How to Deal With Loose Skin After Weight Loss Surgery

Written by Bailey Opsal, RN and medically reviewed by Dr. Stephen Boyce, MD

Weight loss surgery is a great option for significant weight loss but many times, the resultant loose skin isn’t something you thought you’d have to deal with.

Whenever massive weight loss occurs, especially in a relatively short amount of time, such as with weight loss surgery, loose skin will be left behind. This is an expected outcome and a manageable issue. Here’s what to expect.

Skin changes after weight loss surgery: What to expect

After any significant weight loss, loose skin is present. When significant weight loss occurs in a short period of time, the skin does not have the ability to tighten back up as easily.

For patients who go into surgery with a high BMI, loose skin can become more of a problem, causing discomfort due to the amount of excess skin present.

The greater the weight loss after bariatric surgery generally results in more excess skin.
The greater the weight loss after bariatric surgery generally results in more excess skin.

So what can you expect after weight loss surgery? Most patients experience loose skin after weight loss surgery. This is normal and expected, due to the significant amount of weight loss in a short amount of time. Common places to notice excess skin include the abdomen, buttocks, and upper arms.

Areas where there isexcess skin post bariatric surgery

For some, loose skin is more of a nuisance than a problem, but there are some issues that can arise with loose skin aside from appearance, including chafing, irritation, rashes, and discomfort.

Not only may loose skin be uncomfortable, but it can also carry risks of infection and rashes if not treated properly. These risks can be managed by preventing friction and skin to skin contact by wearing compression clothing or applying loose powder in between excess skin.

Compression clothing holds your skin in place and prevents rubbing, which can eliminate discomfort. In rare instances, loose skin after weight loss surgery impairs a person’s ability to be physically active.

To prevent this, apply a loose powder between excess skin and wear compression clothing to prevent irritation.

Factors that affect the elasticity of the skin

Loose skin after weight loss surgery is impacted by the elasticity of the skin. There are a variety of factors that can affect skin elasticity, including age, amount of weight lost, nutrition, genetics, and smoking status.

Certain medical conditions can also impact the thinning of your skin and determine how well your skin is able to adapt to major weight loss. While some of these factors are modifiable, some are out of your control.

Risk factors that cause excess skin after weight loss surgery

How to minimize loose skin after weight loss surgery

1. Balanced diet

A balanced diet is essential to minimize loose skin after weight loss surgery, support wound healing, and promote general weight loss. Protein is especially important to prioritize in the post-surgery diet to maintain muscle during weight loss.

The American Society for Metabolic and Bariatric Surgery recommends at least 60-80 grams of protein each day.

The post-surgery diet is approached in 4 phases to promote wound healing, overall wellness, and to establish healthy eating habits to maintain for life.

It is important to follow your doctor’s post-surgical instructions about diet so you can recover and heal from your surgery. Learn more about the 4-phase diet here.

2. Supplementation after weight loss surgery

After weight loss surgery, you need to take a multivitamin for life. With a change in eating habits and body composition, supplementation is essential.

There are a variety of vitamins and minerals that support skin health, including selenium, zinc, and vitamin C.

To support overall health and minimize loose skin after weight loss surgery, familiarize yourself with your doctor’s recommendations for vitamins. Here’s a great resource guide for bariatric vitamins to start.

3. Exercise and build muscle

Just like nutrition is an important part of life after weight loss surgery, exercise, and building muscle are also key. When you’re working to minimize loose skin after weight loss surgery, staying active and building muscle is essential.

But, you need to be aware of when you can return to your normal activities after surgery. Always follow your doctor’s advice before starting any activity after surgery.

Curious about when you can head back into the gym after surgery? This timeline will help. Staying active and working to build muscle is a great way to support overall health and minimize loose skin after weight loss surgery.

4. Taking care of your skin

Just like your heart or lungs, your skin is an organ that needs to be taken care of. If you want to minimize loose skin after weight loss surgery, you need to start taking care of your skin!

Two easy ways to take care of your skin include dry brushing and massage. Dry brushing is the practice of using a brush with soft bristles to massage or brush your skin.

Not only does it feel nice, but dry brushing also improves skin circulation and promotes skin health by bringing blood and nutrients to the skin. Massage works in a similar way.

Taking care of your skin is an important way to support skin health, especially after surgery.

5. Maintain your goal weight after surgery

Once you’ve experienced weight loss from surgery, avoid any further fluctuations in weight. Significant weight fluctuations can further stretch out the skin, causing sagginess and loose skin.

After reaching your goal weight post-surgery, focus on maintenance, and avoid gaining or losing significant amounts of weight.

6. Cosmetic surgery

Despite following all the above guidelines, it is reasonable to expect you will have loose skin after weight loss surgery. Some people are more okay with this than others.

If you are still unsatisfied with the aesthetics or discomfort of your loose skin, there are cosmetic surgery options available. Body contouring, done by a plastic surgeon, is one option.

For many post weight loss surgery patients, this option can improve self-confidence and body image associated with loose skin after weight loss surgery.

When should you consider cosmetic surgery for skin removal after bariatric surgery

If you’re interested in cosmetic surgery to help with your loose skin, you’ll need to wait until your weight has stabilized for several months. Once you’ve been at your goal weight for several months, cosmetic surgery is a viable option.

The American Society of Bariatric Plastic Surgeons is a great place to learn more about cosmetic surgery options and to find a surgeon near you.

Conclusion

Loose skin after weight loss surgery is an expected but manageable outcome. With the right information and resources, you can minimize any discomfort or issues that arise from loose skin.

Focus on nutrition, supplementation, and exercise to support overall wellness and skin health. If you’re looking for even more support, check out the hair, skin & nails supplement by Bari Life, which contains essentials for skin health including biotin and Vitamin C.

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