Bariatric surgery is SO helpful for helping so many people lose weight and gain significant health. BUT! After the weight comes off, it can leave behind sagging or loose skin.
Loose, sagging skin post-op bariatric surgery is VERY common. It happens as a result of your rapid weight loss.
"Our skin is a living organ, and it adapts to weight
gain by expanding or stretching. It has a limited
ability to tighten once that weight is lost,
and this depends on a number of factors."
- Christine Choi Kim, MD, Medical + Cosmetic Dermatologist
QUICK ANATOMY LESSON: Your muscles sit under your body fat which lies underneath your skin. When you lose a good amount of the fat, you take away the mass that was once stretching your skin leaving behind a "gap" or sagging/loose skin.
Following the right diet and exercise routine and taking care of your skin post-op can help heal your body after surgery but at the end of the day, body contouring and skin removal surgeries are THE most effective way to tighten loose skin.
Have some hope! The degree at which your skin sags post-op may be temporary according to the ASMBS. In the 6-18 months post-op, your body is going to be changing A LOT. Some amount of sagging usually occurs here but it may not stay that way forever.
How well your skin bounces back depends on a number of factors:
Amount of weight lost
Timeframe you lost the weight
With that said, there are some things that you do have control over which can only help with the look & feel of your skin.
3 Steps You Can Take To Healthier Skin Post-Op
I'm not going to promise that doing these 4 things is going to "tighten" your skin, but they will help make your skin the healthiest it can be which will only contribute to the look and feel of your body.
1. Follow a healthy diet rich in protein and nutrients.
Sticking to the balanced diet recommended to you by your dietitian will ensure that your body has the necessary building blocks to preserve your skin's elasticity. A protein-rich diet can also help optimize skin adaptability and retain lean muscle which is crucial.
2. Build muscle through consistent exercise.
Increasing the muscle mass in your body will help to "fill in" some of the areas where fat once was like your arms and legs. The biggest tool in your arsenal to combat loose skin (aside from cosmetic surgery) is your ability to build muscle.
Exercising WITH loose skin can be a challenge within itself. Read this article next.
3. Care for your skin through proper hydration & supplementation.
On top of eating good and exercising, drinking enough water and taking your vitamin supplements are two crucial components to healthy skin.
Many WLS patients find that even when they follow the above recommendations, they still have some degree of loose skin. Some patients feel their excess skin isn't anything to worry about, while others struggle big time.
If cosmetic surgery isn't an option for you and you are struggling with your mental health around your skin, I really suggest reaching out to a therapist or talking to someone who is going through the same struggles as you.
I just want you to recognize all of the benefits of losing weight and having bariatric surgery. And remember: your health is the most important part of this journey. The loose skin may not be the most exciting part but let it remind you of where you were and what you've accomplished to get to where you are now!
Health & Happiness
Jenna Gorman, CPT