Even if it’s only a few pounds, being overweight is a problem most Americans face at some point. According to data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), obesity currently affects four out of 10 Americans. Sadly, the obesity epidemic isn’t slowing down, and losing weight and keeping it off isn’t easy.

Losing weight is a major accomplishment. If you have lost a lot of weight, you deserve a round of applause. However, once the pounds come off, many face another challenge that can make it feel like their weight loss efforts were in vain: loose and extra skin.

Unfortunately, excess skin can be a source of frustration, disappointment, self-consciousness, and anxiety. Out-of-balance body proportions and stretch marks are other problems that arise from losing a lot of weight. Because of these issues, despite losing weight, people often remain embarrassed or ashamed of their bodies, which can impact their confidence and self-esteem.

To help, many turn to body sculpting or body contouring surgery to tighten and/or remove extra skin that remains after the pounds are gone. In this blog post, we will discuss why skin gets loose from weight loss, how excess skin can be harmful both mentally and physically, and how body sculpting procedures and body contour surgery can quickly help your body snap back after weight loss, no matter your gender, age, or how much loose skin you need to fix.

Why Our Skin Gets Loose After Weight Loss

If you have lost weight, be it naturally, from weight loss surgery, or even liposuction, you’ve probably noticed that your body changed in many ways. Some of these changes are great; others not so much. Many people end up with loose skin hanging from their body that is just as (if not more) confidence-dooming as the pounds themselves.

In short, this occurs due to damage deep within the layers of your skin. Your skin is the largest organ in the body and has many layers. The innermost layer comprises two crucial fibers; collagen and elastin. Collagen provides firmness and strength. Elastin provides elasticity and helps your skin stay tight.

In the case of weight gain and loss, if your skin has been stretched significantly or for a long time, collagen and elastin fibers become damaged and lose their ability to retract, resulting in loose skin when you drop pounds. And the longer the skin remains stretched, the looser it gets.

Essentially, your skin becomes stretched to the point it can’t fully tighten back to its original form, and the deep layers are damaged beyond your body’s ability to repair.

Loose skin can occur anytime you have lost a significant amount of weight (typically 50 pounds or more), but it is most likely to occur if you lose a lot of weight in a short time because your skin doesn’t have the ability to adapt to how quickly you lost weight. To help prevent loose skin and for overall health, it is recommended that you don’t lose more than 1-2 pounds per week. Slow weight loss will better allow the skin to adapt.

But losing weight slowly isn’t always wanted, or in some cases, even possible. For example, obese individuals have to put their health first over their aesthetics and might have to lose extra weight as fast as possible to survive.

Additionally, if you lose weight with the assistance of bariatric surgery, studies show that people who have undergone weight loss surgery form less new collagen, and the collagen that is formed is not as strong as the collagen in young, healthy skin.

Loose skin can happen to anyone, at any age, and for many reasons other than weight loss. Other things that can contribute to loose skin (and make it even harder for your skin to tighten up after weight loss) include:

  • Aging
  • Genetics
  • Smoking or history of smoking
  • Overexposure to UV rays (natural and from tanning beds)

How Losing Weight Can Leave You With Extra Skin

When you gain weight, your skin expands to accommodate growth. If the weight gain is minimal, there typically aren’t any negative excess skin consequences. But if that skin has been stretched a lot or for a long time, you will likely be left with more than loose skin when you lose weight; you will probably have a lot of extra skin hanging from your body.

The most common areas for extra skin following weight loss include arms, thighs, abdomen, breasts, legs, and back. Unfortunately, no amount of diet and exercise will get rid of it because it’s not fat; it’s just stretched out damaged skin.

The amount of excess skin someone experiences after weight loss depends on various factors such as age, genetics, the amount of weight lost, and how quickly the weight was lost. For example, as people age, their skin naturally loses elasticity, making it more challenging to tighten after weight loss.

Wanting your loose skin to be a little tighter is one thing. Many non-surgical solutions can help tighten the skin, but having extra skin folds of tissue after weight loss is another. Typically, this excess skin must be cut off with contour plastic surgery.

Can Skin Return to Normal Naturally After Weight Loss?

Technically, skin can shrink back down on its own– to a certain degree. But in most cases, that doesn’t happen. This is especially true if you lose a lot of weight quickly or you’ve been overweight for some time. In these cases, chances are your skin is permanently stretched.

