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How To Get Rid of Loose Skin After Weight Loss Without Surgery
You have put in the effort: You underwent bariatric surgery in order to lose excess weight and you started following a strict post-bariatric surgery diet. You are reaching your weight loss goals but now you have excess skin hanging off your new figure. This is a common concern for many post-bariatric surgery patients. As another surgery may be unappealing at best, there are ways to remove loose skin after weight loss without surgery.
Why Does Loose Skin Hang Around After Weight Loss?
When you lose significant weight such as with weight loss surgery, your skin tends to lose its elasticity. Therefore, your skin loses its ability to shrink to your thinner size. Studies have indicated that patients who underwent duodenal switch surgery were more likely to have more excess skin compared to patients who had a Roux-en-Y.
These findings were because patients who had a duodenal switch were more likely to lose more weight compared to patients who underwent a Roux-en-Y procedure. Therefore, the more weight you lose, the more excess skin you are likely to carry.
Loss of skin elasticity is not only common after weight loss surgery but also with aging, smoking, genetics, and pollutant exposure. Furthermore, the longer you have carried excess weight and the older you are, the more challenging it can be to have your skin tighten.
The Problem With Excess Skin
There are physical side effects of loose skin after bariatric surgery. When your skin rubs together, it creates the perfect environment for yeast and rashes to develop because of moisture.
Chafing can also occur, which causes the epidermis (the top layer of the skin) to tear which can increase your risk for infection. Common areas for infections and rashes to occur include hard-to-clean areas such as the groin, thighs, underarms, under the breasts, and stomach.
Similarly, there can be psychological side effects of loose skin hanging off your body. Carrying around extra skin can make weight loss surgery patients self conscious and depressed.
However, not all patients experience negative body image associations with their loose skin. In planning your weight loss surgery and goals, it is important to talk with your doctor about how to remove excess skin after weight loss surgery if you find it concerning.
How to Tighten Loose Skin After Weight Loss Surgery
There are some non-surgical options to remove excess skin after bariatric surgery:
- Exercise to gain muscle
- Good skin care
Adhering to a strict diet following weight loss surgery is a key to achieving and maintaining your weight loss goals. However, your diet also can help repair damage to your tissues, including your skin.
Eating enough protein can increase your skin’s elasticity and improve wrinkling. The American Society for Metabolic and Bariatric Surgery recommends post-gastric bypass surgery patients eat 60-80 grams of protein daily. By eating meals high in protein, you are also more likely to build lean muscle mass.
Rapid weight loss, such as after bariatric surgery, can reveal a lack of lean muscle below the fat that has been lost post-surgery. Eating adequate fruits and vegetables is another great way to give your body the essential vitamins and minerals it needs in order to heal your skin and other tissues that were impacted by excess weight.
Vitamin and mineral supplementation is necessary for the rest of your life if you have had weight loss surgery. Each person is unique in their vitamin and mineral needs following bariatric surgery, so you will want to work closely with your provider and/or nutritionist to ensure you are receiving adequate levels of all essential nutrients.
Along with the vitamins and minerals recommended for you by your provider, you may also want to incorporate supplements that may improve your skin, including collagen and fish oil. Both collagen and fish oil have demonstrated reparative properties in skin tissue. However, it is important to discuss adding supplements to your regime with your provider as some may be contraindicated for you.
Drinking water is one of the best ways to hydrate and make your skin healthier. Remember, your body is mostly made up of water and your skin is a direct reflection of whether or not you are hydrating enough.
After you follow the dietary guidelines immediately post-bariatric surgery, you will want to increase your water intake. Your provider will have recommendations for the maximum amount of water you should consume daily, as too much fluid can have adverse side effects.
Exercise to Gain Muscle
It is important to exercise along with following your post-surgery diet. Exercise will help you reach your weight loss goals and it will also help improve loose skin. By maintaining lean muscle mass, your skin will stretch over the muscle, which in turn will decrease sagging.
After surgery, it is possible to lose muscle mass because of dietary restrictions in the immediate post-operative period. Therefore, it is important to incorporate a mix of cardio, strength, and flexibility exercises with approval by your provider.
Good Skin Care
Your skin is your largest organ and it deserves care just like any other organ in your body. Exfoliating and moisturizing are important for your skin. Using natural exfoliants, such as fine sea salt scrubs and dry brushing, can increase circulation and remove dry skin. Moisturizing can help improve overall skin health and is a great way to massage the skin to enhance collagen and elastin.
Loose and saggy skin is to be expected with excess weight loss. If you find that the above non-surgical options have not improved the looseness of your skin, plastic surgery for loose skin after weight loss may be indicated.
The total body lift is one such procedure, or group of procedures, that may be performed. A plastic surgeon may include the following procures: abdominoplasty (tummy tuck), mastopexy (breast lift), brachioplasty (arm lift), and inner thigh lifts. It is important to wait to undergo plastic surgery until your weight has stabilized, which can be a year or two after weight loss surgery.
Plastic surgery can also leave scarring, but finding a good plastic surgeon can help diminish scarring from surgery. The American Society of Bariatric Plastic Surgeons is a good resource for finding a plastic surgeon who specializes in surgery to remove loose skin after weight loss.
Cost of Surgery to Remove Excess Skin After Weight Loss
While many weight loss surgery patients desire surgical removal of excess skin, only about 20% will get plastic surgery, largely due to cost. The cost of surgery to remove excess skin after weight loss can be upwards of $30,000 for a total body contouring procedure.
However, the average cost of body contouring depends on your location and provider. Most insurances will not cover plastic surgery expenses after weight loss surgery unless there are medical complications such as frequent skin infections. Check with your insurance carrier to see what options are available for coverage on cosmetic procedures.
Finally, when considering any procedure, it is important to discuss your plans with your provider to ensure you are cleared for plastic surgery.
What Is the Best Option for You?
Deciding whether or not to undergo cosmetic surgery to remove excess skin after weight loss is a very personal decision. Some people embrace their loose skin following bariatric surgery and weight loss because of the journey they underwent in order to feel healthier and live better.
Other weight loss surgery patients find that the right clothing choices mask their loose skin or they find that non-surgical options are giving them results. If your excess skin after weight loss surgery is bothersome and impacting your body image, talk with your provider about your options. What matters most is how you feel in your own skin.