10 Ways to Tighten Loose Skin After Weight Loss

A man shown from the back flexing his muscles.

Having loose skin after losing a significant amount of weight is really frustrating. Trust me, I know. A few years ago I lost 100 pounds through portion control and exercise. I worked hard for what felt like endless months to get my body into top shape, however, once I reached my goal weight I was still unsatisfied with my appearance – I had saggy skin all over.

Friends told me not to worry – health is more important than appearance. This is true but I’d be lying if I said appearance wasn’t a significant motivating factor for my weight loss. I was excited to break out the swimwear and sleeveless tops but I felt too self-conscious about my loose skin.

Loose skin can cause other issues too e.g. rashes, infection and back pain. (source) Luckily, I found a few methods which helped, and now my skin has improved a lot. Read on for 10 ways to tighten loose skin after weight loss.

Why do we get loose skin after weight loss?

Your skin is a living organ which adapts to your needs over time. When your body gets bigger, your skin grows more cells to cover the larger surface area. Although your skin does have elastic properties, unfortunately the reverse process isn’t as easy.

There are many reasons why your skin remains loose when your body has become smaller. Age, genetics, smoking and dehydration can reduce your skin’s elasticity. If you were larger for a long period of time, this makes it harder for your skin to shrink back. In addition, losing weight very quickly means your skin doesn’t have time to react – leaving more noticeably loose skin. (source)

10 Ways to Tighten Loose Skin After Weight Loss

A couple hiking around nature in their swimsuit.

1. Build Muscle

It makes sense that building muscle can reduce loose skin. The space that was previously occupied with unhealthy fat can be filled to some extent with muscle. Lifting weights is an essential part of improving the appearance of the skin – the potential results exceed most of the others on this list.

Additionally, in some cases, your saggy areas may not be purely skin. If your body fat is more than 10% for men or 20% for women, there’s most likely a stubborn pocket of fat remaining too. Your skin is unable to shrink if this fat is clinging on, and muscle is a great way to reduce your body fat too. (source)

2. Stay Hydrated

You’ll know if you’ve experienced dry skin that it’s fragile and brittle, i.e. not very elastic. So it follows that adding as much moisture as possible to your skin will help it bounce back from weight loss. The easiest way to do this is to drink lots of water. Carry a bottle whenever you’re out and drink at least one glass before each meal. The water will travel through your whole body – hydrating from head to toe.

A person using a mug to draw water from a river.

3. Eat a High Protein Diet

Two important components for keeping skin soft and elastic are collagen and elastin. These are both types of protein. You can help your body build more of these by eating foods high in protein. Examples of protein-rich foods include: meat, legumes, nuts and cottage cheese. Find something that you enjoy and thus can eat regularly. (source)

4. Stop Smoking

Smoking is always a bad idea but if you need another reason to quit, here’s one – it’s awful for your skin. A study by the International Association of Ecologic Dermatology found that smoking aged participants’ skin by approximately 9 years. Luckily this improved within less than a year of quitting. (source)

5. Try Supplements

Diet is important but some nutrients are best taken in supplement form. Two that can help tighten loose skin are fish oil supplements and gelatin supplements. Fish oil can improve skin elasticity in as little as 3 months. A study from Stanford University also found that taking 250 mg of gelatin per day increased elasticity. (source)

6. Massage with Creams or Oils

Unfortunately most of the expensive creams marketed to tighten loose skin are snake oil. They may contain great ingredients in theory but in practice they are almost useless to your skin in this form as they cannot be incorporated just by applying to the surface.

The upside is that simple, cheap moisturising creams and oils can be quite effective. They work in the same way as point #2 – providing moisture directly. Not only that, but rubbing or massaging them onto your skin increases blood flow and recovery in the area. (source)

Mint leaves in a mortar next to some oil.

7. Do Not Tan

This one is particularly relevant if you live in a hot, sunny climate (I’m looking at you Australians!). Tanning is never healthy but it can be especially troublesome when you’re trying to tighten your skin. Sun exposure ages and dries your skin, reducing elasticity. (source)

8. Be Careful With Shower Products

While your skin is rejuvenating, you’ll need to treat it with extra care. This means looking at the labels on your soaps, body washes and bath products. Try to use all-natural products – avoid sulfates as they strip moisture from your skin in the long term. (source)

9. Surgery

Surgery is not for everyone but it’s certainly a valid and effective option so I must include it in this list. Even with your best efforts, your skin will most likely never be as tight as it was before weight gain. Most of us can live with this but in severe cases – surgery is the best way to resolve the problem.

Unfortunately, a total body lift can cost $30,000 and surgery has inherent risks such as infection and complications – so it’s a serious decision. Talk to your doctor if you are considering this as an option for your loose skin. (source)

10. Live With It

As I mentioned, I have improved my loose skin a lot with the above techniques. The small amount which remains, I wear with pride. It’s a testament to my accomplishment and a reminder never to return to my old, unhealthy habits.

It can be hard to be confident about your body’s flaws, but nobody is perfect. At the end of the day the health benefits you’ve gained by losing weight far exceed this one negative point so try to focus on the bright side.

Conclusion

I hope this list of 10 ways to tighten loose skin after weight loss has been helpful to you. Patience is essential in this process – but if you’ve managed to lose a significant amount of weight you’re already familiar with that. I’d love to hear how you get on with these techniques or if you have any other ideas please share them in the comments.

References: 1, 2, 3, 4

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