Surfside Summer Makeovers

WebMD experts tell you the cosmetic secrets people are using to stay looking good on the beach

By Denise Mann
WebMD Weight Loss Clinic - Feature

Reviewed By Charlotte Grayson, MD

Try as we might, most of us will probably never achieve Jessica Simpson's new bikini bod or rhythm and blues star Usher's finely chiseled abs -- at least not the old fashioned way with a low-fat, low-calorie diet, and regular exercise.

While nipping, tucking, zapping, and suctioning are certainly no substitute for a healthy lifestyle, they can definitely augment one, experts tell WebMD. For better or worse, here's what the inhabitants of the cabana next store may be up to this summer.

Breast in Show

Adjustable breast implants may make some waves at the beach this summer. Here's why: "About 90% of breast augmentation patients are very happy with the results immediately after surgery and then at six weeks, they say 'I could have gone bigger,'" explains Ben Lee, MD, a plastic surgeon in Englewood, Colo. "They come in terrified that they will end up looking like Dolly Parton and opt for smaller implants."

To the rescue: the Spectrum Expandable saline implant. "It has a port that is placed in at the time of surgery either underneath the breast or nipple and after surgery, if a woman decides to go bigger, they can add about 70 ccs of volume or so," he tells WebMD. They can also be downsized, he says, but that is rarely done.

"Some of the best breast augmentations that I have seen are done with this method," he says.

Cohesive gel implants may also make a splash this summer, says Barry DiBernardo, MD, director of New Jersey Plastic Surgery in Montclair, N.J., and spokesman for the American Society for Aesthetic Plastic Surgery (ASAPS).

Although they are not fully approved yet for initial breast augmentation, cohesive gel implants are as safe as saline and feel as natural as silicone, he says.

"If you cut one of these implants in half, the gel doesn't spill, so it is much safer and feels so good that you don't want to put it down when it's in your hand," says DiBernardo, also the president of the New Jersey Society of Plastic Surgeons.

As it stands, "women who are exchanging implants or who are having a breast lift at the same time can use these new implants," he says.

Adds Donald W. Kress, MD, a plastic surgeon in Frederick, Md., "It's a phenomenal implant that looks like it grew there and feels like it, too."

Tightening and Tucking in Time for Independence Day

So you want to get rid of some of the extra skin before you don your new bikini? A new type of liposuction may be just what the doctor ordered. Called liposelection, the new technology uses ultrasound energy to break up fat before it is removed via liposuction. It can be used in the abs, arms, back, hips, knees, love handles, neck and chin, saddlebags, and thighs. "It has less potential to burn the skin and is potentially more precise than traditional liposuction and can be used anywhere in the body," Lee says.

Lasers, too, can trim some unwanted flab. "People with loose skin that's not terribly loose on the abdomen, inner thighs, or arms who don't want and don't need major surgery may benefit from the Titan laser," DiBernardo says. "The Titan laser tightens the skin without downtime and can be used in any color skin," he says. "It takes anywhere from one to six treatments that are given at least one month apart." he says. It uses infrared light to cause the collagen in the skin's dermis to contract and tighten. But the Titan tightening treatment is not for everyone, he notes. "If it's there's too much fat or too much skin, we need to jump to something more aggressive" such as a tummy tuck or liposuction.

Thermage, which uses radiofrequency to tighten and lift skin, may also flatten unwanted flab, says Ariel Ostad, MD, a dermatologist in private practice in New York City and a clinical assistant professor of dermatology at the New York University Medical Center.

"For people with loose skin on their abdomen from delivery, pregnancy, or childbirth, or creepy skin on their abdomen or under their arms, Thermage can tighten the skin," Ostad says. It's FDA approved for the face, but Thermage can be used on other areas, he says. And "for people very self-conscious about wearing bikinis, Thermage involves no scars and provides minimal lifting and tightening."

Still want those six-pack abs? Now you can have them etched

"Ab-etching is a cheaters way of making six-pack or eight-pack abs," Kress says.

"If you are 40 pounds overweight, you will look ridiculous, but if you are slim and attractive and want to emphasize it, this may be a worthwhile procedure," he says. Ab-etching involves the removal of excess fat in between the abdominal muscles and in doing so, creates scars that give the appearance of a defined stomach ala Usher.