Weight loss is not an easy journey. It demands a lot of determination and dedication. So, congratulations if you are successful. But wait! There’s a problem that can dampen your spirits – loose and sagging skin. When you lose weight too quickly, your skin cannot keep up with your pace. As it is elastic, it will stretch with your body shape and then contract again to match it, but not when you are in a hurry.
Don’t worry. I am not here to scare or discourage you. But I can share some ways to prevent sagging skin during your weight loss journey.
Why Do You Get Loose Skin After Weight Loss?
Your skin is made up of proteins like elastin and collagen. These two make up about 80% of your skin structure and help in keeping it firm and tight. When you gain weight, your skin expands to create enough space for the additional growth (just as it happens during pregnancy).
In case of pregnancy, after the child is delivered, the skin retracts naturally. However, obese people tend to carry the weight for years. The skin remains stretched for long, damaging the elastin and collagen, and does not retract easily after they have lost weight (1). And that’s the reason you get loose skin after weight loss.
Several risk factors influence the loss of collagen and elastin in your skin.
Factors Affecting The Loss Of Skin Elasticity
- Time Period: If you have been obese or overweight for a long time, your skin will sag after you have lost the fat because of damaged collagen and elastin.
- Amount Of Weight You Have Lost: If you have lost just a few kilos (say 5-7 kgs), it will not affect your skin. However, if your weight loss is massive (say 45 kgs), a significant amount of skin will loosen up.
- Age: This is a crucial factor. Older skin has low levels of collagen and hence tends to loosen after weight loss (2).
- Excessive Sun Exposure: Long time exposure to the sun hampers the elastin and collagen production in your body (3), (4). This may result in loose skin.
- Smoking: This also hampers collagen production, resulting in sagging skin (5).
The good news is, there are ways you avoid excess loose skin during weight loss. Read on to know what they are.
Tips To Lose Weight Without Getting Loose Skin
- Do Not Hurry, Go Slow
- Focus On Building Muscle
- Follow A Balanced Diet
- Kick The Butt
- Water, Water, And More Water
- Take Supplements To Fill Any Gaps
- Try Skin Brushing
- Use A Good Sunscreen Whenever You Go Out
- Try Using Skin Firming Creams
- Consider Body Contouring Surgery
1. Do Not Hurry, Go Slow
In the race to weight loss, be the tortoise. When you are losing weight, it is important to take care that you do not end up losing more muscle mass and water (caused by glycogen depletion). Muscles help in holding up the skin. So, try to focus on losing fat and not muscle. Also, you tend to gain weight faster once the glycogen is restored. So, focus more on losing fat and not just muscle and water. The National Institutes of Health (NIH) recommends losing between 1-2 pounds per week for the first six months (6). And afterward, it should be gradual.
2. Focus On Building Muscle
Once you start losing weight, focus on building muscle mass to replace the fat you are losing. The tight and toned muscle under your skin is the foundation on which your skin will rest. So, while you work on shedding that flab from your body, try to build strength as well. This not only keeps your skin from sagging but also increases your rate of calorie burning, even when you are done exercising for the day. This furthers your weight loss goals. Talk with your trainer. He or she might suggest using machines, dumbbells, and bodyweight along with resistance training and high-intensity training for improving your metabolism and building muscle mass. For best results, follow a protein-rich diet along with your training (discussed in detail right below).
3. Follow A Balanced Diet
I know you have heard this a lot of times, but exercising is of no use if your body is not getting the required nutrients to stay healthy. Protein is essential for maintaining the elasticity of your skin, and collagen is the most important protein that you need to keep your skin from sagging. Your skin will not remain taut unless you follow a protein-rich diet. A high-protein diet also reduces your cravings. All your meals should be balanced and include a protein source, a fat source, and some veggies that are low in carbs. When it comes to protein, meat (chicken, beef, lamb), fish and seafood (trout, salmon, shrimp), and eggs (including the yolk!) are your best friends. For low-carb veggies, add spinach, broccoli, cabbage, kale, cucumber, lettuce, and cauliflower to your plate. Use oils such as coconut and olive oils, butter, and avocado to your diet. These are also excellent sources of antioxidants that will keep your skin in excellent condition.
4. Kick The Butt
This is important. Because the more you light up a cigarette, the less resilient your skin becomes. Smoking severely affects your collagen levels; even second-hand smoking does severe damage to your health. It not only triggers inflammatory reactions and oxidative damage but also causes premature aging of your skin by reducing the collagen levels. And this has been proven by research (7).
5. Water, Water, And More Water
Here is another reason to drink more water. Other than its contribution to weight loss and your energy levels, your skin’s elasticity and its appearance depend a lot on your hydration levels. A study found that increasing water intake can significantly improve the hydration levels of your skin and its overall functions (8).
6. Take Supplements To Fill Any Gaps
Your diet should strike the perfect balance between essential vitamins and nutrients to promote weight loss and maintain your overall health. However, it is often not possible to get all the nutrients your body needs through your diet. To bridge that gap, you have to take additional supplements. Now, the question is, what supplements can you consider? You can take gelatin supplement as a study showed that it helped in improving the elasticity of the skin (9). Fish oil is also said to improve skin elasticity in women (10). So, if you do not consume fish, you can take fish oil supplements. You can even take collagen supplements. Remember to talk to your nutritionist and doctor before taking any additional supplements.
7. Try Skin Brushing
This is a kind of exercise for your skin. You can use a brush with natural bristles and a long handle to brush your skin. This improves circulation and eliminates all the toxins and wastes that are responsible for the extra cellulite in your body. Ideally, skin brushing should be done 5-10 minutes every morning while you are undergoing weight loss. In fact, you should continue doing this even after you have lost weight as it keeps your skin firm and taut.
8. Use A Good Sunscreen Whenever You Go Out
You might wonder what this has to do with tightening loose skin. The sun rays can cause the breakdown of collagen, which makes your skin lose its elasticity faster. So, in case you want to run every day, plan it during morning or evening as the sun is less scorching during these times. Also, slather sunscreen lotion on the exposed parts. Make sure that you are buying a cream with a broad spectrum.
9. Try Using Skin Firming Creams
Most of the skin firming creams contain elastin and collagen. They often lift your skin and tighten it. This is because your skin can readily absorb collagen and elastin.
10. Consider Body Contouring Surgery
This is only for those who have lost a tremendous amount of weight via any weight loss methods or surgery. Such patients often undergo body contouring surgery to remove the excess skin. During this surgery, the doctor will make an incision in your body and remove the excess fat and skin. The incision is sutured for minimizing scarring. Popular body contouring surgeries include tummy tucking or abdominoplasty and arm lift or brachioplasty.
Above all, take care of your skin on a daily basis. Pamper it with hot baths with minerals and sea salts. Limit your exposure to chlorinated water and sulfates in soaps and body washes to keep your skin healthy.
One more thing, do not stress about things that are beyond your control. Focus on things that are within your control (like exercising and diet) and watch your skin rebound in the most natural ways possible.
Have you recently lost a lot of weight? How did you manage your skin care regimen? Share your tips in the comments section below.
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