How Much Weight Loss Causes Loose Skin?
There’s nothing more motivating than seeing before and after photos of a successful weight loss journey.
It establishes the fact that weight loss is not unachievable, as it is often touted to be.
It’s just a matter of applying some basic rules and sticking with them until you achieve your desired body weight.
But, there’s one aspect of weight loss that’s rarely spoken about, if ever.
Loose, saggy excess loose skin that hangs off your body after a drastic transformation never makes it to social media, does it?
But sadly, excess skin is an unavoidable aspect of weight loss that you’ve got to deal with.
The question is, how much weight loss causes loose skin?
Is it 10 lbs., 20, 50, 100?
Unfortunately, there’s no clear consensus out there about how much weight loss will leave you with an excess loose skin.
We figured that it was time to add our two cents to this debate.
As always, we are going to provide only fact-based information& back up any claims with references (as much as possible).
What Causes Skin to Lose Its Tightness and Become Loose?
The skin is the body’s largest organ of the integumentary (external) system, (oh yes, it is an organ) and probably the most elastic one, that has to adapt to even the slightest fluctuation in size in your different body parts or overall body weight.
Think of it like an external wrapper that is wrapped around your body mass, which includes muscle mass, water and a layer of body fat that may be thick or thin, depending on your body composition.
The skin itself is made up of several layers.
The outer layer, called the epidermis is in a constant state of renewal, with dead cells being flushed out and newer ones taking their place. But below this layer, the skin consists of the dermis and sub-dermis, two other layers that are made up of fiber, blood vessels and elastic connective tissue.
When you are overweight for a prolonged time frame, this elastic connective tissue, made up of collagen and elastin, (which is a protein that makes the skin elastic – when the skin is stretched , this protein gives it the ability to stretch), adjusts to your body weight by wrapping around it, like say, a stretched cling wrap – which makes your skin elastic.
After rapid weight loss, (fast, unsustainable, significant weight loss), there’s a sudden loss of fat and muscle, which leaves you with an empty wrapper of sorts (excess skin) that was overly stretched to begin with.
Now, the good news is that being a living organ, the skin will adapt to your new body weight and will eventually return to its original form as you lose the excess weight.
The bad news, is that it’s impossible to predict how long it will take to return to its normal form. It may take weeks, months or even years to remove excess skin depending on how much loose skin you have or amount of weight lost.
Most people do not have that kind of time or patience.
What Determines How Much Time the Skin Takes to Regain Its Elasticity?
There’s a myriad of factors that can affect the skin’s ability to regain its elasticity following weight loss.
How Long Were You Overweight For?
The longer you were obese, the more collagen and elastin you are likely to lose to reduce loose skin after massive weight loss. This makes it all the more difficult to tighten loose skin in a short time span.
Let’s say you stopped working out for 6 months, or even for a year, for instance, and that, coupled with your eating habits, saw you put on a great deal of weight gain. It will take your skin some time to reform, but compared to someone who’s been obese for a decade, yours will seem to have regained its shape almost overnight.
How Much Weight Did You Lose and How Soon?
This is one of the most important aspects that affect the elasticity (collagen and elastin molecules) of your skin. It makes sense to have someone who had a gradual weight loss of 30 lbs. over the span of 6-8 months having a lower risk of excess loose skin, as opposed to someone who experienced a massive weight loss of 100 pounds over the same period of time.
The skin needs time to adjust to the change in body mass. When it does not have that time, it starts to sag and lose its normal skin quality. We will talk more about this in a bit.
How Old Are You?
If you are younger, you have a higher concentration of skin’s collagen and elastin fibers in your younger skin, which makes it easier for the skin to adapt to a sudden change in body mass.
The older you get, the less skin’s collagen production there is, the more your skin loses its elasticity, and hence the more difficult it becomes for it to adjust to sudden or major weight loss. (1)
Good Old Genetics
Chances are that you inherited your skin elasticity from your folks. Having good genes is half the battle won. Same goes for other traits like height (that’s why adults are either tall, or short, but height doesn’t fluctuate as weight does) but if you want to get taller, gain 10 pack abs or other muscle, etc, genes play a vital role in that.
