What causes loose skin after you lose weight?
When you gain weight, your skin stretches and expands to accommodate changes to your body. Weight gain can be due to a variety of reasons: medication, birth control, pregnancy, lifestyle and diet. If slight weight is gained and lost in a short period of time (for example pregnancy), the skin usually retracts within several months during postpartum as hormone levels balance out. By contrast, if significant weight has been gained (and maintained) over a long period of time and then that weight is lost relatively quickly, the skin may lose its ability to retract and remain ‘sagging’ as excess skin.
This is because as skin is stretched out, collagen and elastin protein fibres, which make up 80% of the skin, are damaged and lose their strength and elasticity, thus reducing the skin’s ability to retract. In general, extreme weight loss (over 100lbs or 45kg) over a shorter period of time produces greater amounts of excess skin.
Moreover, research has shown that individuals who undergo weight loss surgery (eg. gastric bypass) do not develop new collagen the same way a healthy person would, and that the composition of any new collagen growth is not as strong or as healthy as a regular person’s.
What problems arise from having excess loose skin?
- Physical discomfort
The excess skin may feel awkward and out of place on a person’s body.
2. Less physical activity
The skin is heavy and loose which may demotivate some people from partaking in physical activities.
3. Skin irritation
The skin may get pinched, snagged, or chafe against the body which can result in skin rawness, ulcers, infections and other pain.
4. Body image issues and low self-esteem
Despite the achievement of losing weight and becoming healthier, the individual may feel body-conscious due to the excess skin and may limit themselves to activities and situations that cover their body.
How do you prevent loose skin when losing weight?
- Lose weight gradually and consistently
This is the best method for healthy weight loss and to reduce the amount of excess skin. It gives the skin enough time to slowly adjust to the body’s new shape and mass.
- Avoid crash diets and extreme weight loss techniques
This is ultimately unsustainable and does not give the skin enough time to retract, increasing the likelihood of excess skin.
- Lose weight soon after you have gained it
Remember, the longer you are overweight, the more damaged the skin becomes. The skin also has a better chance of recovery the younger you are when you lose weight.
- Replace fat by building muscle
Muscle makes the skin taughter, and the process of building muscle is a great way to burn fat. It fills the empty space where the fat used to be which can reduce the appearance of excess skin.
Tips to help treat loose skin after weight loss:
- Avoid smoking (contributes to skin sagging)
- Avoid excessive sun exposure (lowers collagen and elastin production)
- Eat the right foods
Fruits and vegetables rich in Vitamin A, C, and E will help the skin regain its elasticity and ability to retract.
- Stay hydrated
Drinking enough water will help maintain skin elasticity, whilst dehydration does the opposite.
2. Protect your skin
Wear sunscreen to protect yourself from UV rays. Find a good moisturiser that will keep your skin hydrated.
3. Avoid alcohol and alcohol based products
These will dry out your skin and make skin sagging more apparent.
Do skin tightening creams and ointments really work?
There are a lot of skin tightening creams and ointments on the market these days that claim to ‘tighten’ the skin, and whilst these can have some effect, many companies exaggerate the extent that their products can do this.
Skin tightening creams cannot penetrate deep into the skin and have, very literally, a ‘surface level’ effect, in that results are short term and very minimal since the product only stays on the surface of the skin. The collagen and elastin in these products cannot fuse with the collagen and elastin in your skin as their molecular sizes are too big to penetrate the outer dermis layer. Thus, the ingredients in these creams cannot fuse with the proteins in the deeper dermis layers to help reinforce skin structure and elasticity.
There are some dermatological products that can help ‘firm’ your outer skin, but even the best of these will not give you results anywhere near as good as what you would get from medical aesthetic treatments.
How effective are collagen supplements?
Collagen is the most abundant protein in the human body, but the production of this protein decreases with age. Collagen supplements are a relatively new product that claim to help with a variety of issues such as bone strength, joint flexibility, boosting muscle mass, and improving skin elasticity.
There is minimal scientific research into the efficacy of collagen supplements against the claims made by supplement companies. The research that has been done is rarely individually peer reviewed and is in fact often funded and conducted by said companies.
Collagen supplements are orally ingested, often in tablet form, and are then broken down during digestion to be absorbed by the body. Whilst this sounds more effective than skin creams, since it penetrates deeper, the proteins absorbed from these collagen supplements can be found in everyday nutrient rich foods. There is little evidence to suggest that collagen supplements can drastically improve skin elasticity or benefit you in ways that are unachievable through diet and lifestyle changes.
Again, results from collagen tablets to reduce loose skin are nowhere near as good as what you could get from aesthetic treatments, especially considering the hefty price of many supplements.
Will liposuction tighten up loose skin?
Liposuction is a surgical procedure that removes fatty tissue from the body to give a more sculpted appearance. After liposuction, patients have reported that some areas of skin do feel tighter, but this is generally seen as a secondary benefit that some patients experience rather than the main effect of liposuction. This tightening is more apparent on areas of the body where the skin is thinner, such as the neck and arms. Areas with thicker skin such as the abdomen, thighs, and buttocks, will most likely not experience much of a tightening effect. The extent of the secondary tightening effect also depends on the patient’s natural skin elasticity. For these reasons, liposuction is not recognised as a primary treatment for loose skin.
Moreover, patients who have lost a lot of weight will not benefit from liposuction since there is no fat to remove, only loose skin to tighten.
What skin tightening treatments are available?
The best non-surgical skin tightening treatments for patients looking to tighten loose skin after weight loss are Thermage and Morpheus8. These treatments work to stimulate collagen and elastin growth and to restore the strength of damaged fibres. The skin is tighter, firmer, more sculpted and improves its ability to retract.
Thermage uses radiofrequency technology to address skin laxity and only needs 1 session for results to last up to 2 years.
Morpheus8 combines radio-frequency and microneedling and also helps with loose skin. Thermage is more invasive and expensive than Morpheus8 which is something the patient should consider when choosing which is best for them. The patient’s skin will also be assessed during consultation to see which treatment would work best with their skin.
However, one thing is for sure, the outcomes of either treatment are incredible.
Book a consultation with one of our expert practitioners who will guide you to the best choice for you.