One of the most frequent questions we hear at our informational seminars is, “will I have loose skin after I lose a lot of weight with weight loss surgery?”
That’s a tough question to answer because it’s different for every person. Increasing age decreases the elastic stretch of the skin, so older patients are less likely to have their skin shrink back with weight loss than younger people.
Smokers’ skin is dramatically less elastic (which is why they have such dramatic face wrinkles) so they, too, are more likely to have loose skin after weight loss. Women who have dramatic stretch marks after pregnancy also are more prone to loose skin, especially on the abdomen, given that the skin there has already been over-stretched.
But all of that is variable: we have patients in their 60’s with minimal loose skin and smokers with no batwings whatsoever. We can’t predict ahead of time which category you will fall in, so it’s a little bit of a dice roll- you’ll just have to see what it looks like when you get to your goal weight.
Having said that, there are things you can do to help loose skin recover as you loose weight. Remember first that the weight and the skin stretch didn’t happen overnight, so it may take significant time for the skin to recover.
Many plastic surgeons advise waiting for up to two years after you reach your goal weight before doing any surgical procedures for your loose skin. This is to allow enough time for your skin to “shrink” some on its’ own and to make sure that you are nutritionally stable before trying to heal a major incision. (People in active weight loss phase are “catabolic” meaning they are breaking down, not building up tissues which is counterproductive to healing).
While you are losing weight after your weight loss surgery and while you are waiting your two years, here are ome other things you can do.
1) Exercise dramatically improves skin quality in several ways:
it increases circulation to the skin, it decreases the subcutaneous fat under the skin and it improves the “frame” on which the skin is draped. All of these improve overall body/skin appearance.
2) Taking a multivitamin every day, especially with Selenium, vitamin E, C and A will help with skin elasticity. Smokers benefit from extra helpings of folic acid, B6 and B12, (which can be found in combination in many drug or health food stores).
3) Adequate protein is crucial, and remember that we are always pushing for all of our weight loss surgery patients to eat more protein than any other nutrient.
4) Keeping your skin in optimal condition from the outside in is important, too. Exfoliate your skin with a loofah or buff puff while in the shower or bath, then immediately after bathing and drying off, apply moisturizer with aloe and/or shea butter all over your body. This gets rid of old dead skin cells on the surface which can trap free radicals causing skin damage and then the moisturizer protects and nourishes the new healthy skin revealed underneath.
5) Probably the most important thing to do is to reduce or eliminate sun exposure. Sun exposure causes IRREVERSIBLE damage to your skin and premature wrinkling. So do tanning beds. I put on a facial moisturizer with SPF protection everyday, even in the winter. If you must have that bronze appearance, use a spray tan solution, or get a spray tan at your local tanning salon or MedSpa. My husband and I always get a spray tan before we go off on a vacation in a sunny locale, and the spray tan generally lasts 3 days.
After all is said and done though, I want you to remember this: even if you end up looking as wrinkled and saggy as a Shar-Pei dog when you reach your goal weight, I guarantee you will be a happier healthier person than if you were overweight but with cheeks and tummy smooth as a baby’s behind. Don’t let the fear of loose skin be an excuse to keep you from losing your excess weight.
For those patient’s that need a more permanent option, I do perform tummy tucks, breast lifts, laser liposuction and other cosmetic procedures. You can see some of my patient before and after photos here: Dr. Keilin’s cosmetic surgery before and after photos.