How to Keep Skin Firm During Weight Loss

by Dr. Ahmed Zayed
Published on August 14, 2019

Weight loss and the ability to keep it off are crucial for our health and wellbeing. However, a major concern for many people who have started slimming down is loose skin. Folds that appear on the belly and upper arms and even face that seems a bit slack can further worsen a person’s confidence. We don’t want to lose weight only, we also want to have tighter skin and nicely defined body that will perfectly demonstrate how far we’ve come with our body transformation. That’s not too much to ask, by the way.

Throughout this post, you’re going to learn how to keep skin firm while losing weight or after you’ve already slimmed down.

Why we get loose skin after weight loss?

Before we start working on different solutions, it’s useful to define the problem first. You’ve probably noticed that skin gradually loses its definition and becomes looser and looser as you’re slimming down. While it’s easy to blame it on weight loss, the real culprit here is weight gain.

When you gain weight, the skin stretches in order to accommodate the new fat tissue. But, when you start losing weight, fat burning leaves empty space and skin lacks the elasticity to keep up with the progress. In turn, it starts sagging. Generally speaking, the greater the weight loss, the more it sags and loosens.

Factors that influence skin loosening during weight loss include the following:

  • Smoking – impairs the production of collagen that your skin needs to stay firm and elastic
  • Age – the skin is more likely to sag in older rather than younger persons
  • Sun exposure – sun’s harmful UV rays are one of the biggest enemies of the firm, elastic, and youthful skin
  • Genetics – genes play a role in our health, and it comes as no wonder that they may affect how your skin responds to weight gain and weight loss
  • Amount of weight you lost – slimming down about 100 lbs or 46 kg usually results in greater skin loosening than modest weight loss
  • How long you’ve been overweight – someone who’s been overweight for a longer period of time will have more problems with hanging skin than their counterpart who has been overweight for a shorter period of time

How to prevent your skin from sagging when losing weight

Avoid fad diets

Figures show that approximately 45 million Americans go on a diet annually, and more than 50% of them opt for fad diets. A fad diet promises miraculous results and an amazing weight loss in a short period of time (1). These diets promise people they will have a flat stomach or that they’ll be able to put on their old dress or jeans by next Friday.

New fad diets emerge all the time, and although they’re numerous and different, one thing is in common for all of them – restriction. You see, fad diets are characterized by their limited choice of foods people are allowed to eat. It’s not uncommon for people to report they’re “starving” while trying to lose weight. Some of these diets may help people lose weight, but they damage health instead, and once you stop following them you regain lost pounds.

At the same time, these diets are bad for your skin as well. Losing too much weight in a shorter timeframe and regaining it, then losing again takes its toll on skin elasticity. Skin becomes unable to spring back to form the shape of your body. Drastic weight fluctuations are the major culprit for loose skin.

Therefore, instead of adhering to unhealthy, dangerous fad diets you may want to opt for a well-balanced eating pattern and lifestyle modifications to lose weight in a healthy manner. That way, it will be easier for your skin to stay tight.

Drink plenty of water

Without water, our body is unable to function properly, yet we don’t drink enough. People generally wait until they are thirsty to drink some water, but by then the body has already started experiencing symptoms of dehydration. You need to drink plenty of water to lose weight, but also to avoid the frustrations associated with loose skin. A growing body of evidence confirms that regular water intake acts as a moisturizer to the skin and is able to improve the physiology of the largest organ of your body (2).

By drinking enough water, your skin will be more elastic meaning it will form the shape of your body more effectively, and you’ll get to avoid problems that come with loosening and skin folds. If you tend to forget to drink water make sure you remind yourself through post-it notes or even through an app.

Lose weight gradually

Let’s be honest; when we’re trying to lose weight the goal is always clear – we want to slim down as much as possible and as quickly as possible. Sure, everyone wants to lose a whole lot of weight fast, but that’s not the wisest option. Why? Losing too much weight too fast compromises the contours of your face and negatively affects skin elasticity, as mentioned above in the article.

So, what can you do then? Ideally, you should go for a gradual weight loss and strive to lose one to five pounds a week, depending on your starting point of course. Gradual weight loss gives the best results as you won’t end up gaining those lost pounds back again. This is yet another way to avoid skin loosening.

Don’t focus on cardio only

If your workout regimen consists of cardio only, you may want to change that. Cardio or aerobic training will help you slim down, but at the same time, you’ll lose some of the muscle mass. Then, skin loosens, and you notice those folds and creases as well as the loss of definition.

