Losing large amounts of weight can leave a person with flabby, loose skin, especially if they undergo rapid weight loss. Reduced collagen and elastin in the dermis may also contribute to flabby, loose skin.
Common areas of loose skin post weight loss are eyelids, jowls, chin, throat, upper arms, and stomach. Firm skin in young people can stretch and retract back into place easily. In contrast, people over the age of 40 will have noticeable loose skin due to deteriorated or reduced elasticity in the skin.
Flabby, loose skin can be challenging to treat at home, but certain skin-tightening options such as over-the-counter products, non-surgical procedures, and surgical solutions can be administered depending on the severity of the issue.
Why Does The Skin Loosen Post Weight Loss?
The skin is the largest organ in the body and forms a natural protective covering against the environment. The skin’s innermost layer consists of proteins, collagen, and elastin. Collagen is made up of 80% of the skin’s structure, providing strength and firmness. Elastin is a fibrous scleroprotein found in the elastic tissues, which provides elasticity and helps the skin stay tight.
When you gain weight, the skin stretches to accommodate the increased body mass in different parts of the body. For example, skin expansion during pregnancy happens over a few months, and the expanded skin normally shrinks back within several months after the delivery.
Similarly, most obese and overweight people carry extra weight for years. When skin gets significantly stretched and remains that way for a long period, collagen and elastin fibers get damaged and cannot completely contract back.
Therefore, when someone loses a large amount of weight, it results in loose hanging skin. The greater the weight loss, the more marked is the loose skin effect.
Factors That Affect Skin Elasticity
Several factors influence flabby, loose skin after weight loss, including the following:
- Age: As you get older, the skin has less production of collagen and becomes less elastic.
- Amount of Weight Lost: Large amounts of weight lost (about 100 pounds or more) usually results in more prominent flabby hanging skin.
- Genetics: Genes also play a role in skin response to weight gain and loss. Some people may have more sagging skin than others.
- Duration You Have Been Overweight: If you had been overweight or obese for a long time, you’re skin may be unable to fully retract back after weight loss due to loss of elastin and collagen.
- How Quick Weight Loss Occurs: When someone loses a large amount of weight rapidly, the skin’s elasticity doesn’t get adequate time to snap back. Hence, it results in loose skin.
- Nutrition and Hydration: Taking balanced nutrition, vitamins, and minerals along with proper hydration and skincare will give you healthy and firm skin.
- Smoking: Smoking damages existing collagen and reduces collagen production, speeding up the normal skin’s aging process. It can also contribute to loose, sagging skin.
- Sun Exposure: Chronic sun exposure can damage your skin and result in loose skin.
Problems Associated With Excess Loose Skin
Loose skin generally occurs after losing a lot of weight, and this may cause physical and emotional challenges:
- Physical Discomfort: Excess skin can be irritating and may interfere with normal activity. People performing regular exercise are often susceptible to repetitive-use injuries such as sprains, strains, shin splints, and other joint issues.
- Decreased Physical Activity: Loose skin may also limit exercise mobility. Some people revealed that they even stopped exercising because their flapping skin caused others to stare.
- Skin Irritation and Breakdown: Loose skin may sometimes cause pain, ulcers, or infections. To address these issues, people often opt for skin tightening and lifting procedures post weight loss surgery.
- Poor Body Image: Excess skin post weight loss may negatively impact a person physically and mentally due to a poor physique.
Ways To Tighten Loose Skin
Every person will have a different response post weight loss. Some people may snap back quickly, while others may consider surgical procedures to eliminate the extra skin. Body contouring procedures are expensive and require a long recovery time.
For individuals who have lost small to moderate amounts of weight, some of the following natural remedies may help improve skin strength and elasticity to some degree.
Performing regular weight training exercises can help reduce body fat while building muscle mass and improving loose skin post weight loss. When there is an addition of muscle, the appearance of loose skin will improve with a reduction in sagging
Many supplements in the market are intended to help with loose skin but with very little scientific evidence to support such claims. Two supplements have been purported to improve the appearance and quality of the skin, namely:
- Gelatin: It is a water-soluble protein obtained from collagen that is crucial for healthy skin. Gelatin is said to stimulate the production of collagen and thereby improve skin elasticity.
