Losing weight is good for your health in many ways, but one downside to losing a lot of excess weight quickly is the sagging, loose skin that’s left behind. Loose skin is often a concern for patients who have had or who are considering weight loss surgery to help them lose weight.
Why does loose skin occur after weight loss?
When you gain weight, your skin expands to accommodate the increased size of your body. Take pregnancy, for example. As the baby grows, a pregnant woman’s skin stretches to make room for the growing baby. The same is true for weight gain. For pregnant women, however, that expansion occurs over a few months — as opposed to a lifetime for many people who are overweight — and the skin typically retracts in the months following delivery.
If you’ve spent years being overweight or obese, your skin has been stretched for years, which damages the collagen and elastin that help keep skin firm and prevents the skin from retracting with weight loss. Losing all that extra weight may result in excess skin hanging from your body. The more weight you lose, the more loose skin there is to deal with.
In addition to the amount of weight lost, the speed with which weight is lost may also contribute to loose skin. People who have weight loss surgery often see the majority of their weight loss (often 100 pounds or more) in the first few months after surgery. Losing weight that rapidly gives the skin less time to retract along with the body’s changes.
Other factors, such as age, genetics, sun exposure and smoking, may also contribute to a loss of skin elasticity. While you cannot control your age or genetics, you do have control over your exposure to the sun and smoking habits. Making healthy lifestyle choices, like quitting smoking and limiting your exposure to the sun, may help prevent sagging skin after weight loss surgery.
Effects of dealing with loose skin
Having a little excess skin may not seem like a big deal to some, but people who live with loose, sagging skin know all about the physical and emotional challenges it can bring. Excess skin can feel uncomfortable, interfere with daily activity and even cause painful ulcers or infections.
Poor body image is another common concern for people dealing with loose skin after weight loss surgery. Many people are less likely to go to the gym or exercise due to flapping skin, and others may be self-conscious and embarrassed to attend social events due to the appearance of their skin.
Natural ways to tighten loose skin
The good news is that weight loss surgery patients do not have to simply live with loose skin forever. There are solutions — both natural and surgical — that can help.
Natural remedies to help tighten skin while losing weight include:
- Strength training: Resistance training builds muscle mass, which can improve the appearance of loose skin.
- Collagen supplements: Studies suggest that collagen hydrolysate may help improve the skin’s collagen levels.
- Nutrition and hydration: Feeding your body the nutrients it needs can boost the production of collagen, elastin and compounds that make up the skin. Protein, vitamin C, omega-3 fatty acids and water are all key to firm, healthy skin.
- Firming creams: Although the effects are often temporary, firming body creams that contain collagen and elastin may improve skin tightness.
Removing loose skin through surgery
For many weight loss surgery patients, these natural remedies are not enough to treat excess skin. Body contouring surgery, which removes excess skin and fat from the body, is a popular option for bariatric patients with loose skin. Examples of body contouring surgeries include tummy tuck (abdominoplasty), lower body lift, upper body lift, medial thigh lift and arm lift (brachioplasty). Minimally invasive solutions such as SmartLipo are also available.
Many patients choose to have multiple body contouring procedures on different parts of their body over the course of a few years after major weight loss. These procedures typically require at least a one-day hospital stay.
For more information on dealing with excess skin after weight loss surgery, contact your Nobilis Health doctor.