Think of it like blowing up a balloon. When you first inflate the balloon, the rubber is taut and firm. But if you continue to blow more air into the balloon, the rubber stretches and loses its elasticity. Even if you let the air out, the balloon may not return to its original shape and size.

Similarly, when you gain weight, your skin stretches to accommodate the excess weight, and if the weight is lost quickly or if you’ve been overweight for a while, your skin may not be able to fully bounce back.

Skin stretching can happen to anyone, regardless of age. It even happens to muscular bodybuilders who pack on a ton of muscle. But the older you are, the less likely your skin will “shrink back” when you lose the fat or muscle. Furthermore, if you are a smoker, have spent a lot of time in the sun, and have poor diet habits, your skin will have even more difficulty returning to its normal shape.

Bottom line… as a living organ, your skin can expand and contract to accommodate changes in the body. When you lose weight, your skin gradually shrinks as the stress and pressure are relieved. However, it may take several months or even years to see noticeable changes in the skin’s size and elasticity. And in cases of significant weight loss, it’s possible that the skin may not fully return to its original shape and may remain loose.

Loose skin on abdomen from pregnancy weight loss

Can I Leave Loose Skin Alone After Weight Loss?

Yes. Many people choose to live with loose and extra skin after weight loss. The decision to get rid of excess skin is a personal one. That said, it’s important to know that leaving loose skin untreated can have devastating mental and physical consequences.

Leaving loose skin untreated can have a host of potential health risks. Some of them include the following:

  • Skin Irritation – Skin pain, ulcers, rashes, and intertriginous dermatitis are very common in people with skin folds from extra skin.
  • Skin Infections – Excess skin folds can trap moisture and lead to things like yeast infections and bacterial infections.
  • Limited Mobility – Extra skin can be painful and irritating. The way it rubs on your body could make it uncomfortable to exercise, leading you to skip out on physical activity and the pounds to return.

Even if you don’t mind the aesthetics of extra skin, it’s essential to take care of your skin, monitor it for any potential health issues, and take necessary precautions like using body powders to absorb excess moisture and avoiding tight clothes or body-hugging fabrics.

When it comes to mental health, it’s not uncommon for people to feel self-conscious and unhappy with their appearance because of the extra skin that remains, which can lead to isolation and depression. In fact, many people avoid weight loss altogether because they’ve heard stories about what their bodies will look like once the weight is gone. Considering obesity can have severe health consequences, this is not a smart approach.

No doubt, extra skin left behind after weight loss can have a severe psychological impact on many, some saying it’s a constant reminder of the past when you were overweight, making it challenging to fully embrace and enjoy the benefits of weight loss.

How Adult Men and Women Get Rid of Loose and Extra Skin After Weight Loss

Sadly, once the skin is stretched and those innermost layers are damaged, male or female, there isn’t much you can do except wait and see if your skin improves with time. If it doesn’t, luckily, there are many simple body contouring procedures and more complex contour plastic surgeries you can consider.

The most common surgical body sculpting options include:

  • Body lift: A surgical procedure that removes excess skin and fat from various parts of the body, including the abdomen, hips, and thighs, to create a more toned appearance.
  • Tummy tuck (abdominoplasty): A surgical procedure that removes excess skin and fat from the abdominal area, tightens the underlying muscles and creates a flatter and more toned midsection.
  • Panniculectomy: A surgery to remove stretched-out, excess fat and overhanging skin (often called pannus) from your abdomen and groin area. While similar, a panniculectomy is slightly different from a tummy tuck. Typically, a panniculectomy strictly focuses on removing the excess hanging skin from the abdomen or groin, whereas a tummy tuck often includes additional tightening of the abdominal muscles, detailed contouring of the abdomen, and sometimes liposuction..
  • Arm lift (brachioplasty): A surgical procedure that removes excess skin and fat from the upper arms to create a more toned appearance.
  • Breast lift (mastopexy): A surgical procedure that lifts and reshapes sagging breasts by removing excess skin and tightening the surrounding tissue.
  • Breast reduction surgery: A surgical procedure that reduces the size of the breasts by removing excess fat, tissue, and skin to alleviate physical discomfort and improve appearance.
  • Thigh lift (thighplasty): A surgical procedure that removes excess skin and fat from the thighs to create a more toned appearance.
  • Buttock augmentation with implants: A surgical procedure that enhances the shape and size of the buttocks by inserting silicone implants.
  • Liposuction: A surgical procedure that removes excess fat from specific areas of the body, such as the arms, body, abdomen, thighs, legs, or buttocks, to create a more contoured appearance.