- Fish Oil/Omega-3 Fatty Acid: It is an all-around supplement with many health benefits, including improving skin elasticity.
You may be able to notice results within two to three months of consuming these supplements.
- Nutrients and Hydration
It is important to eat fruits and vegetables for better health. Certain nutrients help in the production of collagen and other elements contributing to healthy skin.
- Protein: Consuming adequate protein is necessary for healthy skin. The amino acids – lysine and proline – play a key role in collagen production.
- Vitamin C: Vitamin C protects the skin from sun damage and helps in collagen synthesis.
- Water: Adequate hydration improves the appearance and health of the skin. Drinking plenty of water will significantly improve skin hydration and function.
- Firming Creams
It would be best if you chose creams that contain collagen and elastin to aid with skin firming. Although no creams provide a permanent solution, you may use these creams to temporarily boost skin tightness.
Massaging can increase blood circulation on the skin’s surface and promote the growth of new skin cells. Massage also helps to reduce muscle tension. Regular massage can improve the appearance of the skin.
Non-Surgical Treatments to Tighten Loose Skin
Various non-surgical procedures can help reduce loose skin. These are minimally invasive techniques, namely:
- Chemical Peels: The application of chemical peels removes the outermost layer of the skin and decreases the appearance of loose, flabby, or wrinkled skin. Once the outermost layer of the skin peels off, the skin underneath is often a bit less wrinkled and smoother.
- Radiofrequency Treatments: This technique also uses energy transfer to heat the skin to stimulate collagen production. This method mainly focuses on the outer layer of the skin.
- Ultrasound Skin Tightening: Focused ultrasound energy transferred through the skin’s surface heats the deeper layers and stimulates collagen production.
- Ablative Laser Resurfacing: Laser is used to peel off the outermost layer of old skin. The heat from the laser warms the layers underneath the top layer and promotes collagen production.
- IPL/RF Combination Treatments: The combination treatment uses intense pulsed light (IPL) and radiofrequency (RF). Heat is transmitted through outer and deeper skin layers to help collagen production.
- Neuromodulators: Botox or toxin botulinum is injected into the skin. It reduces the appearance of loose skin when injected in certain areas and requires minimal recovery time.
Although there are fewer risks with non-surgical procedures, the results may not be as dramatic as body-contouring surgery.
Surgical Treatments to Tighten Loose Skin
People who have lost significant weight through bariatric surgery or other weight loss methods often request surgery to remove excess skin. Specific body-contouring surgeries are performed where a large incision is made and extra skin and fat are removed.
Following are body-contouring surgeries:
- Abdominoplasty (Tummy Tuck): Excess skin is removed from the abdomen.
- Lower-Body Lift: Extra skin removed from the belly, buttocks, hips, and thighs.
- Upper-Body Lift: Skin excised from the breasts and back.
- Medial Thigh Lift: Skin excised from the inner and outer thighs.
- Brachioplasty (Arm Lift): Excision of skin from the upper arms.
Body-contouring surgeries usually require a hospital stay, and recovery time is typically two to four weeks. There may be surgical complications, such as bleeding and infections.
Multiple surgeries are performed on different body parts for one to two years post major weight loss.
It may be difficult to completely prevent loose skin after losing large amounts of weight, but gradually shedding weight is the best way to avoid excessive sagging.
For individuals with small to moderate amounts of weight loss, the skin may snap back on its own eventually. Following healthy habits, proper hydration, and skincare will promote healthy skin. However, people who have accomplished major weight loss may need body-contouring procedures to tighten or eliminate loose skin.
Experts often recommend losing 1 to 2 pounds a week, which will help you lose more fat than muscle and allow the skin to adjust through weight loss. Working out can help, including cardio and strength training, to maintain your weight and tone your body.
Evaluate your options and consider your long-term plan before you select the best treatment for your loose skin. Consult your doctor through your decision-making process to ensure that the option you choose is safe.