The skin is the largest organ in your body and forms a protective barrier against the environment.
The innermost layer of your skin consists of proteins, including collagen and elastin. Collagen, which makes up 80% of your skin’s structure, provides firmness and strength. Elastin provides elasticity and helps your skin stay tight.
During weight gain, skin expands to make room for increased growth in the abdomen and other parts of the body. Pregnancy is one example of this expansion.
Skin expansion during pregnancy occurs over a few months’ time, and the expanded skin typically retracts within several months of the baby’s birth.
By contrast, most overweight and obese people carry extra weight for years, often beginning as early as childhood or adolescence.
When skin has been significantly stretched and remains that way for a long period of time, collagen and elastin fibers become damaged. As a result, they lose some of their ability to retract.
Consequently, when someone loses a lot of weight, excess skin hangs from the body. In general, the greater the weight loss, the more pronounced the loose skin effect.
What’s more, researchers report that patients who have weight loss surgery form less new collagen, and the composition is inferior compared with the collagen in young, healthy skin.
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Factors That Influence the Loss of Skin Elasticity
Several factors contribute to loose skin following weight loss:
Length of time overweight: In general, the longer someone has been overweight or obese, the looser their skin will be after weight loss due to elastin and collagen loss.
Amount of weight lost: Weight loss of 100 pounds (46 kg) or more typically results in a greater amount of hanging skin than more modest weight loss.
Age: Older skin has less collagen than younger skin and tends to be looser following weight loss (5Trusted Source).
Genetics: Genes may affect how your skin responds to weight gain and loss.
Sun exposure: Chronic sun exposure has been shown to reduce skin’s collagen and elastin production, which may contribute to loose skin (6Trusted Source, 7Trusted Source).
Smoking: Smoking leads to a reduction in collagen production and damage to existing collagen, resulting in loose, sagging skin (8Trusted Source).
Can specific foods or supplements help improve skin elasticity?
Unfortunately, changing your diet and taking supplements won’t restore elasticity. As you age, the rate at which your skin produces elastin will slow — omega-3 fatty acids, vitamins, and other supplements won’t halt this decline.
However, proper diet can ensure that you don’t lose elastin at an unnecessarily fast pace. You can hold on to what you have.
Collagen and elastin go hand in hand in supporting the function of the skin. Elastin allows skin to be elastic, pliable and firm, and collagen makes it plump. If you don’t have one, or enough of one, the other can’t function and support skin properly.
Who’s a good candidate for non-surgical skin tightening?
Many people can safely have a skin-tightening procedure. You’re likely to get the best results if you:
Are at a healthy weight and maintain your weight
Eat a healthy diet
Drink little alcohol
Protect your skin from the sun and never tan indoors
Have a small amount of sagging skin
Ask our doctor
Seeing a board-certified plastic surgeon is the safest way to find out what skin tightening can do for you.