The most common non-surgical body tightening options include:

  • CoolSculpting: This treatment uses controlled cooling technology to freeze and eliminate fat cells, resulting in a slimmer and more toned appearance. It can be used on various areas of the body, including the abdomen, thighs, and arms.
  • BodyTite: A minimally invasive procedure that uses radiofrequency energy to tighten the skin and contour the body. The heat from the energy causes the skin to contract and tighten while stimulating collagen production for long-lasting results. Bodytite can be used on various body parts, including the abdomen, arms, thighs, and buttocks, among others.
  • Laser therapy: This treatment uses lasers to stimulate collagen production and improve skin elasticity. Laser therapy is typically limited to smaller areas of the body such as the face, neck, and hands.

Non-surgical procedures such as Bodytite and Coolsculpting to tighten loose skin don’t typically require you to wait to have them performed after losing weight. But before considering a surgical contour plastic surgery solution, the most important thing you can do is wait. You should stay at a stable weight for at least a year before considering any of these surgeries. This will give your skin time to heal from the lost weight and make the surgery less invasive.

If you have already waited a year and your skin hasn’t returned to normal, then it’s advised to book a complimentary consultation with our board-certified plastic surgeon here at The Lett Center so you can begin to explore the best options for your unique needs.

If it’s not been a year, you aren’t quite ready, or you do not want to undergo contour plastic surgery, here are a few things you can do to help improve the appearance of loose skin:

  • Build Muscle – Consider incorporating weight training into your exercise routine, either at a gym or using weights at home. By increasing muscle mass, you can fill out some of the excess skin that may be left after significant weight loss or body fat reduction.
    This can help minimize the appearance of loose skin and give you a more toned and defined physique. However, it won’t completely eliminate extra skin, especially if it’s been stretched for a long time.
  • Wear Body Hugging Clothing – Clothes with a little compression can provide extra support for your loose skin and give you the confidence to show off your hard-earned weight loss. Choose clothes that fit well and provide decent compression, like compression shirts or high-waisted compression leggings.
  • Take Care of Your Skin – Stay hydrated, moisturize regularly, and protect your skin from sun damage. These habits can help improve skin elasticity and overall appearance. It is best to use medical-grade skin care products, as they are formulated with higher concentrations of active ingredients clinically proven to improve skin health and appearance. If you need help figuring out where to start, book a complimentary consultation with our skin pros. We have several medical-grade skincare products that can provide more significant results than over-the-counter products.
  • Dermal Fillers:  If you’re dealing with loose skin on the face, dermal fillers can be an effective short-term solution. They work by adding volume to the skin and reducing the appearance of wrinkles, fine lines, and sagging skin. Dermal fillers are a minimally invasive procedure that can be done in a cosmetic practice and require no downtime.
  • Massage Therapy: Massage therapy is an excellent way to promote blood flow and lymphatic drainage, which can help improve skin tone and reduce the appearance of loose skin. Look for a licensed massage therapist specializing in lymphatic drainage massage for the best results.
  • Consume Collagen + Key Nutrients: According to research, collagen supplements can be advantageous for skin health and tightening loose skin. Collagen hydrolysate, also known as hydrolyzed collagen, is one type of collagen that closely resembles gelatin and is derived from animal connective tissue. While its effectiveness has not been tested on individuals who have lost significant weight, studies suggest that collagen hydrolysate may safeguard the skin’s collagen. You can purchase hydrolyzed collagen in supplement form. Bone broth is another way to get more of this important protein. Also, regularly consuming specific nutrients, including protein, vitamin C, omega-3 fatty acids, and water, is also crucial for healthy skin, collagen production, and skin protection.
  • Skin Tightening Treatments: Non-invasive procedures that are safe and require little to no downtime, like Bodytite and Coolsculpting, are a great way to tighten loose skin without surgery.

Remember, dealing with loose skin takes time and patience. Be kind to yourself and focus on the progress you’ve made in improving your overall health and well-being. But also keep in mind that the downfalls of having extra skin go beyond aesthetics – it can come with physical health hazards.

Can Teenagers Experience Loose Skin After Weight Loss?

