Loose skin after weight-loss: the forgotten problem
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.
What exactly is skin anyway?
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.
Why does skin stretch?
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.
Tightening Skin: Potential Solutions to Loose Skin
Fortunately, there are solutions to the problem, ranging from natural remedies to surgical options.
- Resistance training and regular strength-training exercises can build muscle mass, which has the dual benefits of burning more calories and improving the appearance of loose skin.
- Collagen supplements are made to help boost the body’s levels of the other essential skin fiber. Usually coming in a powder form that can be found at natural food stores, collagen supplements can increase the levels of the fiber in the body, tightening areas of loose skin.
- Certain nutrients can stimulate the production of collagen in the body naturally. These include protein, vitamin C, and omega-3 acids. All of these can be found naturally in food, or ingested in supplement form.
- In the event of major weight loss (usually defined as 100 pounds or more), medical procedures or surgical treatments are usually necessary to tighten the loose skin left behind. Body-contouring surgery is the most common method, entailing the removal of excess skin and fat with a large incision that is sutured with very fine stitches to minimize scarring. Procedures like this – such as abdominoplasty, lower-body lifts, and brachioplasty – are performed one at a time over a period of several years after weight loss and require hospital stays. While there are risks for complications, there are demonstrable increases in quality of life as a result.
- Non-surgical sculpting, like truSculpt 3d, can also tighten skin as is destroys fat cells. Knocking out both problem in one easy procedure.
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.