How to avoid baggy skin after weight-loss?
July 24, 2007 11:40 AM   Subscribe

How to avoid skin sagging with extreme weight loss? I need to lose about 200lbs, currently I'm losing about 2-3lbs a week (about 20lbs so far) so this is a long term plan but I don't want to reach my goal weight and be a bag of sagging skin. Is there anything I can start doing now to avoid that? I'm fairly young (not yet 30) and my skin elasticity is good if that's relevant. There's a lot of skin tightening creams on the market but do any of them actually work? A lot are just wrinkle creams or anti-cellulite creams.
posted by anonymous to Health & Fitness (16 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
 
From what I understand, it's pretty much a crapshoot. Your age will help, as will your rate (more like 1-2 lbs a week as you approach your goal). Also, stay well hydrated, which I'm sure you're doing anyway if you're having success losing weight, and moisurize your skin. I've heard that shea butter helps with elasticity and stretch marks, but as long as it's a relatively natural lotion, anything would probably be fine.
posted by ferociouskitty at 11:46 AM on July 24, 2007


I was just going to repeat what ferociouskitty said. The creams are pretty much a scam. Genetics determine a lot, but you're more likely to have sags if you lose the weight rapidly, smoke, or are older. You're losing at a good pace. Keep your skin healthy by drinking lots of water and getting all your vitamins (especially Vitamin E, B-complexes, and Zinc), and after that you just gotta cross your fingers and hope.
posted by schroedinger at 11:51 AM on July 24, 2007


It is a total crapshoot as ferociouskitty says ... your youth and slow weight loss are your best bets. Also make sure you are including exercise in your routine.

I would not really worry so much about the loose skin at this point though - many people with large weight losses learn to accept it as part of themselves. Right now you don't need to discourage yourself by pointing out any potential downside of weight loss anyway - you are doing an excellent thing for your body, and losing 200 lbs and having saggy skin is way better than not losing the 200 lbs for fear or having saggy skin.

If you think loose skin will ultimately be something you can't learn to live with, though, you might want to start saving up for surgery now. I would say most people who lose over 100 lbs wind up with at least some loose skin, and 200 lbs makes it seem even more likely to me.

And if you wind up not needing it or getting insurance to cover it, then you have saved up enough for a fabulous treat for yourself, like a vacation or new wardrobe. Win win!
posted by tastybrains at 11:58 AM on July 24, 2007


I'm fairly young (not yet 30) and my skin elasticity is good if that's relevant.

This is all that matters. During slow weight loss for a young person, your skin might well be able to keep up, but if it doesn't, see a doctor about tuning it up.
posted by caitlinb at 12:08 PM on July 24, 2007


IANAD. If you lose 200 lbs, you're almost bound to have some leftover skin and adipose tissue, which in most cases will result in a panniculus. The only effective way of dealing with a significant panniculus is reconstructive surgery. With that much weight loss, you may also have excess skin and tissue in your arms, back and thighs. There is some developing evidence that excess adipose tissue is a significant contributor to insulin resistance, and the continued secretion of unusual levels of certain newly recognized homones such as resistin and angiotensin. While reconstructive surgery is not yet a recognized means of correcting unusual endocrine metabolism, if I were you, as I lost weight, I'd be looking for developments in that area, and consulting with physicians about the specifics of your case.
posted by paulsc at 12:11 PM on July 24, 2007 [1 favorite]


Better to have loose skin than to stay fat. If no one is paying you to look great naked, then get thin in a reasonable way, exercise as much as possible, and try to love yourself however you are. I feel very leery about people having surgery to take up excess skin, unless they can maintain a weight loss for a very, very long time. What happens when you (as most do) regain some weight?
posted by pinky at 12:19 PM on July 24, 2007


I agree with everyone that said it will feel better to not be fat and have saggy skin rather than to stay fat.

I have the same problem, to an extent. Over the course of 3 years, I dropped 90 pounds. Most of my sag is in the abdominal area and I really don't like it, but there's not much I can do about it now other than try to continue to exercise and firm up all I can.

Congratulations on your current and future weight loss!
posted by corpse at 12:43 PM on July 24, 2007


I feel very leery about people having surgery to take up excess skin, unless they can maintain a weight loss for a very, very long time. What happens when you (as most do) regain some weight?

Uh...your skin stretches again? It's not like you're going to bust long-healed stitches or anything.
posted by agregoli at 1:07 PM on July 24, 2007


many people with large weight losses learn to accept it as part of themselves.

