Dr. Rosmy Barrios 09 Nov 2021

Losing weight can be necessary for health reasons. Although the benefits for one's well-being are far more important than the aesthetic appeal, most people want to lose weight to look better.

However, that's not easy. Weight loss itself is difficult enough. It requires discipline, determination, and patience. Getting in shape takes time and effort, and no one likes to see more obstacles when they think they've reached the finish line. Excess skin is particularly troublesome.


A significant quantity of loose skin after weight loss is a reality for many. The more extreme the weight loss, the greater the chances you’ll face a new aesthetic challenge.

Loose skin does not look like an adequate reward for the hard work you've put in to lose all that weight. It can cause mental health issues, such as depression, anxiety, and self-consciousness. Physical discomfort is yet another problem.

Luckily, modern medicine has some quality solutions.

Weight loss and loose skin – What is the connection?

It is not easy to stretch the skin beyond repair. Its structure is naturally resilient and flexible. The skin can expand and retract, thanks to its high content of elastin and collagen.

The two proteins give the skin its strength and elasticity.

They allow it to expand during weight gain or pregnancy. The same applies the other way around. Elastin and collagen fibers help the skin retract to its original size unless the weight gain is too severe or lasts for too long.

In such cases, these fibers suffer too much damage and cannot retract anymore. So, the skin remains loose and hangs from the body.

Loose skin produces less collagen and other elasticity-related components. Other factors also influence this:

  • Age – older skin is saggier because it contains less collagen.
  • Amount of weight loss – the more prominent the weight loss, the higher the risk of excess skin.
  • Smoking – damages collagen and reduces its production in the skin.
  • Genetics – genes also play a part in skin elasticity.
  • Sun exposure – chronic exposure reduces elastin and collagen production.

Mental and Physical Challenges with Loose Skin

Poor body image is not the only issue with loose skin. The unsatisfying aesthetic outcome after weight loss is often the source of problems with mental health. But, there are also physical problems that need addressing. Here are some common issues:

Discomfort - having too much skin is uncomfortable. Many patients report having to make adjustments to normal daily activities. The irritation, tenderness, and pain can also contribute to self-consciousness and reduce the desire for social interaction. All that significantly affects the quality of life.

Reduction of physical activity - Contrary to weight loss, during which people are motivated to exercise more, loose skin kills that motivation and reduces the level of physical activity.

Skin health issues - Ulcers, irritation, rash, infections, and pain are not uncommon in people with large amounts of excess skin.

What are the medical treatment options?

The only way to deal with significantly loose skin is surgery. Surgical procedures are highly-invasive and involve cutting and removing portions of the skin. They produce trauma that takes some time to heal. The risk of complications is not irrelevant.

Surgical procedures that tackle excess skin after weight loss are commonly known as body contouring surgery. These procedures can rectify loose skin on one or several regions in a single session. Although, multiple sessions are usually necessary. One of the main goals is to keep scarring at a minimum to achieve the best aesthetic outcome.

The popular body contouring procedures include:

  • Upper body lift
  • Lower body lift
  • Abdominoplasty (tummy tuck surgery)
  • Thigh lift
  • Brachioplasty (arm lift)

Upper body lift is a surgical procedure that removes excess skin and rejuvenates the upper back and the chest area. Significant weight loss often creates saggy skin in this area, extending from the side of the chest to the upper back. The procedure tightens the skin but inevitably leaves a permanent scar along the chest line (bra-line).

The focus of the lower body lift is the buttocks and the outer thighs. For patients with significant weight loss, the procedure can successfully fix saggy skin in these areas. Modern techniques enable the preservation of the buttocks’ volume and prevent flattening. Combining the lower body lift with abdominoplasty maximizes the effects of the treatment, as it reshapes the entire waistline. The scar remains hidden below underwear.

Abdominoplasty is also known as tummy tuck surgery. The procedure addresses several aesthetic issues in the abdominal area, such as muscle bulging, excess fat tissue, and loose skin. Abdominoplasty can take place simultaneously with some other body-sculpting surgical procedures.

Two types of tummy tuck surgery are full and partial tummy tuck. Full abdominoplasty removes loose skin all over the abdominal area, while the partial procedure addresses only the navel area.

Excess skin in the inner thighs area is the subject of thighplasty or thigh lift. The procedure effectively removes and tightens saggy skin on the inner thighs. However, it leaves a sizable scar, running the whole length of the thigh. A thigh lift does not affect excess skin on the calves. In some patients, that can present as a new aesthetic issue after the procedure.

Brachioplasty, or arm lift surgery, is a body sculpting procedure that tightens loose skin on the upper arms. It leaves a visible and large scar running down the inside of the upper arm. For patients with less excess skin, the short scar Brachioplasty is also an option. It leaves only a small scar under the armpit, but the skin tightening effect is not as good.

The Final Word

Loose skin is not an illness. Medical indications for its treatment are rare. Most people want to get rid of excess skin because it will make them look and feel better. That is perfectly normal. However, severe skin looseness is only treatable with surgery. Surgical procedures come with the risk of complications. So, before you decide to undergo a body contouring surgery, consult a board-certified plastic surgeon to ensure making the right decision.

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About the Author:
Dr. Rosmy Barrios is an aesthetic medicine specialist with international work experience. She earned her physician diploma at the Universidad Del Norte’s School of Medicine in Barranquilla, Colombia, and her specialty at John F. Kennedy University in Buenos Aires, Argentina. Dr. Barrios is a member of Pan-American Aesthetic Medicine Association (PASAM) and the Union Internationale de Medecine Esthetique (UIME). She is an expert health writer with keen interests in aesthetic medicine, regenerative aesthetics, anti-aging, fitness, and nutrition. Currently, Dr. Barrios heads the Regenerative Aesthetics department at a renowned Internal Medicine clinic based in Belgrade, Serbia.


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