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Loose Skin After Weight Loss

Loose skin after weight loss is common in those that have a lot of weight to lose. We talk about how you may be able to avoid it.
holding stomach fat

It can be fairly common to experience some degree of loose or sagging skin after losing weight – particularly if you’ve lost a lot of weight in a short amount of time.

However, this isn’t always a guarantee, as the elasticity of your skin depends on several factors. 

Your skin is the biggest organ in your body and contains collagen and elastin in order to help it to stretch.

During periods of weight gain, your skin expands to allow for growth, and sometimes, it can shrink back again after losing excess weight – for example, after pregnancy.

However, if your skin has been stretched for a number of years (as is often the case with obesity), your skin begins to lose some elasticity, and may not shrink back to how it was before you gained weight.  

Someone measuring their waist with a tape measure.

Luckily, there are certain things that you can do to reduce your risk of experiencing loose skin after weight loss, but in cases where people have 100+ lbs to lose, some excess skin should be expected as a result of the stretching.

When skin is stretched for a long amount of time, the collagen and elastin fibres can begin to weaken and often become damaged, which affects how elastic your skin is, and its ability to constrict. 

How to avoid loose skin after weight loss 

Generally, people with less weight to lose are less likely to experience loose skin.

For example, if someone only has 20-30lbs to lose, it’s much less likely to see excess skin after weight loss in comparison to someone with much more weight to lose.

This is due to the fact that the skin won’t have been stretched as much in someone with less excess fat, so it’s more likely to shrink again.

However, most people that struggle with obesity do have a fair bit of weight to lose and do risk experiencing sagging skin – though it’s still much healthier than carrying excess fat.  

Some of the factors that can influence how much loose skin you could have include: 

  • Age – younger people are less likely to experience sagging skin after weight loss 
  • Length of time spent overweight – the longer the skin has been stretched, the less likely it is to shrink back again 
  • Amount of weight lost – those with more weight to lose are likely to be bigger, and therefore have skin that is more stretched.  
  • Sun exposure – although it can be nice to have a tan, sun exposure can damage the skin and cause collagen and elastin to weaken. It’s always important to wear a moderate or high-factor sun lotion whilst outside to avoid any kind of skin damage from the sun. 
  • Smoking – smoking can drastically affect the health of your skin, and those that do smoke are more likely to experience sagging skin after weight loss as a result 
  • Hydration – keeping hydrated is always important, but it can also help with keeping your skin healthy which reduces your risk of experiencing loose skin 

One of the most reliable ways to avoid excess skin after weight loss is to try and lose weight gradually, at a rate of around 1-2lbs per week.

This allows your body to adjust slowly to your changes in weight and size and is generally more sustainable in the long run than rapid weight loss.

Although many people lose a lot of weight when they first start taking weight loss medication, this usually evens out and becomes a more gradual loss over time.

This can be disappointing to many people, but it’s important to remember that gradual weight loss is more likely to stay off in the long-run, and is generally a much healthier way of losing weight than crash diets or rapid weight loss.  

How much weight loss causes loose skin? 

It isn’t always about how much weight loss causes loose skin, but it’s also about how long it takes to lose it.

For example, if you lose 20lbs rapidly (say, in the space of a month), you may experience more excess skin than someone who’s lost 50lbs over the course of a year or so.

However, generally, those with a lot of weight to lose are more likely to experience loose skin, for example, those with a BMI of over 40, or with over 100lbs to lose to get to a healthy weight.  

Exercises to prevent loose skin 

Although cardio is recommended for weight loss, weight training can be good for building muscle, which can help to reduce the appearance of loose skin.

Weight training and low-impact exercises such as yoga can help to strengthen and build your muscles – which will take up some of the space that was previously occupied by excess fat.  

Yoga matt and weights

It’s important to remember that muscle weighs more than fat, so if you’re starting to build muscle and see a reduction in weight loss, this isn’t always negative – it could just mean that your fat is being replaced by muscle, which is much healthier!

It’s also important to remember to eat properly if you’re starting to work out – as this can also help to prevent loose skin to some degree.

Making sure that you get enough nutrients from carbohydrates and dietary protein means that your body should have enough energy to function without having to take any from your muscles.

This means that your muscles shouldn’t shrink as well as your fat – which could end up contributing to the amount of excess skin you have. 

Does loose skin go away on its own and should you consider surgical loose skin removal? 

As the human body takes time to process things, it can take a while before you see any improvements in the appearance of your skin

Because of this, it’s recommended to wait at least a year after reaching your goal weight before considering taking any action about your excess skin.

Weight fluctuations are normal when you’re losing weight, so it’s a good idea to let your body settle at your goal weight before making any decisions about skin removal surgery, as your skin may still be adjusting to your new shape and size for up to a year after losing weight.  

Unfortunately, after a year or so, your skin will have reached a point where it won’t constrict anymore, and this is where further action may be needed – especially if your loose skin is causing discomfort or skin irritation.

Although exercise can go some way towards preventing loose skin after weight loss, it can’t always fix the problem entirely.

This is where other options such as surgical removal may need to be considered if your excess skin is negatively impacting your life.

How to get rid of loose skin and when it’s a good time to lose it

If you’ve already lost weight and are experiencing loose skin afterwards, you can try building some muscle to see if that helps at all, but if not, many people turn to surgical removal in order to find some relief.

Unfortunately, this isn’t something that’s currently offered on the NHS in most circumstances, due to the fact that it’s usually considered a cosmetic procedure.

However, if your excess skin causes you pain and discomfort, it could put you at risk of infection, in which case you should see your GP for advice, as they may be able to refer you for further care depending on what’s available in your area.  

Getting rid of loose skin should only be considered after a year or so of being at a stable and sustainable weight. 

Content Written By

Laura Henderson

Laura Henderson

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