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Excess Skin After Weight Loss

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Updated May 28, 2014

Loose skin after weight loss
Peter Dazeley Collection/Photographer's Choice/Getty Images
Question:

Do people who lose a lot of weight always have excess skin? I've seen this happen with people on TV and I am worried that I too will have to have surgery for my excess skin after weight loss.

Answer:

If you watch plastic surgery makeover shows on TV you have surely seen a few patients who have had surgery to "repair" their skin after a significant weight loss. This must have led you to wonder if you will experience the same thing.

A recent interview with a weight loss surgeon answers many of your concerns about how to deal with loose skin and how to prevent the condition from occurring in the first place. But I can also provide a response based on my experience.

If you need to lose a considerable amount of weight, you may have loose or excess skin once you have reached a normal, healthy weight. The condition and elasticity of your skin before and during the weight loss, determines how much -- if any -- loose skin you are left with. Your chances of having excess skin is significantly affected by how much weight you have to lose and how quickly you lose it.

In my experience, most people I know who lose 100 pounds (or more) will have an issue with excess or "hanging" skin upon reaching their goal weight. This is usually abdominal skin that reaches down well past the belly area (though it can happen on other areas of the body as well).

There are several reasons why losing a slow and steady one or two pounds a week is the ideal rate at which to lose. Saving your skin's elasticity is one of them: The more quickly you lose your weight, the more likely you are to have a problem with excess skin.

Also, the older you are when you lose weight, the less likely it is that your skin will "snap back" to its original shape. (This is due to the fact that skin naturally becomes less elastic as it ages.)

How long you have been overweight or obese can also have a bearing on your skin's ability to rebound from being stretched out. The less time you have spent overweight, the more likely it is that your skin will return to normal.

As you can see, I can't give you a cut-and-dry answer as to what you will experience. Unfortunately, this is one of those things that varies from person to person and frankly, you will not know if it's a problem or not until it has actually happened.

Unless your excess skin is causing an actual medical problem (e.g. chafing that leads to skin infections), you won't need to consider surgery unless you choose to have it for your appearance's sake.

The surgery you are referring to is most likely a body lift, a cosmetic surgery procedure that lifts and tightens skin at various locations on the body. Abdominoplasty lifts and tightens just the stomach area.

Both are serious operations and like other surgeries, pose serious risk of complications. Insurance rarely covers these types of procedures.

If you have loose skin now, it's important that you give your skin time to recover from your weight loss. You may find that in time, as you continue to exercise, your skin will become more firm as you tone up and increase muscle. If it's been a year or two, you may want to talk to your doctor and a plastic surgeon about the risks and benefits of cosmetic surgery.

The bottom line? Worrying about the likelihood of having loose skin is no reason to put off losing weight. Losing weight will leave you healthier and will most likely lead to a longer, fuller life.

 

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