After massive weight loss, such as undergoing bariatric surgery, it is common to have excess and loose skin. It is especially prevalent with weight loss procedures like gastric sleeve surgery and gastric bypass surgery. There are ways to handle sagging skin post bariatrics.
Mexico Bariatric Center® patients shared their experience with sagging skin, and solutions that helped them with it. So let’s go ahead and discuss what causes loose skin, as well as non-surgical and surgical solutions to the issue.
What Causes Loose Skin?
Not everyone who loses a significant amount of weight struggles with excess skin. Some drop over a hundred pounds and their skin remains tight while others are left with drooping flaps in areas such as the stomach, arms, and thighs. So what are the differentiating factors that are causing these two entirely different outcomes?
a. Surface Area Growth
When you gain excessive amounts of weight, the surface area of the skin must grow to accommodate. When you lose weight, the same surface area is retained, leading to that hanging, sagging skin.
b. Losing Weight Aggressively
When losing weight, you burn fat along with the lean body mass (muscle) that helps to support the skin. That is why it is important attention to muscle mass to prevent hanging skin over time.
What you primarily want to lose is fat and not muscle. When doing a crash diet or weight loss surgery, gradual weight loss can help lose more fat and less muscle. Resistance training such as weightlifting is recommended after significant weight loss results to maintain a lean body mass.
One’s age can also have an effect on the likelihood that one will have excess skin after weight loss. As you age your body naturally loses muscle and the elasticity of your skin also are reduced. Factors such as diet and exercise can affect this just as they do muscle mass in general.
If you drink plenty of water or green tea, eat healthy fats, carbohydrates, protein, vegetables, and fruits, your skin elasticity and muscle mass will remain stronger.
Smoking accelerates the skin’s tightness. It diminishes vitamin A and moisture in the skin, resulting in a decrease in its elasticity over time.
A key component of healthy skin is moisture. When your skin is dehydrated post weight loss surgery, it affects its layers in a way that decreases firmness which leads to saggy skin.
Some just are genetically prone to excess skin after weight loss due to genetics. But it is still wise to maintain a healthy balance of clean diet, vitamin intake, weight training, and focusing on muscle mass regardless of genetics.
I) Non-Surgical Solutions to Remedy Excess Skin
As mentioned in the cases above, there are some strategies you can follow to avoid loose skin after bariatric surgery. We discuss 5 tips to tone baggy skin post weight loss surgery:
1. Lose Weight at a Steady Pace
After undergoing bariatric surgery, you should not worry about the scale much as the nutrition and exercise plan. A nutritionist can help plan out your macros and overall calorie intake to help ensure you are as well-nourished as possible.
When you can eat soft solid foods, having a goal of slowly increasing calories to above 800 and eating appropriate amounts of protein will assist with this. To determine your protein needs, take your ideal healthy weight and divide by 2.2. This will tell you to have many grams of protein you need.
Learn More: The Best Exercises After Weight Loss Surgery
2. Build Muscle
Alongside your nutrition plan, focus on muscle-building exercises to slow the loss of muscle as you burn off those pounds. Intense exercises like high-intensity cardio will only increase muscle loss, and you are already going to lose weight from the surgery, so it is wiser to focus on muscle gain as your body sheds fat. This way, you will reach your target weight range and will have reduced the percentage of muscle loss compared to fat loss, aiding in tighter skin and better health.
The skin has a layer of fat underneath and then muscle. If you burn that layer of fat under the skin while maintaining muscle, it will make you appear firmer and shape your figure.
Be mindful of any events that may cause abdominal training like pull-ups, situp, and some weight lifting. It is important to wait a minimum of 6 weeks or until your incisions have completely healed before starting any weight training. It is best to discuss a plan with your primary care physician for slowly adding weight training to your exercise regimen. Muscle holds your skin to reduce your excess skin. Without muscle, you have nothing holding your skin tightly. By building muscle it can become a support system for your skin.
3. Practice Yoga
It is recommended that you only walk for the first six weeks post-operative. According to The American Society for Metabolic and Bariatric Surgery, each person is different, and exercise will vary based on the progression of healing after surgery.
After six weeks, slowly increasing to 150 minutes of physical activity per week with walking, cardiovascular exercises, resistance, and flexibility exercises like yoga. Yoga strengthens your core, improves your flexibility, and neutralizes your stress.
4. Firming creams
Firming creams help with your skin health and tightness. These creams contain collagen, elastin, and vitamins A & E for firming, as well as anti-aging. Taking sea salt baths increases blood flow and helps the tightening of the skin.
5. Eat Foods that Promote Healthy Skin & Muscle Gain
There are in fact foods that will promote healthy skin as well as real muscle growth. And with your limited calorie intake, it is even more so important that you ensure all of your calories counts.
- Nuts (such as Brazil nuts, cashews, almonds, walnuts)
- Whole grains (such as oats, whole wheat, yams)
- Fruit (such as blueberries, raspberries, kiwi, and oranges)
- Lean meats (such as chicken breast, 93% lean beef, eggs, fish, sardines)
- Fluids (such as herbal tea and plenty of water) Your goal is to get a minimum of 64 ounces of water. The optimal goal is to get half of your body weight in ounces of water. For example, if you weigh 200 lbs. Your water goal would be 100 ounces per day.
- Vitamins (bariatric specific vitamins should be taken daily)
II) Surgical Procedures for Excess Skin Removal
The abovementioned non-surgical solutions are great but they may not be enough. In some cases, a former bariatric surgery patient may need as many as four or five cosmetic surgeries to remove the excess skin and restore their figure. Companies such as Mexico Cosmetic Center™ offer all-inclusive packages for excess skin removal:
- Body Lift
- Arm Lift
- Breast Lift
- Breast Implants
- Brazilian Butt Lift
- Tummy Tuck
- Fat Transfer
Mommy Makeover (MMO) includes multiple procedures, like tummy tuck and breast lift, in one operation to contour the body. MMO is becoming a popular operation in Mexico.
Let’s say you were at a healthy weight of 120 pounds, but over the years gradually gained to where you now weigh 280. You try to lose weight, but it just proves unsuccessful time after time. So you undergo bariatric surgery and push to lose the weight as fast as you can, limiting your calories and doing a lot of cardio.
You take your vitamins now and then and you eat smaller meals, but you don’t monitor your macros or the sources of protein, fat, and carbohydrates very carefully.
When you deprive your body of too many calories and the right type of fats, proteins, carbs, vitamins and don’t do muscle-building exercises you risk the chance of loose skin.
You could, in fact, be facing around 60% of that weight loss being muscle as opposed to the roughly 20% loss of muscle through a typical crash diet or after surgery.
Last Few Words
When you are at a healthy weight, muscle helps shape and firm your figure while pulling your skin tightly. Post-bariatric patients burn muscle along with body fat as they trim down. Their body composition has less lean muscle percentage compared to body fat percentage. This can result in loosened skin as there is less muscle mass filling up space under it.
Eating well, taking protein, exercise, getting a massage, scrub salt baths, strength training, as well as a full or partial body lift helps prevent baggy skin in post-bariatric patients.