and the Bay Area regions. Dr. Anthony has received multiple awards and honors and was recently named among the “Best Doctors in the San Francisco Bay Area” by San Francisco Magazine.
Dr. Anthony performs your tummy tuck at the state-of-the-art Vista Surgery Center, a fully AAAHC-accredited facility adjacent to his office. From its cutting-edge technology and world-class equipment to its comfortable and chic aesthetic design, the Vista Surgery Center stands as a peaceful yet modern sanctuary where you can experience seamless, stress-free treatment. Overnight accommodations with concierge service, a dedicated caretaker, and convenient transportation can be arranged if needed.