Also of course, when it comes to losing weight, for some people it’s really hard to shake off the pounds in the first place doesn’t matter how much time they spend on a cardio exercise machine, for them it’s going to be simply harder to achieve any significant weight loss.
Chronic sun exposure is probably one of the worst things for your skin. Sun damage, also known as UV damage, typically results in reduced amount of collagen in your skin and also reduce the production of elastin. (2) Over a long period, this will reduce your skin quality (and your self esteem) quite substantially.
Smoking and alcohol are two lifestyle habits that can reduce collagen further and also damage the existing collagen in your skin over a fair amount of time. (3)
So, How Much Weight Can I Lose Before It Causes Loose Skin?
The thing with weight loss is that we all want instant results, rather than more sustainable, but slow…more moderate weight loss.
This is what makes people choose crash diets or drastic calorie cuts to loose fat. But if you are losing more than 2-3 lbs. a week, it’s very likely that you are also losing lean muscle tissue along with fat.
That’s doubly hard on your skin’s elastin fibers and overall elasticity.
Also, once someone has made up their mind to lose weight, they rarely think about something like loose skin.
However, if you are obese, you must consider all of the above-mentioned factors and set a reasonable calorie reduction that allows you to lose weight while allowing ideal skin tightening to adapt to the change in body mass.
There’s a clinical study that was conducted in 2008, which showed exactly this. Slow and steady changes to diet and activity might help you prevent or reduce loose skin. (4) Thankfully, while the diet part is what proves tricky, there’s a myriad of healthy foods for men and women alike these days.
I’m talking about everything from whole meals, to diet rich supplements like creatine-free protein powders (since creatine is said to cause weight gain), or meal replacement shakes like Kachava and Shakeology.
But we still cannot put a number out there, can we?
Will I Have Loose Skin After Losing 50 Pounds?
You are likely to have some amount of loose skin after a a significant weight loss of 50 lbs., especially in areas where your body tends to store the most amount of fat since that is where your skin is stretched significantly.
Everybody has different fat distribution. Some tend to store a lot of fat in the belly, hips and thighs, while others may store more fat in the arms, some have skinny arms.
Besides dieting, here are some of the best exercises to knock off the fat and extra weight in these areas.
- Belly – Pull-ups help burn the fat in your lower abdomen and work your abs.
- Thighs – You will need to do enough squats to tone your thighs and build lean muscle
- Hips & Butt – Resistance band exercises are priceless while also helping get rid of that mom butt and grow a jiggly one.
- Arms – Some renegade row alternatives and bodyweight workouts do help. But hey, don’t start off with 1000 push-ups a day.
Assuming that you took a more sensible approach towards weight loss and lost 50 lbs. over the span of a year or more, you may have a few stretch marks and loose skin that will be concentrated in one or two areas of your body.
The skin on the rest of the areas should have adapted to the new, leaner musculature under it.
But if you took a more dramatic approach towards fat loss and lost 50 lbs. in five to six months, then you are likelier to have excess skin on multiple parts of the body.
What About 30 Pounds?
30 lbs. are not a lot of weight. I mean, it definitely is. Don’t get me wrong.
What I mean is that it’s not too drastic a drop in body weight, to cause loose skin, in MOST people.
if you are genetically prone to have loose skin…
if you are say, 40 years old (hypothetically) and your skin has lost a fair bit of collagen and elastin fibers in the recent past…
if you have a field job and have been exposed to the sun’s uv and infrared light for years…
…then chances are that even a 30 lbs. drop in weight may cause loose, saggy skin.
How to Avoid Loose Skin After Weight Loss
There are two most effective ways to do this.
- You can either lose weight slowly and steadily, allowing the skin in your problem areas enough time to adapt to the new bodyweight. You can accelerate the process somewhat with a healthy diet, nutrition, and some supplementation with certain nutrients.
- You don’t get hung up over how you can get rid of loose skin. Just stick to your daily routine and continue to focus on the weight loss. In all probability, it’s going to make you fitter, healthier and more active anyway. So focus on the bigger picture and cross the bridge when you come to it. Yes, there are ways in which you can tighten loose skin and restore it to its former glory.
