When skin has been significantly stretched and remains that way for a long period of time, collagen and elastin fibers become damaged. As a result, they lose some of their ability to retract.
Consequently, when someone loses a lot of weight, excess skin hangs from the body. In general, the greater the weight loss, the more pronounced the loose skin effect.
What’s more, researchers report that patients who have weight loss surgery form less new collagen, and the composition is inferior compared with the collagen in young, healthy skin .
Factors That Influence the Loss of Skin Elasticity
Several factors contribute to loose skin following weight loss:
- Length of time overweight: In general, the longer someone has been overweight or obese, the looser their skin will be after weight loss due to elastin and collagen loss.
- Amount of weight lost: Weight loss of 100 pounds (46 kg) or more typically results in a greater amount of hanging skin than more modest weight loss.
- Age: Older skin has less collagen than younger skin and tends to be looser following weight loss.
- Genetics: Genes may affect how your skin responds to weight gain and loss.
- Sun exposure: Chronic sun exposure has been shown to reduce skin’s collagen and elastin production, which may contribute to loose skin.
- Smoking: Smoking leads to a reduction in collagen production and damage to existing collagen, resulting in loose, sagging skin .
Problems Related to Excess Loose Skin
Loose skin due to massive weight loss may cause physical and emotional challenges:
- Physical discomfort: Excess skin can be uncomfortable and interfere with normal activity. A study of 360 adults found this problem occurred most often in people who had lost 110 pounds (50 kg) or more.
- Decreased physical activity: In a study of 26 women, 76% reported that their loose skin limited exercise mobility. What’s more, 45% said they had stopped exercising altogether because their flapping skin caused people to stare .
- Skin irritation and breakdown: One study found that of 124 people who requested plastic surgery to tighten skin after weight loss surgery, 44% had reported skin pain, ulcers or infections due to the loose skin.
- Poor body image: Loose skin from weight loss can have negative effects on body image and mood .
Natural Remedies to Tighten Loose Skin
The following natural remedies may improve skin strength and elasticity to some degree in people who have lost small to moderate amounts of weight.
Perform Resistance Training
Engaging in regular strength-training exercise is one of the most effective ways to build muscle mass in both young and older adults .
In addition to helping you burn more calories, an increase in muscle mass may also help improve the appearance of loose skin.
Collagen hydrolysate is very similar to gelatin. It is a processed form of the collagen found in the connective tissue of animals.
Although it hasn’t been tested in people with loose skin related to major weight loss, studies suggest that collagen hydrolysate may have a protective effect on skin’s collagen.
In a controlled study, collagen strength increased significantly after four weeks of supplementation with collagen peptides, and this effect remained for the duration of the 12-week study .
Collagen hydrolysate is also known as hydrolyzed collagen. It comes in powdered form and can be purchased at natural food stores or online.
Another popular source of collagen is bone broth, which provides other health benefits as well.