According to the National Institute of Health, more than 1 in 5 adolescents ages 12 to 19 are obese. And unfortunately, they can have the same skin issues as adults. While it’s common to think kids have more elastic skin than adults, this isn’t always the case. If your child is under 12, they may be at a higher risk of loose skin because their skin may not have fully developed its elasticity yet. After twelve, the structure and function of adolescent skin are very similar to that of an adult.

Teenager or adult, your skin can stretch with weight gain and not return to its normal state after weight loss, especially with rapid weight loss. However, being young is definitely in your favor. Most teens should see a gradual improvement in skin elasticity, but it will take some time. That’s because the younger you are, the more likely your skin can repair and “bounce back” on its own.

That said, in some cases, the skin has stretched too much for too long. If it has been at least a year since your child has lost weight and extra skin remains, it is advised for parents to take their teenager to a trusted plastic surgeon for a consultation. Teenagers are at equal risk as adults for the mental and physical harm of extra skin. The sooner you come in to discuss both surgical and non-surgical options, the better.

Undergoing a major surgery is a big decision at any age, but especially for a growing teenager. At The Lett Center, our board-certified surgeon is experienced in performing body sculpting procedures and contour plastic surgery on patients of all ages and degrees of skin damage and can help you decide if any of these procedures are suitable for your child.

Surgery for Loose Skin After Weight Loss

If you are unhappy about your loose skin or want to prevent possible medical issues, it might be time for surgery. Loose body tissue may never entirely go away on its own. If you want it gone for good, there are procedures that can do just that.

As outlined above, many different body contouring procedures and surgeries can independently or simultaneously remove any excess lingering body fat and tighten loose skin.

As a recap, here are the most common contour procedures and contour plastic surgery patients undergo after weight loss:

  • Body lift
  • Tummy tuck (abdominoplasty
  • Panniculectomy
  • Arm lift (brachioplasty)
  • Breast lift (mastopexy)
  • Breast reduction surgery
  • Thigh lift (thighplasty)
  • Buttock augmentation with implants
  • Liposuction
  • CoolSculpting
  • BodyTite
  • Laser therapy

If you decide to go for contour surgery after weight loss, be prepared. Some of these procedures can be a long and expensive process. How many surgeries you must undergo will depend on where and how much your skin has sagged. Typically a surgeon works on only a few areas at a time to let your body heal and improve recovery times.

What To Expect During Body Sculpting Surgical Procedures

Body sculpting procedures, also known as body contouring, are cosmetic surgeries that remove excess skin and fat to create a more toned and defined appearance. These procedures are typically performed on patients who have experienced significant weight loss. They may also be recommended for those with excess skin and fat due to aging or genetics.

Surgical body sculpting procedures are usually performed in an outpatient setting under general anesthesia. More than one surgical procedure may be needed to achieve the desired results. It’s important to note that body sculpting surgery is a long-term commitment, as loose skin can take time to heal and tighten.

Every surgery is different, and everyone’s body is unique. This means the recovery process will vary from patient to patient. For most of the contour plastic surgery procedures we’ve discussed, it is common to experience bruising and swelling for about two weeks after the procedure.

You will need to take some time off work to ensure a full and speedy recovery and avoid strenuous exercise and activities for several weeks to a month (more in some cases) to prevent complications and give your body time to heal properly. During this time, following your surgeon’s aftercare instructions is essential to ensure proper healing and minimize complications.

It is important to note that while advances in plastic surgery have minimized scarring, some of these surgeries can still leave behind visible scars. If you are worried about this, your surgeon can discuss various post-surgery scar treatments to minimize their appearance. Scars can also be easily hidden under standard clothing.

Having realistic expectations and understanding that body sculpting surgery is a long-term commitment is essential. However, with a skilled plastic surgeon and proper care and maintenance, the results can be long-lasting, giving you the confidence to feel good about your body for years to come..

Schedule an Appointment for Surgical Body Contouring in Middle Tennessee Today

Losing weight can be an exciting and empowering experience but can also come with challenges. One of the most common is extra skin. Luckily, if this bothers you or you are concerned about your physical health, there are solutions!

If you are interested in body contouring surgery or other non-invasive body tightening treatments after your weight loss, your first step is to speak with a surgeon that can help you decide what needs to be done. If you are near our offices in Mt. Juliet or Lebanon, Tn, please contact us to make an appointment.