Get Bikini Ready

By Denise Mann; reviewed by and Scott R. Miller, MD, FACS

Every summer, bikini-loving beachcombers across the map get ready to reveal themselves. While there is no substitute for eating a healthy diet and regular exercise when it comes to weight loss and toning, many a bikini lover may need a little nipping and tucking to get rid of their troubling trouble spots before they don that itsy bitsy teenie weenie yellow polka dot bikini.

The good news is, there are more options than ever to help men and women look their best in their swimsuits, and it's not too late to start tightening and toning anything and everything from the breasts and buttocks to the waist and arms.

That Sweet, Suctionable You

Peter B. Fodor, MD, a Los Angeles-based plastic surgeon and an associate clinical professor of plastic surgery at UCLA Medical Center, says that Vaser liposuction is the best way to get rid of pesky pockets of fat that can ruin an otherwise bikini-ready body.

Vaser liposuction uses ultrasound waves to break up fat before suctioning it out. "The downtime is minimal, with oftentimes less than a week of bruising and swelling," he says.

And when it comes to bodacious, bikini-clad beach bodies, he knows of what he speaks, because in Los Angeles beach season is virtually year-round.

"A lot of younger women are wearing hip-huggers and tank tops and exposing their midriff this season, and Vaser liposuction can get rid of love handles, hip rolls, muffin tops or whatever you call the tiers of fat that hang over the waist line," says Fodor.

"The waist is very suctionable, which is something that many patients don't realize," he says. "It can give them an hourglass shape, especially when combined with suctioning of the hip rolls, abdominal liposuction and abdominal etching," he says. With this combination of procedures, the entire circumference of the waist is sculpted and ready to show off on the beach or in the latest fashion.

Ab etching involves the removal of excess fat in between the abdominal muscles, and in doing so creates indentations that give the appearance of a defined stomach. Think six-pack abs. "The surgeon has the patient contract the muscles and feels where the indentations are; then he makes marks to guide the suctioning," says Fodor. "Ab etching is an option only for individuals in whom total body fat is less than 18 percent."

Armed and Fabulous

"Today we are exposing our arms more than ever before," Fodor says. "Look at the actresses at the Academy Awards: almost all of them wore sleeveless dresses."

Today plastic surgeons can create finely chiseled, muscular arms by using liposuction around the deltoid, the triangular muscle that stretches from the collarbone to the long bone in the upper arm. The downtime is about seven to 10 days. There will be minimal if any bruising. "By 10 days, you can see some improvement, and improvements will continue for up to three months," Fodor says.

While liposuction of this area is an option for individuals with a little bit of flab, the more invasive total arm lift may benefit people with larger areas of fat underneath the arms.

Arm rejuvenation or brachioplasty has increased in popularity due to the corresponding increase in weight loss surgery. People who lose massive amounts of weight tend to have significant amounts of fat hanging under their arms.

Breast in Show

Bikini lovers take note: Bigger is not better when it comes to breast implants this summer, says Scott Miller, MD, a plastic surgeon based in La Jolla, Calif.

"Women are over the stigma of 'being done' or having fake breasts; they want to look natural," he says. "People want to be known for their body, not their breasts." Most breast augmentation surgeries that Miller is doing involve more moderately sized implants.

"It's not too late to get breast enhancement for summer," he says. "With breast augmentation, you are back to usual activity within a week or less; so if we do it now, you may be back to full activity within a month, and that includes swimming and surfing in the ocean."

Bikini Bottom Basics

Besides breasts, the other area that a bikini highlights is the buttocks. Buttock implants and buttock fat grafting can certainly improve the look of the buttocks, according to Miller.

Butt implants typically involve a three inch incision made between the midline of the buttocks. The surgeon creates a pocket for the implant and inserts it through this incision. The implant is positioned within muscle and fat. This area will form scar tissue with the goal to help keep the implant in place.

Fat grafting involves taking fat from an area of the body where it is plentiful, such as the legs or stomach, and implanting it where it is lacking, such as in the buttocks. "Activity is limited for four to six weeks afterward," Miller says.

Hair Today, Gone Tomorrow?

"Laser hair removal is the best thing out there for removing unwanted hair," says Miller. "You need four to six treatments, each separated by a month. You could start to see results after the first or second treatment."

Summer may not be the best time to begin laser hair removal, because it's important to avoid sun exposure on those areas being treated, such as the back or bikini line.

"You also don't want to mess up the sequence of treatments by starting before summer and then continuing in the fall," he says.

Bikini Wearers Beware

Just as important as what people do this summer is what they don't do. A lot of new products and techniques are being marketed that may sound tempting, but currently lack any convincing scientific evidence. For example, lipodissolve or mesotherapy involves a series of medicated injections that may melt away unwanted small, localized areas of fat. While the promise is great, no data supports these claims — yet.

"The great thing is that we have ongoing studies on lipodisolve that will give us some real answers in the next two years," Miller says.

ASAPS is in the process of conducting a study of 20 people who will have half of their lower abdomen injected with phosphatidylcholine/deoxycholate (PCDC) between two and four times. The treatments will be spaced eight weeks apart. Study participants will have the option to get the other side of their abdomen treated if they are pleased with the results at the study's end.

Miller's advice? "Hold off this summer, unless you want to be a test rabbit."