Let’s talk about the first way in detail.
Hydration is the most underrated component of maintaining healthy skin. All that you’ve got to do is keep your water bottle with you to ensure you drink enough water to stay hydrated every day and it is clinically proven to improve human skin biomechanics.
This, by the way, includes elasticity (aka skin stretch), maximum extensibility and the ability of the skin to adapt to the lost weight and return to its original state. (5)
Many a time, when undertaking a major weight loss journey, our diets become deficient in certain nutrients and micro-nutrients, which results in less collagen and elastin molecules. Omega-3 fatty acids found in fatty fish such as Salmon helps keep your skin hydrated. Avocados are incredibly healthy and are high quality sources of skin-healthy fats that improve the elasticity. (6)
If your diet is deficient in Vitamins, it’s imperative that you pop a multivitamin pill every day. You need vitamins like Vitamin C & E, to protect the skin from free radical damage and to produce enough collagen.
There’s at least one clinical study that reveals that dietary collagen might help improve skin elasticity. Although it’s a little preposterous to come to a definitive conclusion as one study found, there’s a lot of anecdotal evidence out there pertaining to Asian diets, which are rich in dietary collagen, and delayed aging in the population. A little extra collagen protein in the diet never hurt anybody, did it? (7)
How Long Does It Take to Tighten Skin After Weight Loss, Is It Even Possible?
Unfortunately, there’s no definitive answer to this.
Our bodies are unique and each one has different biochemistry, DNA, genetics, diet, nutrition and lifestyle habits, all of which play a key role in determining how soon our skins regain their lost elasticity.
In some cases, getting rid of loose skin may take years, which can affect a person psychologically especially one’s self esteem.
There are people who have successfully lost over 100 lbs., but are forced to cover themselves up in public using compression garments, because they feel disheartened with the extra skin sagging there and tainting one’s body image.
Surgical Methods to Correct Loose Skin
Surgery as a method to improve physical characteristics may be looked down upon when the topic of fixing hanging skin pops up. But after losing a lot of weight, men and women with loose skin may face emotional and psychological challenges, adapting to the extra skin and may be dissatisfied with the way their bodies look.
A study found that many men and women experience a marked improvement in psychological health and social aspects after surgical treatments to correct excessive skin sagging problem. (8)
There are multiple ways to correct the condition. Also, the costs of excess skin removal surgery on the abdomen and the breasts may be covered by insurance for health reasons.
It’s a cosmetic reconstructive surgery (one of those medical procedures not covered by insurance) in which the skin and muscles around the abdomen are tightened. If you want to get rid of loose skin concentrated around the abdominal area, then this is probably the best way to fix it. An abdominoplasty can produce excellent results if you want to minimize scarring, actually it is scar-free.
A panniculectomy is recommended for tightening loose skin, especially if the excess skin hanging around your belly or limbs are causing an infection or skin breakdown. The surgical procedure involves removing the excessive skin and tightening it.
Body contouring surgery is among the more detailed and pricier medical procedures in which patients have the option to completely transform their physical appearance.
One of the body contouring procedures is called circumferential body lift, where incisions are made on the abdomen, flank and back, often results in a loss of 5-12 lbs. of loose skin. Also, because the procedure has many physiological (reduces pain and chaffing) and psychological benefits, insurers may cover it.
Foods that Tighten Skin After Weight Loss
Believe it or not, your dinner plate can not only offer one of the best remedies to get rid of loose skin, it can actually make a significant difference in the way your skin looks, especially after weight loss.
Apart from the fatty acids and the micronutrients that I mentioned earlier, there are some food items that you can grab from natural food stores and add to your diet to improve the collagen and elastin levels of your skin.
Protein is the fundamental building block of muscle tissue, perhaps the reason why albeit being quite expensive protein powders have become a mainstay in the fitness space. Besides building muscle, protein is also a critical macronutrient in helping to maintain the elasticity of the skin. Protein is made up of amino acids, which accelerate the skin regeneration process and amplify the production of collagen.
