What Are Bat Wings and What Can Be Done About Them?


Black cats, a dark night, and in the distance, bat wings. This description sounds like the start to a horror movie, and if you have bat wings, getting rid of them can certainly feel like one. What are bat wings exactly? The term is a nickname commonly used to describe loose skin and excess fat on the upper arms. Flabby arms are a common concern for many of our patients, especially as the weather heats up here in hot and humid New Orleans. 

Let’s learn about one of the most difficult areas on the body to tone and tighten, the upper arms. We’ll turn this horror story into a happy ending. 

Why Do I Have Bat Wings?

Any time you consume more calories than you burn, extra fat develops. Caloric needs vary widely depending on age, gender, activity levels, and current weight. Some of our patients burn as few as 1,200 calories per day, while others burn 3,000 daily calories or more. Figuring out your calorie needs and sticking to them is an important part of a healthy lifestyle. 

Slow weight gain can happen even if you’re barely overeating. It takes approximately 3,500 extra calories to gain one pound of fat. Eat an extra hundred calories a day, approximately one chocolate chip cookie, and you’ll hit this target in about a month. Fat on the arms tends to creep up on patients. They don’t notice a problem until summer comes and that tank top doesn’t look like it used to. 

When you gain weight, fat can collect anywhere on the body. Usually, it spreads across many areas, like the abdomen, hips, waist, chest, and arms. 

Bat wings are typically more than fat alone. As you get older, your skin quality changes. Skin that was once tight and elastic becomes thinner and stretched out. On the arms, this excess skin is prone to jiggling with movement, hence the name bat wings. 

Weight Loss and Bat Wings- What’s the Link?

Losing weight is never easy. Many of our patients have been remarkably successful at losing weight, often with the help of bariatric surgery. Throughout the weight loss process, they’ve looked forward to wearing new styles and showing off a slimmer self. Once the weight is gone, many are disappointed to find that their contours aren’t as expected, especially on the upper arms. Many feel uncomfortable in sleeveless or short sleeve tops, due to the loose, hanging skin that remains. 

Weight loss is a major contributing factor to developing bat wings. When you gain weight, the skin stretches to accommodate more fat. Unfortunately, skin doesn’t contract as easily as it expands. Loose skin and remaining pockets of fat on the upper arm are very common after weight loss. 

Do Men Get Bat Wings?

Women are more likely to develop extra fat on the arms, anywhere on the body actually. Higher estrogen levels cause women to store more fat than men. Men can and do develop extra fat on the arms, but statistically, it is much more common in women. 

Men that have lost significant weight, after bariatric surgery for example, often have loose skin on the upper arms. An arm lift removes this skin and improves the contours of the arm. 

What Can I Do About Bat Wings?

When tank top weather hits, jiggly upper arms become more noticeable and patients start calling asking, “What can I do about bat wings?” We love that our patients trust us as a resource for all of their aesthetic questions. 

If you are unhappy with your arm contours, you have a few options available. The first thing to try is the standard advice for improving any area of the body, diet, and exercise. Losing fat and gaining muscle can improve the appearance of the arms. 

Diet and exercise work best on patients with minimal skin laxity and fat. Cutting calories and boosting exercise will tighten and shape the arms, potentially reducing that upper arm jiggle, but won’t produce highly visible results if you have significant loose skin. When the triceps aren’t developed, the skin on the back of the arm can feel loose and jiggly. Toning up resolves this issue for some patients.  

To combat bat wings, focus on the triceps. Ask your personal trainer for advice on the best exercises to tone and tighten this key muscle for sculpted arms.

If diet and exercise don’t do the trick, there are surgical remedies for excess fat and skin on the upper arms. Call us to schedule a consultation and we’ll talk about options including liposuction and arm lift surgery. Dr. Hendrick performs all body contouring surgeries, including arm lifts, at New Orleans Center for Aesthetics and Plastic Surgery. Less invasive treatment options are also available. 

How Do I Lose Fat on the Arms?

There is a common misconception that fat loss can be focused by working out a particular body part. The reality is that diet and exercise offer a whole-body effect. As you cut calories and lose weight, you’ll drop fat from all your problem areas, tummy, buttocks, waist, and the arms. 

To lose fat on your arms, you’ll need to lose fat everywhere else too. A frustrating prospect for patients that are happy with their body contours overall, but struggling with a specific problem area, like the arms. If this sounds like you, it may be time to consider a targeted body contouring or fat reduction treatment. We offer both liposuction and non-surgical CoolSculpting® to reduce unwanted fat. Both treatments can be used on the upper arms. 

