Skin in the Game: Strategies for Dealing with Loose Skin After Weight Loss
Article

Skin in the Game: Strategies for Dealing with Loose Skin After Weight Loss

Published on Monday, May 27, 2024
by
Ashlie Morrissey

Health & Wellness

Understanding Loose Skin: What Causes It and How to Address It

When I talk to people about their weight loss goals, they usually tell me they want to be healthier, be more active, or look better in their clothes. The next thing often mentioned is that folks want to look good out of their clothes, too! And I am frequently asked, “What about the extra skin?” So, let’s talk about it. 

There is no hard and fast rule for who will have loose skin when they lose weight. Some things that typically lead to excess or loose skin are rapid weight loss (more than 1-2 lbs. per week), losing more than a certain amount of weight, age, skin quality, and if you are female.

The Science Behind Loose Skin: Factors Influencing Skin Elasticity

Your skin is your largest organ, and it takes a lot of abuse daily. Many different parts and pieces make up your skin, but I want to focus on two proteins: collagen and elastin. Collagen is the most abundant protein in our body, and it is responsible for helping the skin have structure, strength, and support. Elastin is also a protein, but it acts a little differently in that it helps tissue stretch and shrink back to its original shape. 

Unfortunately, as our bodies age, they produce less collagen and elastin, which means that the skin is less able to shrink back to its former shape. We also know areas that already show permanent scarring in the form of stretch marks are less likely to return to their former level of tightness. Stretch marks indicate that the collagen and elastin in that area have already been damaged. There are also specific environmental exposures that damage collagen and elastin, smoking and nicotine exposure, exposure to ultraviolet light (e.g., tanning beds or lying out in the sun without sunscreen), and overeating sugar and refined carbohydrates.

Hydration: Your Skin's Best Friend for Elasticity and Radiance

Hydration is vital to improving skin elasticity and appearance. Getting and keeping your skin hydrated can feel like you are trying to unlock some deep secrets, but I am here to help. 

First, let’s talk a little more about skin structure. Our skin has layers, and the outermost layer of the epidermis is called the stratum corneum. This layer is super important in retaining water; it locks the water into the skin unless it is not working correctly

But if the skin under the stratum corneum is dried out, how can you fix that? One study showed that increasing oral water intake is as effective as a topical moisturizer in both surface and deep hydration levels. Of course, adding skin moisturizer can also be beneficial, but doing both is good for you inside and out! 

Nourishing Your Skin from the Inside Out: Foods Rich in Collagen and Antioxidants

Unfortunately, you cannot eat a big plate of collagen and absorb it directly, but you can eat foods with the building blocks for healthier skin. Antioxidants, amino acids like proline and glycine, vitamin C, zinc, and copper comprise these building blocks. Proline, for example, is found in mushrooms, peanuts, fish, and egg whites. Glycine is in red meat, peanuts, and granola. Copper is in liver, oysters, nuts, seeds, leafy greens, and tofu. Taking oral collagen supplements in pill or powder form is also possible. 

Elastin supplementation is not as clear-cut. Some herbal supplements, such as green tea, aloe vera, and ginseng, may be beneficial, but studies are inconclusive. There is also a body of research exploring specific antioxidant supplements, and once again, no study can say, “Yes, I have discovered the answer.” However, all studies agree that antioxidants are beneficial for your skin.

Building Muscle Mass: Strengthening Your Skin's Foundation

One way to improve the appearance of loose skin is to increase the muscle mass under that skin. I always recommend asking your healthcare provider before you start an exercise program. In the case of wanting to begin a strength training program focused on building muscle mass, that is more important than ever. 

Enhancing Skin Health Through Sleep Hygiene and Stress Management

Another important aspect of skin health is sleep hygiene and stress management. We spend a third of our lives in bed but often do not give enough attention to that time. Chronic stress can lead to consistent elevation in a specific hormone called cortisol, affecting skin health and negatively impacting sleep quality. Elevated cortisol levels correlate to a decline in hyaluronic acid production. Hyaluronic acid is the main component that gives skin a nice, plump, hydrated look. 

Embracing Your Journey: Perspectives on Loose Skin After Weight Loss

I talk to some individuals who start their weight loss journey planning for skin reduction surgery beforehand. Others do not seem bothered by the loose skin and wear it as a badge of honor. I find everyone’s outlook interesting, and I would love to hear from anyone reading this article who has experienced the post-weight loss loose skin conundrum. Just leave a comment.


  1. Edgar, S., Hopley, B., Genovese, L., Sibilla, S., Laight, D., & Shute, J. (2018). Effects of collagen-derived bioactive peptides and natural antioxidant compounds on proliferation and matrix protein synthesis by cultured normal human dermal fibroblasts. Scientific reports, 8(1), 10474. https://doi.org/10.1038/s41598-018-28492-w
  2. Palma, L., Marques, L. T., Bujan, J., & Rodrigues, L. M. (2015). Dietary water affects human skin hydration and biomechanics. Clinical, cosmetic and investigational dermatology, 8, 413–421. https://doi.org/10.2147/CCID.S86822
  3. Papakonstantinou, E., Roth, M., & Karakiulakis, G. (2012). Hyaluronic acid: A key molecule in skin aging. Dermato-endocrinology, 4(3), 253–258. https://doi.org/10.4161/derm.21923 
  4. Osseiran, S., Cruz, J. D., Jeong, S., Wang, H., Fthenakis, C., & Evans, C. L. (2018). Characterizing stratum corneum structure, barrier function, and chemical content of human skin with coherent Raman scattering imaging. Biomedical optics express, 9(12), 6425–6443. https://doi.org/10.1364/BOE.9.006425

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