I couldn't agree more. I'm 28 and I've lost a total of 115 lbs. I have loose skin on my arms, thighs, and stomach, but nothing too awful. I think it's way more pronounced than I can get any of my friends or loved ones to agree it is. The surgery leaves you with massive scars, is expensive and is incredibly painful. They show someone having it on most episodes of the new show "Big Medicine" if you're curious about it.

What determines whether your skin can shrink and firm up or not is whether you have stretch marks. Where you have stretch marks the skin is scarred and inelastic. (For me it's the arms, thighs & stomach.) You can not fix this without surgery.

Good job on your weight loss, I wish you the best, feel free to email me if you'd like to discuss this more. On the weight loss message boards I frequent this is a common concern for people who are aiming to lose a great deal of weight, but the people who have lost 100++ lbs for the most part have, over time, accepted it as a part of the whole process. I'm kind of proud of my weird skin, I point it out to people and get to brag about my weight loss (I only do this in the context of sports practice.) I'm cool enough with my skin issues to have worn a bikini this weekend, and it went well.

I feel very leery about people having surgery to take up excess skin, unless they can maintain a weight loss for a very, very long time. What happens when you (as most do) regain some weight?

Uh...your skin stretches again? It's not like you're going to bust long-healed stitches or anything.


Oh no, your skin only stretches so far, and then it breaks and stretch marks develop. Stretch marks are bad, they're scars, they're different from regular skin, and they should be avoided at all cost. Your surgical scars will probably move around, possibly to weird ugly places, too. I don't know right now if I will one day have a baby, but that possibility keeps me from even considering having my skin surgically corrected. Sometimes I point to the stretch marks on my tummy and say "that's where the baby goes!"
posted by palegirl at 1:37 PM on July 24, 2007 [1 favorite]


Stretch marks are bad, they're scars, they're different from regular skin, and they should be avoided at all cost.

I have some stretch marks. They're really not that bad, unless there's something painful about huge stretch marks I don't know about.

A few marks is nothing compared to the loose skin I've seen some people on television trying to deal with after large amounts of weight loss.
posted by agregoli at 2:04 PM on July 24, 2007


I think the worst loose skin is when you lose a lot of weight very fast - ie, weight loss surgery, major illness, etc. I once lost 80 pounds in about a year while dieting - my stomach slightly resembled a sad deflated little ball, but it wasn't so bad. I certainly couldn't gather it up in both arms like the people you see on tv.
posted by pinky at 2:24 PM on July 24, 2007


I don't agree with the whole "better to be saggy than stay fat" thing (it's an extremely reckless thing to say) but that's not your question so I'll stop there.

One thing I've read is that a good way to keep firm is to make sure to wear stretchy/tight material like spandex as workout clothes at least as a bottom layer. It keeps the cells from breaking down as much when you're exercising. I read it in this book (written by a fitness expert who specializes in helping overweight people and focuses on health at any size) if you're interested.
posted by Kimberly at 2:29 PM on July 24, 2007


palegirl, I think your friends are right. You look fabulous in your bikini, from the photos, really cant see the loose skin at all!
I agree with Kim though, so long as I was healthy, I'd rather be too curvy than saggy.
posted by missmagenta at 2:53 PM on July 24, 2007


2nding the "palegirl is wicked hot" derail.

Also, I'd like to thank the OP for asking, I've been curious about my own skin now that things are starting to loosen up from a few months of exercise.
posted by cowbellemoo at 8:19 PM on July 24, 2007


You might do a search for some of the things women try when they get pregnant to avoid stretch marks and keep their skin supple. I know some women bread open Vitamin E capsules and spread the goo on their skin. Who knows if it works, though, and that could get pricey for your entire body. But it's worth a little research.
posted by Brittanie at 12:43 AM on July 25, 2007


There's really no evidence to suggest that any cream/potion/lotion will help. It is your youth and genetics that will determine what's left over as well as the speed of the weight loss. Any routine moisturising after your shower will help and Vit E can't hurt.

The fastest weight loss is generally recorded with Duodenal switch bariatric surgery and almost everyone I know who has had this needed plastics to deal with the excess. BUT that is becasue it is only indicated in the much higher BMIs. Next comes the Roux-en-Y surgery which is slightly slower and the Gastric band with can be adjusted so that you lose at a fairly regular pace.

If your mechanism is diet and excercise just make sure you don't cut out the good oils (try cooking with canola) and try to take some hemp oil every morning. Lots and lots of water is a great thing to do when dieting and the moisture really comes from within so slapping on cream is just a small extra step to good diet for your skin.


Palegirl you absolutely nailed that Bikini, girl!!! Who-Hoo
posted by Wilder at 4:17 AM on July 25, 2007


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