What to Do About Loose Skin After Weight Loss

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A fairly common side effect of losing a notable amount of weight is loose, or "saggy," skin. In fact, over 70% of people who have weight loss surgery experience it. While this is very normal, it does provide a unique set of discomforts.

Loose skin can be painful because it can tug at you or irritate your skin by rubbing against you. It can also wear on you mentally and increase your self-consciousness. Excess skin can even interfere with exercise and any physical activity. So, while weight management encourages people to exercise, a result of loose skin is not exactly desirable.

Getting rid of excess, loose skin may involve surgery, but there are some other, less invasive methods you can try as well.

How You Get Loose Skin

Loose skin can be a side effect of a few lifestyle habits—it's not strictly associated with weight loss. Here are the main reasons individuals may find themselves with "loose" skin on their body.

  • Smoking: Tobacco smoke causes the skin to lose elasticity, resulting in loose, saggy skin.
  • Sun Exposure: The sun damages the skin, considerably reducing the skin's collagen and elastin. It also reduces cutaneous carotenoids, which protects the skin.
  • Weight Loss: One study found that people with massive weight loss had thinner collagen and less elastic fibers, resulting in thinner and weaker skin.
  • Aging: Your skin, like many other parts of your body, changes as you get older. Skin becomes thinner and loses elasticity, causing sagging or loose skin.

Prevention

There are a few ways you can prevent loose skin, and they directly coincide with reasons listed above. First, if you smoke, quit. Make your home a smoke-free zone, so you're not exposed to it. Consult your healthcare professional about quitting.

Wear a broad-spectrum sunscreen of at least SPF 15 to protect your skin from the sun's harmful rays, even if it's cloudy outside. Apply 30 minutes before going outside and reapply every two hours.

Coping With Loose Skin After Weight Loss

Excess, loose skin after weight loss is prevalent. However, there are some things you can do to cope with it.

Exercise

There are no scientific studies on humans that prove exercise can reduce loose skin. However, an increase in muscle could help improve the appearance of excess skin. Studies have also shown that physical activity has the ability to positively impact individuals' self esteem, which may help decrease any feelings of self consciousness regarding loose skin.

Compression Garments

You may have seen athletes wearing compression garments while playing sports or at the gym. However, they can help after weight loss, too. Compression clothing prevents rashes and infections by making the loose, excess skin isn't rubbing against other skin. Try powder to help with chafing, as well.

Supplements

Studies have shown that skin proteins decrease after weight loss. These proteins include collagen, which helps keep skin firm and elastic. A collagen supplement can help improve the skin's collagen production, improving hydration and firming sagging skin. Look for a collagen peptides supplement, which can be found in pill or powder form.

Vitamin C helps with collagen production and is essential for skin health. The best way to get more is to take a supplement with vitamin C and vitamin E.

One study showed that fermented papaya extract, taken with a supplement containing vitamin C, vitamin E, selenium, and trans resveratrol, improved overall skin health.

Radiofrequency Treatment

Radiofrequency treatment or RF treatment is a non-surgical way to treat loose skin. It uses heat from a high-frequency alternating current to stimulate collagen production.

RF treatment has become popular because there is no downtime and no scarring. In addition, you could see an improvement in the skin's tone and firmness. But just because the treatment is growing in popularity doesn't mean you should immediately jump to schedule one. Consult a medical professional before agreeing to the treatment, and choose a certified provider who uses an FDA-approved device.

A Word From Verywell

Excess skin after weight loss is incredibly common, but there are ways to treat it. Ultimately, what's important is how you feel in your body; consult a medical professional before embarking on any treatment plan.

Frequently Asked Questions

  • How much weight loss causes loose skin?

    Loose skin is typically caused by massive weight loss, which is defined as 50 percent or more of total body weight.

  • How can I tighten loose skin after weight loss?

    Loose skin can be tightened with collagen supplements, bariatric surgery, or radiofrequency treatments.

  • What causes loose skin after weight loss?

    Skin gets stretched from weight gain and doesn't tighten back up after weight loss due to a reduction of the skin's proteins.

15 Sources
Verywell Fit uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
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