Much of the conversation about weight loss is concerned about the process itself, and not what happens after. While losing a lot of weight is an impressive accomplishment, people who achieve it are often left with a lot of loose skin. This can negatively affect one’s appearance, and by extension, their quality of life.
Your skin is technically the largest organ in your body, serving the vital function of protecting your insides from the environment. The inner layers of your skin are comprised of proteins, including one called elastin. Elastin – as its name implies – provides elasticity to the surface layer of your skin, keeping it tight. When you gain weight, your skin expands to make room for the increased growth in the abdomen. The one exception to this rule is pregnancy, where the expanded skin retracts naturally after the birth of the baby.
When skin has been stretched and remains that way for months and years, the elastin fibers in the skin become damaged and lose their ability to retract. As a consequence, when you lose weight, and the fat cells under the skin shrink and are not putting that strain on the skin any longer, the loose elastin fibers remain and cause the skin to “hang” off the body. The more drastic the weight loss, the more pronounced the effect.
Several other factors can contribute to loose skin following weight loss, such as the length of time the body spent being overweight (the longer the time, the more damage caused to the elastin), the amount of weight lost, age, genetics, and sun exposure.
Loose skin can cause many physical and emotional challenges. Excess skin can be uncomfortable and interfere with day-to-day activities, including exercise. It can cause skin to become irritated from the loose parts rubbing against more firm parts, and in some cases can lead to ulcers and even infections. Perhaps most damaged is body image, as loose skin can be quite unsightly.
Fortunately, there are solutions to the problem, ranging from natural remedies to surgical options.
While having loose skin after weight loss can be distressing, there are many options to reduced its prominence. Sometimes it retracts on its own, other times further procedures are required. But it is not something that needs to be lived with.
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