Losing a lot of weight is an impressive accomplishment that significantly reduces your disease risk. However, people who achieve major weight loss are often left with a lot of loose skin, which may negatively affect appearance and quality of life. This article takes a look at what causes loose skin after weight loss. It also provides information on natural and medical solutions that can help tighten and get rid of loose skin.
What Causes Loose Skin After Weight Loss?
Skin stretched during significant weight gain often loses its ability to retract after weight loss due to damage to collagen, elastin and other components responsible for elasticity.
The skin is the largest organ in your body and forms a protective barrier against the environment.
The innermost layer of your skin consists of proteins, including collagen and elastin. Collagen, which makes up 80% of your skin's structure, provides firmness and strength. Elastin provides elasticity and helps your skin stay tight.
During weight gain, skin expands to make room for increased growth in the abdomen and other parts of the body. Pregnancy is one example of this expansion.
Skin expansion during pregnancy occurs over a few months' time, and the expanded skin typically retracts within several months of the baby's birth.
By contrast, most overweight and obese people carry extra weight for years, often beginning as early as childhood or adolescence.
When skin has been significantly stretched and remains that way for a long period of time, collagen and elastin fibers become damaged. As a result, they lose some of their ability to retract.
Consequently, when someone loses a lot of weight, excess skin hangs from the body. In general, the greater the weight loss, the more pronounced the loose skin effect.
What's more, researchers report that patients who have weight loss surgery form less new collagen, and the composition is inferior compared with the collagen in young, healthy skin.
Factors That Influence the Loss of Skin Elasticity
Several factors contribute to loose skin following weight loss:
- Length of time overweight: In general, the longer someone has been overweight or obese, the looser their skin will be after weight loss due to elastin and collagen loss.
- Amount of weight lost: Weight loss of 100 pounds (46 kg) or more typically results in a greater amount of hanging skin than more modest weight loss.
- Age: Older skin has less collagen than younger skin and tends to be looser following weight loss
- Genetics: Genes may affect how your skin responds to weight gain and loss.
- Sun exposure: Chronic sun exposure has been shown to reduce skin's collagen and elastin production, which may contribute to loose skin.
- Smoking: Smoking leads to a reduction in collagen production and damage to existing collagen, resulting in loose, sagging skin.
What is the best home remedy for skin tightening?
Rubbing cocoa butter on your skin might sound like a good idea, but while many topical products claim to tighten skin, doctors are skeptical. “There are no efficacious topical products or OTC remedies for excess skin,” says Zuckerman. Jacobs adds that any product you’re going to buy for this issue usually will have subtle results at best.
The best home remedy, then? Taking care of your skin. “This includes sun protection, avoiding smoking, limiting alcohol consumption, and eating a diet rich in fruits and vegetables and low in sugar and saturated fats.”
Anecdotally, people on forums claim that dry brushing helps prevent loose skin. The technique involves using a natural fiber brush with a long handle to brush and exfoliate skin in a particular pattern. Practitioners believe dry brushing may help tighten loose skin; eliminate toxins from the body; stimulate the lymphatic system; and increase circulation. However, there is little scientific evidence to support these claims.
Also: Building muscle—by way of a solid exercise regimen with strength training work—is always a good idea. Plus, it can make your skin look tauter.