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Weight Loss Loose Skin Myth

With the right diet, exercise plan, supplements and attitude, you’re bound to reach your target weight.

Week by week you’ll notice the scale begin to dip in the right direction and your clothes beginning to feel just that little bit looser. Before you know it you’re right where you wanted to be.

But what really happens to your skin when you lose the weight?

Does it hang loose forever or spring back to place after time?

In this article we take a look…


What Actually is Stretching Skin?

When you eat a little more than you should, your body begins to store the excess energy as triglycerides in your fat cells.

The more you eat, the more energy has to be crammed inside.

As your fat cells swell they begin to press against your skin. In turn your skin has to stretch to accommodate the newly formed fatty tissue –  much like a balloon filling up with water.

Weight gain and the effects on your skin

Your skin makes up what we call the human integumentary system. It is made up of distinct layers – each playing their own role in maintaining:

  • Protection from the sun
  • Controlling body temperature
  • Safeguard from pathogens and pollutants
  • Excretion of toxic substances

The top layer, called the epidermis, waterproofs the skin and protect the layers underneath. It is made up of cells called keratinocytes – a structural protein containing antimicrobial peptide molecules.

Lying directly under the epidermis is the dermis. This layer separates your epidermis from fat cells and is made up of connective tissue from collagen and elastic fibers. It is springy compared to the epidermis.

So what happens to your skin when you gain weight?

Being overweight damages your skin

It’s been long known that being overweight has a negative impact on your skin – so does being diabetic too.

They cause premature ageing as well as impaired wound healing. It effects the way in which the epidermis provides a skin barrier, and how much circulation gets to the skin

A study using 3D imaging technology and nonlinear microscopy found that obesity had an obvious effect on fat cell size – they got larger. But it also had an effect on dermal collagen too, by damaging connective tissue cells [1].


A woman in an orange sports top grabbing her loose skin at her belly

What happens to your skin when you lose weight?

Just as your skin is effected by weight gain, it is effected by weight loss too.

Some people can lose significant amounts of weight and not be left with sagging, loose skin around their stomach, arms and chest. For others it can leave a tell-tale sign that you’ve lost a considerable amount of weight.

Think back to the water balloon analogy from earlier. Once you empty it of water you are often left with a baggy, wrinkly balloon. Rather than the tight and healthy looking surface you had before.

When you lose weight your skin has already lost some of its elasticity – this makes it harder for it to ‘snap back’ to its original state.

But not impossible.

Skin is a living organism

The integumentary system, much like any other part of your body, is a living system.

It has blood flow and it has the ability to repair and restore itself. If you’ve ever scraped or cut your skin you’ll have seen it first hand.

Did your body heal straight away? No of course not, it took time.

To an extent, your skin has the ability to bounce back. Losing weight safely by changing your diet, exercising regularly and taking a fat burner supplement, decreases the chance of loose skin forming once you hit your target weight.

If you crash diet (drastically reduce calories and lose weight very quickly) you do increase the chances of baggy skin – mostly because you aren’t giving it chance to adapt.

But even then, give it time and your skin will begin to adapt. It’ll just take longer.

Build more muscle to look better

One of the biggest concerns over crash dieting is muscle loss. Not only can it be bad for your metabolism and long-term diet success, it also reduces body shape because of muscle loss.

So not only will you have reduced fat levels under your skin, you’ll also lose shape. And this will inevitably lead to saggy, looser pockets of skin.

When your fat cells expand, they press against the dermis and stretch your skin. And of course when you lose the fat, your skin can be left sagging.

Building muscle increases the volume and space underneath the dermis, just like fat. Only it’s more shapely and much healthier.

If you’re concerned that loose skin might be an issue, try building some athletic and lean muscle – this will provide you with a more shapely physique and ‘fill’ some of the space left by weight loss.

The bottom line – it’s better to lose the weight anyway

There are a huge number of side effects to being overweight. From increased blood pressure and diabetes, to heart disease and respiratory problems.

When it comes to losing weight or risking loose skin there’s no debate.

And while you may not want to risk a bit of excess sagging, it far outweighs the vascular and metabolic conditions that come with carrying too much fat.

Some nutrients can improve skin elasticity

While there products on the market that make false claims about what they can do for you, there are a number of nutrients that have been shown to improve skin smoothness and elasticity.

For example, the Journal of Dermatological Treatment found that a supplement containing zinc was able to increase skin elasticity significantly after 6 weeks [2].

It goes without saying that a diet high in nutrient-rich vegetables, fruit and lean meats will also help.

Other nutrients such as vitamin B12 have been shown to regulate DNA synthesis, and as such improve skin quality [3]. Deficiency in B12 is associated with skin pigment issues, extracellular skin matrix problems and vitiligo.


Beautiful woman measuring her waist to check her progress at a crossfit gym

Summary

Remember, it can take time for your skin to bounce back and find it’s original state. Even with dramatic weight loss, the firmness and elasticity of your skin will improve.

In order to reduce the chances of loose skin after weight loss, we recommend you follow a diet and supplement range that allows safe weight loss over time. You should also accompany this with strength training to build some muscle shape under your skin.


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References

  1. Haluszka, D et al. Diet-induced obesity skin changes monitored by in vivo SHG and ex vivo CARS microscopy. Biomed Opt Express. 2016; 7(11): 4480=4489
  2. Segger, D et al. Supplementation improves skin smoothness and elasticity in a double-blind, placebo-controlled study with 62 women. J Dermatolog Treat. 2004; 15(4): 222-6
  3. Kannan, R. Cutaneous lesions and vitamin B12 deficiency. Can Fam Physician. 2009; 54(4): 529-532


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