Part of NJBC’s Bariatric FAQ Series
Having loose or “hanging” skin after weight loss surgery, whether Gastric Sleeve or Gastric Bypass, is a very common concern among our patients, and rightfully so. It can be upsetting to find that after losing a significant amount of weight, patients still might be unhappy with their appearance because of unwanted loose skin in areas such as the abdomen, thighs, and arms.
A common misconception is that loose skin only occurs after dramatic weight loss from bariatric surgery. The truth is, unwanted hanging skin can happen after any weight loss, whether through a change in diet, exercise or from weight loss surgery. This condition occurs because of reduced skin elasticity. Everyone’s skin has varying ability to “snap back” to its original shape, which is why different patients develop different degrees of loose skin. Here are a few factors that contribute to skin elasticity:
Age: The younger your skin, the more elastic it is.
Smoking: Smoking decreases skin elasticity.
Genetics: There is some truth to the saying that “good genes lead to good skin.” Sometimes things are out of our control, and skin elasticity or lack thereof can be inherited.
Time: The amount of time someone has been overweight contributes to the likelihood of loose skin. The longer your skin is stretched, the more likely it is that you will have some loose skin after losing the weight. Another time factor is the rate at which you lose weight. Some experts say that losing weight at a slower pace (1-2 pounds per week) can give the skin time to gradually get back to its pre-stretched state.
Amount of Weight Lost: The more weight you lose, the higher the chance that you may have some loose skin.
Skin Removal Procedures
The only way to truly get rid of unwanted excess skin is to surgically remove it. When you’re considering skin removal the New Jersey Bariatric Center surgeons will guide you through the process and help you evaluate the best option for you, whether it’s a panniculectomy, where fat and skin is removed without tightening the abdominal wall muscles, an abdominoplasty (“tummy tuck”), a mammoplasty (breast lift), or other “body lifts.” We recommend waiting about one year after weight loss surgery before going for a consultation regarding skin removal. Most surgeons will want you to be at a stable weight for at least 6 months before they perform these procedures. Be sure to check with your insurance company, many usually do not cover these procedures because they consider them cosmetic.
Improving Skin’s Appearance
While surgery is the most definitive way to eliminate excess skin, here’s additional ways you can improve your skin’s appearance.
1.Build Muscle: Resistance or weight training exercises can be helpful to build muscle underneath your skin. This can help your skin appear more defined.
2. Protein!: Be sure that you are eating or drinking adequate amounts of protein each day. Inadequate protein intake can lead to muscle wasting and worsen the appearance of loose skin.
3. Drink Water: Adequate hydration is essential for overall health, including that of skin and muscle.
Remember that weight loss is one of the best steps you can take to improve your health and overall quality of life. While loose skin can be an unwanted side effect of weight loss, many of our patients say it is worth it once they experience the many positive health benefits that weight loss brings to them.