Can You Firm Sagging Skin Without Surgery?

Sagging skin can come with age and extreme weight loss, and you may want to restore it to a tighter, firmer look. In some cases, surgery may be the only option; consult with your doctor. But at-home methods of proper hydration, diet, skin care and exercise can go a long way.

After you lose noticeable weight, extra sagging skin may be a problem. Credit: Getty Images/Adam Kaz

Read more: The Best Anti-Aging Tips Regardless of Your Age

The Science of Sagging Skin

Collagen, a protein building block of tissue, gives your skin its strength. Collagen starts to break down with time and damage, such as sun exposure, according to the Mayo Clinic. Elastin, another fiber that helps skin spring back, also becomes less effective as you age.

Skin is a living organ and grows as you gain weight. When you lose a large amount of weight, like 100 pounds or more, particularly with quick means such as weight-loss surgery, the skin that expanded to cover the excess fat sticks around. With nothing to encase, though, it can sag, which some people may find unattractive. In fact, most patients are dissatisfied with their appearance after extreme weight loss due to this sagging skin, according to a 2013 study published in the North American Journal of Medical Sciences.

Facial Sagging

Address wrinkles, jowls and double chins with superior skin care. Cleaning your face thoroughly every day and going for regular facials can help preserve elasticity, according to the American Academy of Dermatology. Application of a firming cream with ingredients including retinol, peptides and vitamin C can fill in fine lines and wrinkles and pep up existing collagen and elastin, according to the Mayo Clinic. Drink plenty of water and avoid the sun to help preserve elasticity.

Read more: 6 Skin Care Ingredients to Avoid

Body Sag

You can't exercise or diet away sagging skin, but you can build muscle to fill yourself out and look a little more toned. Regular strength training, performed at least two times per week, that addresses all the major muscle groups is a good start.

Lift weights that are heavy enough to make it hard to maintain your form after 12 to 16 repetitions and aim for two to three total sets of each exercise. In some cases of extreme weight loss, excess skin can be a barrier to physical activity because it creates feelings of self-consciousness, according to a 2013 study published in Obesity Surgery. The skin itself does not usually create a true physical barrier to exercise, however.

Your diet can't eliminate sagging skin, but it can help to bolster the health of collagen and elastin fibers. Consume hydrating foods, like fresh fruits and vegetables, regularly and aim to get omega-3 fatty acids through fish, walnuts and flaxseeds, recommends the Mayo Clinic. Avoid processed foods, as these don't contain the nutrients that support skin health and can cause weight gain, which exacerbates the problem of excess skin.

Non-Surgical Alternatives

In cases of extreme weight loss, body contouring surgery may be your only option to get the results you want. If you don't want to go under the knife, a procedure called intense focused ultrasound, commercially known as Ultherapy, uses sound therapy to lift the skin on the eyebrows, neck, under the chin and on the chest, according to a 2014 study published in Aesthetic Plastic Surgery. If you have a lot of excess skin due to weight loss, you may want to consider other options.

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