Before we dive in: If you landed on this article in your search for solutions after making some big changes in recent months––maybe even years––we want you to stop, pause, and feel proud of how far you’ve come. It’s likely that you made some big lifestyle changes to get you where you are now and that’s something to feel extremely happy about.
For some, excess loose skin after weight loss causes frustration and physical discomfort, making it difficult for them to be happy with their bodies. Here we dive into why sagging skin remains after weight loss and six different ways to tighten skin. If weight loss is one of your goals, always focus on fitness, nutrition, and overall well-being while making any changes to your diet and routine.
Why Doesn't Excess Skin Disappear After Weight Loss?
Skin is the largest organ on your body and provides a protective barrier from the environment. Your skin contains two different proteins, collagen, and elastin. Collagen makes up the majority of your skin's structure, giving it strength and firmness. Elastin, as you may suspect from its name, adds elasticity and tightness to your skin.
Your skin stretches and expands to accommodate your weight. If the skin has been significantly stretched for long periods of time, the collagen and elastin fibers become damaged. Skin loses its elasticity and firmness, remaining loose after weight loss.
Loose skin occurs most commonly on the abdomen and stomach. Other areas that may have loose skin are the neck, buttocks, arms, or legs. Over time, the skin may begin to retract on its own, but certain factors may affect this. Some of these factors may be out of your control.
Reframing how you see loose skin after weight loss
It’s important to know that you aren’t alone in this. It’s common to feel uncomfortable in your new skin, but every time you find yourself scrutinizing over that beautiful body of yours, remember to stop, pause and feel proud. We love this message from Mina Gerges that we shared on our Instagram feed:
Many factors can contribute to the amount of loose skin you have after weight loss. Here are some common reasons to keep in mind:
1. Time Spent Overweight
The longer the amount of time spent overweight, the more likely there will be collagen and elastin damage contributing to looser skin overall. In pregnancy, for example, it still takes months for the skin to retract after nine months of stretching. If the skin has been stretched for years, it can take much longer for the skin to tighten.
2. Total Pounds Lost
Significant weight loss typically results in more sagging skin as opposed to modest weight loss. In the case of massive weight loss, surgical options may be necessary to remove excess skin.
Loss of collagen and elastin progresses as skin ages. Older skin will be looser following weight loss because of skin aging.
Your genes control many aspects of your skin, such as protein turnover and skin elasticity. Genetics may play a large role in how your skin responds to weight loss.
5. Sun Exposure
Long term sun exposure has been linked to decreased collagen levels in the skin. This may cause looser skin upon weight loss. Still, even with excess skin, always use sun protection to prevent further damage.
Smoking has been linked to premature skin aging. If you have a history of smoking or are a current smoker, your skin may not tighten as well after weight loss.
6 healthy habits to feel more confident in your skin
PSA: If you don’t feel uncomfortable in your skin, don’t feel pressured to make changes. However, for some, loose skin that comes after weight loss is more than just something cosmetic. It could be a constant reminder of a more melancholy time––a mindset that’s hard to shake. The physical discomfort of sagging skin may also interfere with normal physical activity and exercise––limiting mobility or flexibility, making it difficult to remain active after weight loss.
Remember, again, that you are not alone in feeling this way. Loose skin after weight loss is a common issue in adults. If the way your body looks is causing body image issues and depression, there are some healthy habits that can boost your confidence and tighten loose skin. Here are six things to try:
One of the easiest natural remedies to improve the appearance of sagging skin is exercise, specifically resistance and strength training.
Weight loss often also leads to loss of muscle mass. By replacing lost fat with muscle, sagging skin becomes less noticeable.
Resistance training helps build that muscle mass back. By strengthening the muscles below the skin, you can firm up the area. By downloading the 8fit app, you’ll have access to a variety of strength exercises, including high-intensity interval training (HIIT), that require no equipment.
2. Firming Creams
A popular remedy, over-the-counter creams offer immediate visual firming of the skin. However, these results are usually temporary and not long-lasting. Hydration of the skin is especially important for improving the appearance of loose skin. Choose a product with retinoids, which prevent free radical damage on the skin and promote collagen production.
3. Diet and Supplements
The nutrients in specific foods are essential for promoting collagen production and skin turnover. Focus on a healthy diet that includes a large variety of protein sources, vitamins, and micronutrients.
The best foods for promoting healthy skin are antioxidant-rich foods like berries and dark leafy greens. Protein and vitamin C are especially important for boosting collagen production.
A recent study has suggested that collagen supplementation may help tighten skin and prevent skin aging. You can also eat cooked collagen, also known as gelatin, to boost your own body's collagen production.
4. Lose More Weight
Sometimes loose skin also contains excess fat. The fat directly under the skin is called subcutaneous fat. By focusing on losing that fat, you can firm skin. Exercises that are effective at burning subcutaneous fat are aerobic, HIIT, and strength training.
Massage promotes blood flow to the skin. Extra blood flow can help stimulate skin turnover and collagen production. When used with other skin tightening remedies, including firming creams, massage can help the appearance of loose skin after weight loss.
6. Cosmetic Procedures
Surgical options are also available. Body-contouring surgery is for those who have lost a significant amount of weight and is the most common and effective way to remove loose skin. Excess fat and skin are removed by incision.
These types of surgeries require a hospital stay and recovery time. They also may have complications such as bleeding or infection. Talk to your doctor to see if body-contouring surgery is an option for you.
Less invasive options include ultrasound and VelaShape. A recent study has shown success in using this combination of infrared light, radiofrequency and massage to remove belly and arm skin in overweight adults. These are great alternative procedures with fewer risks than surgery. However, the results may not be as effective as body-contouring surgery.
Loose Skin After Weight Loss
After weight loss, sagging skin is not just cosmetic. It can cause physical and emotional discomfort. For those with lots of loose skin, alternative therapies and body-contouring surgery may be necessary. For those with small to moderate amounts of loose skin after weight loss, resistance training and continued fat burning can help firm skin and make you feel more confident in your body.
Keep in mind, though, that the most important thing is learning to love the skin you are in, regardless of its shape or size.