Clinic News

Dealing with skin after extreme weight loss

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Dealing with excess skin after losing a large amount of weight is frustrating and can often mark the success of a person’s weight loss transformation.

Throughout their weight loss journey, they’ve dreamt of a lean, toned body. They didn’t imagine they’d be left with unsightly, loose skin once they’ve reached their goal weight. No one warned them about the droopy pouch where their abs should be or the excess skin that hangs under their arms.

Sound familiar? If you’re experiencing struggles with excess skin after losing weight, read on to find out what you can do to achieve the desired body you worked so hard for.

Why your skin doesn’t snap back after weight loss

Skin is a living organ and it adapts in response to weight gain by expanding to make room for your body’s increased size. Thanks to the proteins in your skin, specifically collagen and elastin, it has the potential to contract and bounce back. This is often experienced in pregnancy.

The skin expansion experienced during pregnancy however, occurs usually over a 5 or 6-month period. In people who have been overweight or obese, the skin has been stretched gradually and often remained stretched for a significant time.

During this time, the collagen and elastin fibres degrade, just as they do in old age. Collagen acts to firm and strengthen the skin, while elastin is what gives your skin elasticity and allows it to stay tight. When these proteins are damaged, your skin’s ability to retract decreases.

Regardless of how slowly or quickly you lose the weight, if your skin has been stretched for several years, it’s likely you’ll have excess skin hanging from your body. And the more weight you lose, the greater the skin will hang.

It’s not just the length of time you’ve been overweight for or the amount of weight you’ve lost that affects your skin. Age, genetics, sun exposure and smoking all impact your skin’s collagen production and how well you respond to weight gain or loss.

Excess skin isn’t just about embarrassment

Sagging, lose skin can not only harm the person’s body image and be an embarrassment, it can also lead to physical challenges.

Excess skin after extreme weight loss can:

  • Cause physical discomfort and interfere with everyday activities, particularly if the weight loss is more than 50kgs.
  • Discourage your physical activity due to limited mobility and embarrassment.
  • Promote skin irritation including rashes, ulcers and infections due to trapped perspiration.

How to deal with excess skin after weight loss

Correcting excess skin after losing large amounts of weight is not easy. There’s no magic cream or pill you can take that will spring your skin back into place overnight. There are however several things you can do, both lifestyle and surgically, to improve your skin’s appearance and elasticity.

Lifestyle treatments to tighten loose skin:

  • Take up resistance training

Resistance training will help you with your weight loss and increase your muscle mass which will fill areas where you’ve lost fat, improving your skin’s saggy appearance.

  • Consume protein

Protein consumption and skin health is closely linked due to the role lysine and proline (amino acids) play in collagen production. By increasing the amount of protein you’re eating, you’ll help prevent skin atrophy, dryness and reduce wrinkles.

  • Consume collagen

Studies have found collagen strength is increased after supplementation of collagen hydrolysate, the collagen found in animal’s connective tissue. You can purchase collagen in a powdered form like gelatine in health food stores or consume a homemade bone broth.

  • Supplement with Fish oil

Significant improvement in skin elasticity can be seen after taking fish oil for just three months. Just make sure you’re consuming a high-quality fish oil with a higher content of EPA/DHA (omega-3 fatty acids).

Cosmetic surgery treatments to deal with lose skin:

For those who have lost a substantial amount of weight, dealing with excess skin surgically is often the only option. However, there are also nonsurgical treatments available that can significantly improve your skin’s tone without needing to undergo invasive surgery.

  • Platelet Rich Plasma

For subtle skin tightening, Platelet Rich Plasma (PRP) is used to stimulate the patient’s collagen production. The treatment uses the patient’s own blood that’s rich in stem cells and growth factor proteins. Areas of the body treated by PRP feel firmer and the skin appears tighten after 2 or 3 treatments.

  • Laser Skin Tightening

The laser skin tightening procedure acts to encourage the skin to contract by heating the collagen fibres with laser energy. It’s often used in combination with Vaser Liposuction which also removes some excess subcutaneous fat.

  • Tummy Tuck

In cases where there is considerable amounts of excess skin, a tummy tuck (abdominoplasty) is recommended. It’s a more invasive procedure, but can remove large amounts of excess skin and tighten abdominal muscles that have been stretched due to weight gain or pregnancy.

You can read more about the cosmetic surgery treatments for excess skin and sagging here.

Experiencing excess skin after weight loss can be depressing and put you in an emotional turmoil. For those who are facing subtle skin sagging, lifestyle changes may be enough for your skin to eventually retract. However, those who’ve lost a significant amount of weight, may need to consider a cosmetic surgery treatment to remove and tighten the skin to achieve their desired results.

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