  • Liposuction- Liposuction is one of our most powerful options for body contouring. It allows Dr. Hendrick to manually remove fat and improve contours. We use a cannula, or thin tube, inserted through tiny incisions to remove stubborn fat deposits. Fat removal is complemented by body shaping and sculpting. Dr. Hendrick has complete control of the fat removal process and uses his artistic eye to create your best contours.  
  • CoolSculpting- For non-surgical fat removal on the upper arms, we recommend CoolSculpting. Fat cells are destroyed through a process called cryolipolysis, or in simpler terms, fat freezing. We’ll place the CoolSculpting pads on the upper arms, and the device will deeply cool fat cells, without damage to your skin or other tissues. This cooling destroys the treated fat cells and in the weeks after your treatment, they are naturally flushed from the body. A 20% reduction of fat is typical with each CoolSculpting treatment. 

Liposuction or CoolSculpting alone work best on areas of youthful, elastic skin. If you have skin laxity, these treatments won’t tighten it up. In many cases, removing fat makes skin laxity appear more pronounced. When the skin doesn’t contract and fat is removed, patients are left with more loose skin. Patients with skin laxity may want to pair these fat reduction options with a surgical arm lift. 

Still Need Help? Learn About the Arm Lift

A surgical arm lifts also called a brachioplasty, is a procedure for shaping and contouring the upper arms. Like other surgical lifts, an arm lift dramatically reshapes and reforms the arm area. Excess skin and fat are removed to eliminate drooping and downward hanging skin. Supportive tissues are reshaped, creating a more attractive and defined arm contour. We typically pair brachioplasty with liposuction to remove any remaining stubborn fat pockets. 

A single incision is created down the inside of the upper arm, one incision on each arm. The length of your incision will depend on the amount of skin removal needed. Some patients will have a visible scar, but we find that the improvement in arm shape aesthetically compensates for any scars that occur. 

Dr. Hendrick will talk about incision placement and size in more detail during your pre-operative appointments and consultation. 

Recovery After Arm Lift Surgery

Our patients recover at home after arm lift surgery. You’ll be ready to leave the surgical center shortly after your surgery is complete. The arms will be bandaged and may be wrapped in a compression garment to reduce swelling and inflammation. You’ll be groggy from anesthesia and will need a responsible adult caregiver to drive you. We provide detailed recovery instructions and are available for questions and concerns throughout the recovery process. 

Tenderness, tightness, and soreness are expected. For the first few days, you may want to use pain medication. We’ll provide you with a prescription if needed. 

Caring for your incisions is a simple process. We ask our patients to gently cleanse the incision lines each day with mild soap and water. Some patients will have surgical drains placed. If you receive a drain, we’ll provide instructions for cleaning and caring for it. We’ll remove your stitches and any drains during a post-operative check, usually a few days after surgery. 

Plan on taking 7-10 days off from work. You won’t be fully healed at this point but should be ready to resume many low-impact tasks. Patients with physically demanding jobs may need extra time off after their procedures. Patients are typically cleared to resume exercise 4-6 weeks after a brachioplasty. We’ll provide detailed information about activity restrictions as you prepare for surgery. 

BodyTite for Bat Wings- A Non-Surgical Body Contouring Solution

Wiggly, jiggly upper arms are caused by a combination of loose skin and extra fat. A surgical arm lift with liposuction will address both these issues for a dramatic improvement in upper arm contours. Surgery is effective, but not always the right fit. 

The long scar created by a brachioplasty is offset by a dramatic improvement in arm shape and proportion. However, for patients with minimal or moderate sagging and fat, the change may not be enough to warrant the scar. Other patients simply aren’t in a place where invasive surgery is possible. They may not be able to take off a week or two for recovery or may have a medical history where a surgical arm lift isn’t advisable. 

Reshape your arms with a less invasive option called BodyTite. This procedure uses RFAL, short for radio-frequency assisted lipolysis, to reduce fat while remodeling skin and tissue. The result is tighter skin, less fat, and improved arm contours. Say goodbye to bat wings!

How does BodyTite work? The RF energy used in the treatment of liquefies fat while deep-heating body tissues. The heat jumpstarts a remodeling process within the tissues, causing significant tightening and contraction. Since the fat is liquefied, it is much easier to remove, reducing trauma to the body and shortening recovery times. 

BodyTite creates results that are similar to surgical alternatives, but with less scarring and downtime. For many patients, this treatment is a good alternative to a surgical arm lift and a superior option to liposuction on its own. 

BodyTite isn’t just for the arms. We perform this procedure on many areas of the body including the buttocks, waist, bra roll, back, knees, neck, arms, and abdomen. 

It’s hot here in New Orleans! Stop hiding your arms under a sweater. New Orleans Center for Aesthetics and Plastic Surgery is available to help you learn more about getting rid of your bat wings for good. Call for a consultation at (504) 533-8848 or schedule an appointment through our website.