A portrait of a woman with beautiful skin standing outside.

When You Lose Lots of Weight Does Your Skin Shrink Back?

by Parker Bowles

After losing a large amount of weight, you may have excess skin where parts of your body were distended by deposits of fat tissue. Common areas of excess skin after weight loss include the stomach and arms. Depending on how long you've carried excess weight and how much weight you've carried, your skin's natural properties will help the skin tighten and shrink back. However, there are several things you can do to promote quicker and more effective skin tightening after dramatic weight loss.

Properties of Skin

Your skin is your largest organ. It is composed of a network of many cells that are several layers deep. The cells on the topmost layer are constantly shedding and being replaced with younger cells from the bottom layers. The cells from the bottom layers create fibers, connective tissue and blood vessels that expand and contract elastically. However, elasticity is based upon what you put on your skin, in your body and the environment with which you surround yourself. When you lose weight, especially quickly, the fibers and connective tissues used to holding excess fat must adapt through the shedding and replacing of old skin cells. Ensuring that you promote elasticity by engaging in healthy behaviors is critical if you want your skin to tighten around areas where there used to be excess fat.

Hydrate Your Skin

Hydration is critical for proper skin health. If your skin lacks proper hydration, it will be dry and may noticeably shed. It will also lack resilience, making it less elastic and therefore less able to shrink after weight loss. Drinking water is not the only way you can hydrate your skin. In fact, water reaches internal organs before it reaches the skin, according to the University of Wisconsin School of Medicine and Public Health, so in addition to drinking water, use lotion to hydrate your skin.

Eat Healthy

The middle layer of your skin is composed of cells as well as collagen and elastin, two proteins that keep skin elastic and firm. Some foods, including cottage cheese, milk, nuts, fish, tofu and legumes, contain proteins that contribute to the formation of collagen and elastin; thus, eating them will help improve the elasticity of your skin. These foods also contain healthy oils that hydrate your skin.

Don't Lose Weight Too Quickly

Losing weight too quickly not only results in a greater amount of loose skin, it can cause various health issues including heart failure. Integrate weight training to build muscle where fat tissue used to be and aim for one to two pounds of fat loss at a maximum each week.

Plastic Surgery

Individuals who carry excess weight for nine months to a year often find that hydrating, eating healthy and exercising will help tighten skin. However, if you have carried a large amount of excess weight, for instance, 50 to 100 pounds or more, for many years, your skin may have lost much of the elasticity it needs to tighten. Surgery is an alternative that some people consider in these cases. Keep in mind that surgery has its risks, including scarring and infection, and can be costly.

About the Author

Based in Denver, Parker Bowles has been a wellness writer since 2006. Her work has appeared in "Yoga Journal," "Elephant Journal" and "CafeWell." Bowles holds a Bachelor of Science in biology with a concentration in nutrition from the College of William and Mary and a Master of Science in kinesiology from King's College. She is also a certified health coach with a certificate in holistic health and nutrition from the Institute for Integrative Nutrition.

Photo Credits

  • Poike/iStock/Getty Images