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Can You Firm Sagging Skin Without Surgery?

author image Andrea Cespedes
Andrea Cespedes is a professionally trained chef who has focused studies in nutrition. With more than 20 years of experience in the fitness industry, she coaches cycling and running and teaches Pilates and yoga. She is an American Council on Exercise-certified personal trainer, RYT-200 and has degrees from Princeton and Columbia University.
Can You Firm Sagging Skin Without Surgery?
After you lose noticeable weight, extra skin may be a problem. Photo Credit: Jon Feingersh/Blend Images/Getty Images

Sagging skin comes with age and extreme weight loss. Whether the drooping skin is on your face or your entire body, you 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 to improve your look.

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The Science of Sagging

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. Elastin, another fiber that helps skin spring back, also becomes less effective as you age.

Skin is a living organ and creates additional skin 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 is still present. It has nothing to encase, though, and sags unattractively. In 2013, the Journal of North American Medical Sciences published a study showing that most patients are dissatisfied with their appearance after extreme weight loss due to this sagging skin.

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. Application of a firming cream with ingredients including ceremides, peptides and collagen boosters -- such as vitamin C -- can also fill in fine lines and wrinkles and pep up the existing collagen and elastin. Drink plenty of water and avoid the sun to help preserve elasticity.

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, as reported in a study in Obesity Surgery in 2013. The skin itself does not usually create a true physical reason to not 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 the essential fatty acid omega-3 through fatty fish, walnuts and flaxseeds. 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, the Food and Drug Administration has approved a procedure called ulthera, commercially known as Ultherapy, which uses sound therapy to lift the skin on the eyebrows, neck, under the chin and on the chest. If you have a lot of excess skin due to weight loss, this therapy probably won't make much of a difference, though.

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