How to Fix Loose Skin After Weight Loss

Doctor recommendations for managing excess skin

loose skin
Learn to manage loose skin after weight loss. Anthony Marsland/ Stone/ Getty Images

Loose skin after weight loss surgery or after significant weight loss is a common problem. People who have worked hard to slim down weight through diet and exercise often deal with unattractive excess skin. In some cases, the loose skin causes as many problems as the excess pounds that they worked so hard to lose.

If you have extra skin after weight loss surgery, you know how frustrating it can be.

  But there are some solutions that can help. There are exercises, surgical and non-surgical medical procedures that may help you tighten your skin.

Loose Skin After Weight Loss is Normal

To find out more about the problem of excess skin, I talked to Dr. Ninh T. Nguyen, MD, the former president of the American Society for Metabolic and Bariatric Surgery (ASMBS). He explained that many bariatric surgery patients have loose skin after surgery.

Dr. Nguyen says that sagging excess skin is one of the most common problems that weight loss surgery patients face. "It can be one of the biggest hurdles," he says. But he adds that it's not a problem that patients will face alone.

Dr. Nguyen counsels his patients before surgery about what to expect during the entire weight loss process. He continues to see patients for the rest of their lives following surgery. If loose skin becomes a medical issue due to infection or if the patient is uncomfortable about the look of the skin, the surgeon will work together with the patient to figure out the best option for their particular condition.

Common Factors That Affect Excess Skin

There are a few factors that may affect whether you'll have excess skin and how much loose skin you'll get after losing weight. Slow, steady weight loss can help prevent loose skin because it gives the skin more time to regain elasticity and recover. Quick weight loss, on the other hand, can make loose skin more common.

Age is another factor. "Older patients (generally 50 years and over) are at higher risk for getting loose skin after weight loss because their skin is less elastic and less able to recover from the change in size." says Nguyen.

How to Prevent Loose Skin After Weight Loss

In some cases, excess skin can be prevented or minimized. Dr. Nguyen says that exercise is one of the best ways to deal with it. "It's not perfect," he says, "but it helps to tighten both the muscle and the skin."

But starting and sticking to an exercise program can be difficult if you don't like the way you look. There are certain forms of exercise that are better for you if you are overweight.  It's generally best to start slow and gradually increase your workload as your fitness level improves.  Add strength training workouts to shape and tone the muscles and flexibility exercises to keep your joints limber and comfortable.  If you're short on time, combine into a circuit style workout to make your sessions more efficient.

Surgery for Loose Skin

In some cases, surgery can improve loose skin. But not every patient will want to go under the knife. For excess skin on the abdomen, there are typically two procedures from which to choose:

  • Abdominoplasty: Both the muscle and the skin of the abdomen are tightened during this surgical procedure. Because it is considered a cosmetic surgery, it is not usually covered by insurance.
  • Panniculectomy: Your doctor may recommend this procedure if you are experiencing skin breakdown or infection from loose skin or hanging skin on your abdomen. During the surgery, excess skin is removed and tightened, but the muscles are not tightened. Many insurance providers are more likely to cover this procedure.

If you have loose skin after weight loss surgery, your best resource is your bariatric surgeon. He or she will be able to answer questions about your specific condition and make the best recommendation for you. If you've got excess skin from weight lost through traditional methods and exercise hasn't helped, consider speaking to your health care provider. Your excess skin may be both manageable and treatable.

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