If I Lose Weight Will I Have Loose Skin?

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People who have worked hard to lose weight often worry about excess skin. Many wonder, If I lose weight, will I have loose skin? or Exactly how much weight loss causes loose skin? These are reasonable questions because in some cases, the loose skin causes as many problems as the excess pounds once did.

If you have extra skin after weight loss surgery, you know how frustrating it can be. But there are some solutions that can help. Exercises, surgical, and non-surgical medical procedures may help tighten your skin.

Loose Skin After Weight Loss Is Normal

Ninh T. Nguyen, MD, the former president of the American Society for Metabolic and Bariatric Surgery (ASMBS) explains that many bariatric surgery patients have loose skin after surgery. This sagging, excess skin is one of the most common problems weight loss surgery patients face. "It can be one of the biggest hurdles," Dr. Nguyen says. But patients do not have to face this problem alone.

Before surgery, Dr. Nguyen counsels his patients about what to expect during the entire weight loss process. He continues to see patients for the rest of their lives following surgery. If loose skin becomes a medical issue due to infection or if the patient is uncomfortable about the look of the skin, he works with the patient to figure out the best option for their particular condition.

Factors Affecting Loose Skin After Weight Loss

Your circumstances before and after weight loss may affect whether you'll have excess skin and how much.

  • Smoking: Patients who are smokers may be at higher risk for loose skin. So quitting your cigarette habit may be helpful if you want to decrease your risk.
  • Age: "Older patients (generally 50 years and over) are at higher risk for getting loose skin after weight loss because their skin is less elastic and less able to recover from the change in size," says Dr. Nguyen.
  • Amount of weight lost: If you are obese and lose 100 pounds or more, your risk for loose skin may be higher, depending on your other risk factors and the quality of your skin. 

Prevent Loose Skin

Slow, steady weight loss can help prevent loose skin because it gives the skin more time to regain elasticity and recover. Quick weight loss, on the other hand, can make loose skin more common.

In some cases, excess skin can be prevented or minimized. Dr. Nguyen says that exercise is one of the best ways to deal with it. "It's not perfect," he says, "but it helps to tighten both the muscle and the skin."

There are certain forms of exercise that are better for you if you are overweight. It's generally best to start slow and gradually increase your workload as your fitness level improves. 

Add strength training workouts to shape and tone the muscles and flexibility exercises to keep your joints limber and comfortable. If you're short on time, combine into a circuit style workout to make your sessions more efficient. Compression garments for exercise or normal daily wear can also help you to look and feel more confident in your new body. 

Surgery for Loose Skin

You wouldn't want to end your journey to a healthy weight simply to avoid loose skin. Know that "plastic surgery for removal of excess abdominal and breast skin is often covered by insurance for reasons of moisture, hygiene, and rash issues," says the ASMBS.

Surgeons generally recommend that you wait at least 18 months after bariatric surgery before getting evaluated for loose skin. Before that time, your body is going through too many changes.

For excess skin on the abdomen, there are typically two procedures from which to choose:

  • Abdominoplasty: Both the muscle and the skin of the abdomen are tightened during this surgical procedure. Because it is considered a cosmetic surgery, it is not usually covered by insurance.
  • Panniculectomy: Your doctor may recommend this procedure if you are experiencing skin breakdown or infection from loose skin or hanging skin on your abdomen. During the surgery, excess skin is removed and tightened, but the muscles are not tightened. Many insurance providers are more likely to cover this procedure.

Some patients also end up with loose skin in the lower body and choose a thigh lift procedure which helps to tighten skin on the thighs and create a leaner look in the legs. Treatment of loose skin around the legs and arms is typically not covered by insurance.

A Word From Verywell

If you have loose skin after weight loss surgery, consult your bariatric surgeon. They will be able to answer questions about your specific condition and make the best recommendation for you. If you have excess skin from weight lost through traditional methods and exercise hasn't helped, speak to your health care provider. Your excess skin may be both manageable and treatable.

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  1. Cabbabe SW. Plastic surgery after massive weight loss. Mo Med. 2016;113(3):202-6.