When you lose weight quickly or lose a lot of weight, your skin may not shrink as much as the rest of your body, according to Dr. Michael Hall, a family practitioner in St. Marys, Pa. Many people experience loose skin on the face, neck, breasts, abdomen, buttocks and thighs. A number of factors contribute to the elasticity of your skin and how much extra skin you may have after weight loss.
The elastic fibers within the skin allow it to stretch and contract similarly to a rubber band, according to the Obesity Action Coalition. This elasticity allows your skin to stretch as you grow and to bounce back after natural changes like pregnancy and weight loss. However, the elastic fibers in skin become disrupted when you gain too much weight, preventing the skin from recoiling completely. Loose skin after weight loss reflects this disruption in the elastic fibers of the skin. Major factors contributing to your skin's elasticity include age and the amount of stretch placed on your skin.
Skin age varies from person to person. Older skin is less likely to retract after excess stretching, according to Dr. Hall. After losing 100 pounds, your skin never will have a stomach as tight as a 20-year-old at a healthy weight. Your skin ages in years, just as you do. However, factors such as smoking, sun damage, poor nutrition and heredity can cause your skin to age faster than you. If you smoke, sunbathe or eat a poorly balanced diet, your skin will lose its elasticity faster than someone who does not do so. The more aging factors to which you expose your skin, the faster it will age and the less elasticity it will have. Protecting your skin from aging factors and applying moisturizers on a regular basis can help keep skin young.
Poor skin elasticity leads to excess skin after weight loss. This excess skin can affect your physical and mental health. Too much excess skin can lead to chafing, rashes, skin breakdown and infections, according to the University of Minnesota Physicians Weight Loss Surgery Center. High amounts of excess skin also can make it difficult to wear certain clothing or to exercise. Your self-image also can be affected by loose skin caused by weight loss. For some people, excess loose skin leads to low self-esteem and depression.
Surgical intervention can correct loose skin caused by decreased skin elasticity and weight loss. Body contouring procedures remove the excess skin and can reshape the body. Unfortunately, many health insurance policies will not cover a body contouring procedure, according to Dr. Hall. These insurance companies view body contouring as a cosmetic procedure. For insurance to cover the procedure, you must show that medical problems, such as infection, warrant it.
If you maintain a healthy weight, you should never have to worry about the elasticity of your skin after losing weight. If you need to lose weight, do it slowly, according to Go Ask Alice!, a health promotion program at Columbia University. Gradual weight loss allows your skin time to retract. Exercise also can help fill in areas of loose skin by building muscle.
- Dr. Michael Hall; Family Practitioner; St. Marys, Pa.
- University of Minnesota Physicians Weight Loss Surgery Center: Body Contouring After Massive Weight Loss
- Go Ask Alice!: Weight Loss and Excess Skin