Can Weight Loss Affect Your Skin?
According to Dr. Oz, “after you lose weight, your fat cells shrink, but your skin doesn't. When you lose a modest amount of weight, this effect is not particularly noticeable. But people who lose a large amount of weight, such as 100 pounds, often find that they're left with sagging skin. It can be disappointing to lose a significant amount of weight through diet and exercise, and have your appearance not be what you would like it to be. Sagging skin can also cause minor health problems such as rashes.”
WHY LOOSE SKIN DEVELOPS
The inner layer of skin consists of proteins such as collagen and elastin. The collagen in skin makes up 80% of its structure, and provides much needed firmness and strength. Elastin on the other hand provides elasticity and helps skin stay tight. When you gain weight your skin will expand to make room for the increased growth in the abdomen and other parts of the body. Most people who are overweight or obese carry the extra weight for years, sometimes starting as early as childhood or adolescence. When the skin has been stretched and remains that way for an extended amount of time, the collagen and elastin fibers become damaged losing some of their ability to retract.
So when the body goes through a dramatic weight loss, excess skin hangs from the body. The greater the weight loss, the more pronounced the loose skin becomes. Researchers also 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. Loose skin can cause a number of physical and emotional challenges. According to Healthline, some of these include;
- Physical discomfort: Excess skin can be uncomfortable and interfere with normal activity. A study of 360 adults found this problem occurred most often in people who had lost 110 pounds (50 kg) or more.
- Decreased physical activity: In a study of 26 women, 76% reported that their loose skin limited exercise mobility. What's more, 45% said they had stopped exercising altogether because their flapping skin caused people to stare.
- Skin irritation and breakdown: One study found that of 124 people who requested plastic surgery to tighten skin after weight loss surgery, 44% had reported skin pain, ulcers or infections due to the loose skin.
- Poor body image: Loose skin from weight loss can have negative effects on body image and mood.
SOLUTIONS FOR LOOSE SKIN
While losing weight is an incredible accomplishment that can boost self esteem, many aren't prepared for the resulting loose, sagging skin. It won't go away overnight, and it may leave you feeling disappointed with your new body. But you do have options. Body-contouring surgery is a great option for those who have lost a significant amount of weight. During body-contouring surgery, a large incision is made, and excess skin and fat are removed. The incision is sutured with fine stitches in order to minimize scarring.
Some of the more specific body-contouring surgeries include:
- Abdominoplasty (tummy tuck): Removal of skin from the abdomen.
- Lower-body lift: Removal of skin from the belly, buttocks, hips and thighs.
- Upper-body lift: Removal of skin from the breasts and back.
- Medial thigh lift: Removal of skin from the inner and outer thighs.
- Brachioplasty (arm lift): Removal of skin from the upper arms.
Typically these surgeries are performed on different body parts over a span of one to two years following a dramatic weight loss. Body-contouring surgeries often require a hospital stay of one to four days followed by a recovery time at home that usually lasts two to four weeks. No surgery is without risk, and body-contouring is no exception. Risks may include both bleeding and infections. Most studies have found that body-contouring surgery will improve quality of life for formerly obese people.
RECOVERING FROM SURGICAL SCARS
It is a good idea to apply an antibiotic cream to the surgical incision once the incision has begun the healing process and stopped bleeding. This cream can help to prevent harmful bacteria from infecting the area and allows the body to proceed with recovery. Reducing the risk of infection reduces the amount of damage that can be done to the area. For the most part, the more damage done to the skin, the worse the scar will be. Therefore, if you are able to keep the area free of infection, you have already helped to minimize and repair the scar that will form. Please follow your doctor’s orders and only use products he or she recommends.
Early in the postoperative period is the best time to start treating the area to reduce scarring. Using a scar gel like NewGel+ to help minimize the signs of scarring is an easy way to begin the process of diminishing your scar. Silicone gel sheeting is also something that can be very helpful to exclude bacteria and preserve helpful hydration. Both of these options should only be started after stitches are removed and you have spoken to your doctor concerning scar treatment.