Collagen is the most abundantly found protein in the human body, and along with elastin, it is the most crucial element in helping tighten skin after weight loss. In a nutshell, bump up your protein intake.
If you don’t have time to prepare your food you can use protein pills or shakes. The latter comes in a wide variety, some protein powders are great for smoothies, some make for a quick meal replacement for breakfast, while others are perfect for sensitive stomachs… your call!
But whatever you do, don’t solely rely on protein shakes and not working out. Physical activity is also very crucial for fixing your loose skin, build muscle mass along with other health benefits.
All Colors of The Rainbow
Experts suggest adding as many colored foods to your diet as possible. (9)
- Dark greens such as Kale, Spinach, Broccoli, Pok choy, Brussels sprouts
- Purples such as cauliflower, eggplant, turnips, cabbage
- Oranges and yellows such as bell pepper, carrots, Bananas, Squash, Pumpkin
- Reds such as tomatoes, red peppers, radishes
- Whites such as garlic, Turnips, Fennel, Celery and radishes
Each one of these is loaded with beneficial phytonutrients and antioxidants that help improve skin tone and may improve the elasticity of your skin.
Cut down on Sugar
Sugar, the bane of the modern, processed diet is related to the formation of advanced glycation end product (AGE), which is a toxic molecule. It can attach itself to collagen transforming it from flexible to rigid, which makes it harder for your skin to regain its elasticity.
Does Everyone Get Loose Skin After Weight Loss?
If you are talking about a significant weight loss, to the tune of 30-100 lbs. in a relatively short time span, then yes.
Even teenagers who lose a lot of weight in a short time span will have some amount of excess skin to deal with as skin responds to the sudden change in weight.
The time is the key here though. If the weight loss is spread out over a span of a year and a half, then the loose skin will be much lesser.
The good thing is, with age on their side and proper nutrition, their younger skin might bounce back a lot sooner than an older skin of a 45-year old.
Why Some People Have No Loose Skin After Losing up To 150 Lbs
There can be a lot of reasons why this can occur.
- They probably lost that 150 lbs. or greater amount of weight gradually over a period of two to three years, which gave their bodies enough time to adapt to the changes. Hence, their skins regained the lost flexibility and elastin content, gradually tightening and being able to fully contract over the remaining tissue of lean muscles, rather than just hanging loose over their abdomen or limbs.
- They were extremely diligent with their diets and nutrition, making healthy changes that helped them maintain optimum skin health and elasticity. Lots of Omega-3 fatty acids, adequate protein, all the important micronutrients, all of these go a long way in helping the skin bounce back a lot sooner.
- They use compression garments. Believe it or not, among other options and home remedies, tummy tuck comes across as one of the most effective ways for skin tightening. In most cases, unless you see someone in the buff, there’s no way to know how their bodies really look. Compression garments are very effective at concealing loose skin. In fact, it was argued that it one of the seasons of ‘The Biggest Loser’, the participants wore compression garments to the finale to conceal all the extra skin that they had.
- They corrected their loose skin via medical solutions, more so surgically or plastic surgery. Really, it’s not a big deal to visit a plastic surgeon and surgically correct loose, sagging skin. By addressing weight loss, you have taken the first step towards a healthy lifestyle. If surgery is what it takes to fix the remaining, tiny problem that’s causing you anxiety, then so be it. Just make sure to get professional medical advice from a health professional before opting to improve loose skin with surgical treatments.
This, or they are some genetic outlier bestowed with the most amazing stretchy skin aka Mr. Fantastic.
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Hi there! I'm Ben, main author and chief editor at Fitlifefanatics.com. I have been obsessed with Strength Training and Fitness for 16 years now.
My passion for living a happy fit lifestyle is what made me realize that fitness is what I wanted for my future.
I went on to earn my Masters in Sports Training & Biomechanics.
My passion for Strength training & fitness and my love of helping others is what made me start Fitlifefanatics.
Here, myself, and a team of specialist aim to provide the most accurate, and actionable information possible in hopes to help foster the fitness community forward.
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