A practical way to overcome this problem is to incorporate strength training into your exercise program. Strength or resistance training will help you improve muscle mass. Combination of the two types of training will allow you to slim down, but at the same time, you’ll define your muscles and tighten your skin. The goal is to replace the fat that once filled your skin with lean mass to prevent sagging and loose skin, but also to get that body you always wanted.

Quit smoking and reduce exposure to secondhand smoke

Smoking is one of the unhealthiest habits a person can have, and yet millions of people use cigarettes and other tobacco products every day. Not only does smoking increase the risk of cancer, but it also affects your whole body in many ways. Skin is not immune to the negative effects of smoking either. Smoking constricts blood vessels and accelerates the aging process of the skin. In order to stay firm, the skin needs proper blood flow, and smoking doesn’t make it happen. In the long run, this can lead to dull, lifeless, and sagging skin.

Nonsmokers are not protected from this problem as well. If you’re constantly exposed to secondhand smoke levels of inflammatory cytokines (3) may still increase and contribute to sagging, thin skin and wrinkles.

The solution is pretty much evident here. If you’re a smoker, do your best to ditch the unhealthy habit. On the flip side, if you’re nonsmoker then make sure you reduce exposure to secondhand smoke. It’s not uncommon for people to believe it’s impossible to achieve these things, but with wise choices and good strategy you can make it happen.

Protect your skin from the sun

Everybody loves sunshine, but when you’re exercising outside or jogging don’t forget to protect your skin properly. Sun’s damaging UV rays penetrate deep into your skin’s layers and break down collagen fibers. As a result, the skin loses its elasticity, and the aging process accelerates. Lack of elasticity contributes to sagging, but the problem becomes even more frustrating when it’s combined with weight loss.

One way to combat this problem is to apply sunscreen before you head out and avoid exercising outside when the sun’s rays are at their strongest which is between 10 am and 3 pm. Make sure your diet consists of plenty of fruits and vegetables which are abundant in vitamins, minerals, and powerful antioxidants.

Antioxidants neutralize free radicals and prevent oxidative stress and damage it would cause. The major source of free radicals is, you guessed it, sun’s radiation (4). Through the protection of your skin from the sun, you get to improve its elasticity and make it easier to avoid sagging skin during weight loss.

Use moisturizer

Skin needs proper care in order to stay healthy and elastic. We tend to underestimate the importance of a regular skin care regimen, but it’s easy to change that. Not only do you need to have a strict skincare routine every morning and night, but it’s also important to choose the products wisely. Your skin needs proper nourishment, particularly now when you’re losing weight.

A practical way to improve skin smoothness and elasticity is to use a rich serum (5) followed by a moisturizer. Serum goes first because it has a lightweight texture which the skin absorbs fast. Moisturizer seals moisture in the skin and nourishes it in order to keep it supple, firm, and gentle. Fortunately, nowadays you can easily find skincare products that are ideal for your skin. They are available both in stores and online.

Other things you can do

Weight loss changes your body composition, so it’s normal to expect changes in your skin too. But, that doesn’t mean you’re out of options. Things you can do to prevent sagging and loose skin are numerous. In addition to the above-described techniques, you may also want to include the following into your lifestyle:

  • Manage stress because unresolved or chronic stress can also negatively affect your skin
  • Get enough sleep to allow your skin to rest and recover properly which is absolutely vital for firmness and elasticity
  • Avoid soda, trans fats, sugar-laden foods and other foods with little to no nutritional value
  • Do yoga and meditate
  • Reduce intake or avoid alcohol entirely
  • Apply face masks twice a week and use a body scrub

Conclusion

While we are thrilled about weight loss, loose skin may still make us feel subconscious. In order to boost confidence and be proud of the amazing results of the hard work, it’s useful to tackle the problem of loose and sagging skin due to weight loss. First thing you need to know is that preventing loose skin during weight loss is entirely possible. Managing the problem after you’ve already lost weight is also achievable.

In order to make it happen, you need to make some lifestyle changes that improve skin’s elasticity and firmness. With a little bit of dedication, a healthy lifestyle and good strategy you’ll notice results. Good luck.

References

(1) https://www.acsh.org/news/2018/07/02/fad-diets-are-bad-diets-13134
(2) https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4529263/
(3) https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/25446104
(4) https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3299230/
(5) https://www.prevention.com/fitness/a20492525/8-ways-to-keep-firm-skin-with-weight-loss/

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