Losing weight is a “come true dream” of overweight or obese people since it comes with a cheerful package of enormous health goodies. While the utmost benefit of the achieved healthy weight is keeping many diseases at bay, some people dream of increased energy levels, easy movements as a result of a lighter body, more defined body, —and yeah, the smaller fitting pants!
Nonetheless, a large amount of weight loss often leaves the cheerful achiever with yet another problem of unpleasant loose skin that hangs about their slim bodies. This can be frustrating and embarrassing, especially if it is extremely loose.
So what is next for you? —The unpleasant fat is gone, but the embarrassing sagging skin is left.
This article comes in handy and addresses this problem in the best —scientific way.
It highlights the causes of loose skin after weight loss, and it explores all possible ways to tighten and eliminate the sagging skin.
A Closer Look At Your Skin (And Why It’s Sagging)
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The skin is the largest and complex organ in your body that protects the body against environmental hazards. It comprises three layers, Epidermis: The outer layer, Dermis: The middle layer, and Hypodermis: The fatty layer also known as Subcuitis.
But because your interest is in the loose skin (I know), take into account the middle layer, —the (dermis). Whereas it consists of a complexity of blood vessels, sebaceous (oil) glands, and hair follicles, the dermis bears two important fibrous proteins, —Collagen and Elastin which provide firmness and elasticity to your skin.
Collagen is the most abundant protein in your skin, —making up a whopping 75-80% of the whole skin. It is not only found in the dermis, but also the innermost layer, the (subcuitis). Here it conserves the body heat, and protects your inner organs. Damage or reduction of the tissue in the subcutis layer leads to the problem of loose skin, —which we are addressing today.
Why Loose Skin After Losing Weight?
To bring you in the right perspective Marie Jhin, MD, a dermatologist in San Francisco says, “It’s like a balloon. —When you first blow up a balloon, it’s really small and tight. But when it is deflected, it doesn’t return to its original shape.”
The most important elements that determine loose or tight skin is collagen and elastin.
This is what Patricia Farris, MD Dermatology says, “Collagen and elastin are fibers that make up the supporting structure of the skin. Collagen gives skin its firmness while elastin keeps skin tight.”
Therefore from the doctor’s observation, loose skin after weight loss is a result of damage or reduction of collagen and elastin in the skin.
Determinants of Loose Skin after Weight Loss
Several factors can determine the degree of loose skin during, and after losing weight:
Patricia Farris, MD dermatology says, “Collagen and elastin are plentiful in young skin and start to break down with natural aging.
So, since collagen and elastin which are responsible for firmness and elasticity of skin naturally decrease with aging, losing weight at advanced age make it difficult for the skin to snap back due to diminished collagen and elastin.
- The degree of weight loss.
The larger the amount of weight lost is directly proportional to the degree of the aftermath loose skin —if other factors remain the same. Therefore it is recommendable to shade your weight moderately to avoid too much loose skin (1).
- The rate at which the weight is lost.
Many people are too eager to lose weight quickly. But this fast weight loss game often results in greater loose skin. This is because the generation of collagen and elastin which helps in snapping back the skin is not so rapid.
Genetics dictates so many things in your skin including how much collagen and elastin your skin holds, and the rate at which elasticity of the skin is lost due to old age, harshness of the sun, or due to deflection from obese/overweight.
- The age of your overweight.
If you decide to lose your overweight earlier, you’ll have higher chances of avoiding aftermath loose skin. On the other hand, if you overstay with overweight until it is so many years old, aftermath loose skin is guaranteed.
- The harshness of the sun
The sun is a very important source of vitamin D, among other health benefits. But if you overexpose your skin to the sun, especially when it’s hot, it damages collagen and elastin making your skin lose elasticity.
Smoking is notoriously unhealthy in every aspect. Like with other organs smoking speeds up the aging of your skin making it vulnerable to loose skin after weight loss.
- Water intake and nutrition
The general health of your skin puts it in a better position to resist damage or to snap back after losing weight. Collagen and elastin are derived from good nutrition which keeps the skin firm and elastic. Hydration is as important to the skin as other organs. Therefore water intake should never be compromised if you intend to better the health of your skin.
How to Avoid or Minimize Loose Skin During Weight Loss
Loose skin after losing large amounts of weight may not be entirely prevented, but if you focus on building muscle while burning fats away moderately, the aftermath loose skin can be minimized to an unnoticeable degree.
Health experts recommend losing 1-2 pounds a week, which is equivalent to 4-8 pounds per month.
Natural Ways To Tighten Loose Skin After Weight Loss
If you can afford to solve any health problem the natural way, it is always the best approach. Here find the natural ways you can employ to tighten your loose skin after losing weight.
Engage In Resistance Workouts
Resistance exercises prove superior in this game because it does not only lead you to lose fat, but much of fat-loss is converted into the muscle to take up the fat room hence help minimize loose skin.
Consume Enough Vitamin A, C & E
Vitamin A helps in the hydration of the skin while Vitamin C protects and preserves collagen and elastin which are the main skin-firming fibers. Vitamin C is also used in the synthesis of collagen.
On the other hand, Vitamin E shields the skin from harsh sun damage.
These vitamins can be derived from leafy green vegetables and colorful fruits.
Bone broth is also a good source of collagen among other health benefits.
Omega-3 Fatty Acids and Protein Intake
According to one study (4) omega-3 fatty acids that originate from fish can increase skin elasticity.
Proteins also promote healthy skin due to the presence of amino acids, lysine, and proline which play a direct role in the production of collagen.
How To Tighten Loose Skin After Weight Loose Using Medical Approach
Some factors, like genetics and age, makes it difficult to control or avoid loose skin entirely. In such cases, Patricia Farris, MD Dermatology says,
“While there are lots of collagen and elastin creams available, these molecules are far too large to penetrate the skin. The only way to boost collagen and elastin in the skin is to turn on the fibroblast cells that produce these fibers.
This can be done using cosmeceuticals containing prescription retinoids, retinol, alpha hydroxy, or peptides and procedures like microdermabrasion, chemical peels, and laser resurfacing. This combination of cosmeceuticals, sunscreen, and in-office procedures is the best way to keep your skin looking young, firm, and tight.”
Body–Contouring Surgery to Tighten Loose Skin
If all efforts outlined above seem not to work for you, this is not the end. You may consider body-contouring surgery to eliminate the sagging skin.
Research shows that many of the people who lost a large amount of weight especially through bariatric surgery often opted for body-contouring surgery to remove the sagging skin (5).
However, you need to know that this approach is very expensive and needs a lot of patience because it takes a long time to recover.
According to plastic surgery professionals, you need to take one year after weight loss to stabilize your weight before undergoing body-contouring plastic surgery.
The Bottom Line
Loose skin after weight loss is often a sad occurrence that leaves many people at a loss of what to do, after enduring such hardship of losing weight. Experts recommend losing weight moderately, as you take measures to increase muscle build to take up the lost fat. However, some factors may make it impossible to achieve tight skin after weight loss.
Body-contouring done professionally can be a success to achieve your desired tight skin if natural means (which are recommended and more safe) fail.