You’ve decided to start making changes in your diet and found a workout that you love to be healthier. But as you were losing weight, you can’t help but worry about having excess skin.
There are several causes and factors that influence the loss of skin elasticity. While age and the amount of weight you have to lose will matter, there are tips you can take to firm up your dermis as you work toward your goal weight.
What may cause your skin to sag during weight loss?
Skin is the largest organ in the body and forms a protective layer against the environment. The innermost part has proteins, including elastin and collagen. Collagen makes up most of the structure, offering strength and firmness. Elastin, on the other hand, provides elasticity to keep the skin tight.
Gaining weight will expand your skin to make room for increased growth in body parts. When the skin has been stretched for a long period of time, collagen and elastin fibers become damaged. They lose their ability to retract (1). Generally speaking, the greater the weight you lose, the more pronounced the loose skin effect.
Factors that can make skin less elastic during weight loss
- Genetics: Genes can greatly affect how your skin will respond to weight gain and loss.
- Age: Older skin contains less collagen and tends to be looser during and after weight loss (2).
- Duration of Overweight or Obesity: The longer you have been overweight, the looser your skin will be because of collagen and elastin loss.
- Amount of Weight Loss: A weight loss of 100 pounds or more may end in a greater amount of hanging skin.
- Sun Exposure: Chronic sun exposure can affect the skin’s ability to produce collagen and elastin, which may cause your skin to sag (3, 4).
- Smoking: Smoking also reduces collagen production and damages existing ones, resulting in loose skin (5).
Problems related to sagging skin
Sagged skin due to weight loss will not only cause physical challenges, it will most likely affect one’s emotions too:
- Discomfort: Having saggy skin can be very uncomfortable and may interfere with normal daily activities. One research says that this happens to people who had lost over 110 pounds or more (6).
- Less Physical Activity: In a study involving 26 women, 76% said that their loose skin has affected their ability to do exercise. Forty-five percent (45%) even confirmed that they had stopped exercising because people can’t help but stare (7).
- Skin Irritation and Breakdown: In a study on more than 120 people who asked for plastic surgery for skin tightening, 44% had reported skin ulcers, infections, and pain due to sagged skin (8).
- Poor Body Image: Having loose skin can have negatively affect one’s image and mood (9, 10).
Natural Ways to Tighten Loose Skin
1. Go Slow
You have to lose weight slowly if you want to prevent saggy skin. Losing weight too quickly may shed off more muscle than fat. Muscles help hold the skin on your body. Keep your weight loss at a rate of 1-2 pounds weekly or 500-1,000 calories per day (11).
Staying hydrated is one of the best contributors to skin elasticity. Dehydration can make skin cells wrinkled and contracted. People who stay adequately hydrated along the entirety of their weight loss journey are less likely to have loose skin. While the amount of water you’ll need would depend on your current health status, diet, and exercise routine, 1 quart for every 50 pounds is a good number, to begin with (11). Drinking water before meals can also help you feel full, so you’ll eat less.
3. Eat A Balanced Diet
Free radicals can destroy your skin’s basic components, which are collagen and elastin. To prevent this, you must follow a diet that is filled with nutrient-rich foods, with less fat and sugar. Get enough anti-oxidant vitamins like A, E, and C. Vitamin C is important for collagen production and it will improve the appearance of your skin. You can get it from kiwi, oranges, strawberries, Brussels sprouts, broccoli, spinach, and green peppers.
Foods rich in linoleic acid, which includes nuts, seeds, chicken, and vegetable oils, can help support skin structures. Most importantly, control your sugar intake. High amounts of sugar will increase your risk of skin sagging.
3. Exercise and Build Muscles
Replace the fat that once filled out your skin with lean mass by focusing on your exercise routine. Regular exercise, which includes strength-training and cardio, may help control muscle loss while you lose weight. Walking, jogging, biking, swimming, and aerobics count as excellent cardiovascular exercises. Aim for 1 hour, 5 times weekly.
Strength training, which includes the use of resistance bands, lifting weights, and yoga, can help build muscles. Exercise your major muscles at least twice a week (11). Add 2 to 3 days of High-Intensity Interval Training (HIIT) to improve your metabolism and build more muscle.
4. Take Supplements
Nutrients can work wonders for your skin! It improves elasticity. Getting a sufficient amount through a normal diet may be difficult, hence the use of supplements may be in order.
Collagen is one key protein that helps keeps the elasticity of your skin. Taking collagen supplements can help improve your skin’s ability to hold its firmness even during weight loss. Studies on collagen hydrolysate also showed a protective effect on skin’s collagen (14, 15, 16). Collagen strength was increased tremendously after 4 weeks of supplementation and the effect lasted for the entire 12-week study duration (16).
5. Use Protective Sunscreens
If you are exercising outdoors, take steps to protect your skin against the harmful rays of the sun. Do your walk early in the morning or late in the day. Slather on broad-spectrum sunscreens, which are effective on both UVA and UVB rays. If possible, use protective clothing like long sleeves or hoody.
6. Apply Firming Creams
The effects of firming creams are subtle, but they can still help improve the appearance of a sagged skin, especially those that need hydration. Moisturizing can make wrinkles appear less noticeable. Results can be observed immediately.
Look for creams that contain retinoid. It help prevents free radical damage, which negatively affects skin collagen. Retinoids can also help boost collagen production.
Massaging sagged skin can help increase blood flow and evoke anti-aging responses. One study looked at the effects of massage along with the use of anti-aging skin creams. Results showed that regular massage can amplify the positive effects of creams (19). Salt and sugar scrub can also help increase blood flow.
8. Stop Smoking
Toss your cigarettes to help get better skin. Studies suggest that exposure to smoke can make your skin less resilient. Secondhand smoke also increases levels of inflammatory proteins, reducing collagen, and contributing to thin, wrinkled skin (20).
Medical Treatments to Treat Loose Skin
There are several non-surgical procedures that can help with sagged skin. These include:
- Chemical peels and ablative laser resurfacing (laser peeling) are performed to remove the outer layer of an old dermis can help decrease the appearance of sagging, wrinkled skin on the face and neck areas.
- Ultrasound skin tightening and radiofrequency treatments (RF) use heat to promote collagen production.
- Neuromodulators, which uses the toxin botulinum, can help relax wrinkles. This only requires minimal recovery time.
In patients who have lost a significant amount of weight, surgical procedures to remove excess skin may be required. Multiple surgeries are often done on different body parts within 1-2 years after major weight loss. Hospitalization of 1-4 days is required. It may take 2-4 weeks for a patient to fully recover from a body-contouring surgery.
Having loose skin can be distressing, but there are several ways to prevent or treat it. Collagen plays an important role to keep your skin’s elasticity. Taking care of your skin from the inside out, through a healthy lifestyle and the use of cosmetic products, can help improve skin’s suppleness. With discipline and hard work, it is not impossible to deflate your new self-confidence during and after weight loss!