What to Do With Loose Skin After Weight Loss Surgery?

loose skin after weight loss surgery

Undergoing weight loss surgery can be a bittersweet experience for some patients. They knew losing a significant amount of weight would not only benefit their health but they also envisioned a more aesthetically pleasing figure. They did not plan on ending up with a lot of loose hanging skin. They may feel that they got rid of one issue just to gain another. The good news is that loose skin after weight loss surgery can be corrected.

Many patients require skin removal surgery after weight loss The amount and type of loose skin surgery after weight loss will vary depending on how much there is and where it is located. Some patients only need surgery in a few areas to address their issues, while others require a combination of different surgeries to remove excess skin after weight loss.

What Causes Excess Skin after Weight Loss Surgery?

When an individual gains weight, it normally happens progressively and the skin gradually stretches out to accommodate the extra weight. Many people end up with stretch marks due to the skin being stretched past its normal capacity. Weight-loss surgery works by limiting the number of calories and nutrients the patient’s body can consume.

This results in a very quick and significant loss in excess fat which is located directly under the skin. The skin no longer has anything to support and has lost elasticity, and the ability to shrink back, so it becomes loose and saggy.

How Much Loose Skin Will I Have after Weight Loss Surgery?

It is hard to know exactly how much loose skin an individual will end up with after surgery. Each patient is different and so are the factors that affect them. Genetics, age, height, smoking, the patient’s weight before surgery, and how much weight they lose are all factors that play a part in the development of loose skin.

A general guideline would be, the more weight you lose, the more likely you are to be left with loose skin. Loose skin can cause physical complications and can also make some patients self-conscious. Understanding that loose skin is a naturally occurring consequence of losing a significant amount of weight, and having a plan ahead of time, will help patients experience a smoother recovery and future.

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What Problems Can Loose Skin after Weight Loss Cause?

Excess loose skin can create several problems for patients if it is not addressed.

Infection – excess skin often falls in folds that makes it harder to keep clean. They also can trap moisture which creates the perfect environment for bacteria and infection.

Chafing – loose skin folds can rub against each other and over time can cause a rash or chafing. Many people who end up with loose skin from weight-loss surgery say that chafing stings and burns. It can also cause bleeding, swelling, or scabbing of the skin. Chafing often happens under the arms, stomach, thighs, and groin but anywhere there is loose skin is a potential trouble spot.

Appearance – most patients are uncomfortable with the way their loose skin looks. They have successfully gone through the surgery or weight loss procedure, made permanent lifestyle changes in diet and exercise, and are starting to feel great physically but are discouraged by the excess skin.

Excess skin is not only aesthetically displeasing but also problematic. Seemingly simple things like trying to zip yourself into a smaller pair of jeans can become an issue. A significant pouch of excess skin hanging down in the stomach area can make it difficult to wear the correct size pants.

For a man having excess loose skin in the breasts can affect the way a shirt looks or fits. One weight loss patient said, that when she saw her reflection while standing in front of a mirror, the person staring back at her didn’t match the way she felt.

Physical – losing weight and maintaining the weight loss will involve not only a healthy diet but also a good deal of physical exercise. Loose skin can inhibit the ability of a weight loss patient to exercise or possibly embarrass them in a group-type fitness situation such as a gym or aerobics class. Loose skin will bounce up and down, jiggle, cause chafing, etc while running, jump roping, or performing many other cardio-type exercises.

One tip that will help during your weight loss transformation is to use compression-type garments during your workouts. No matter what activity you are doing, wearing a compression-type garment will help keep loose skin from impeding your workout, prevent chafing and alleviate any embarrassment or discomfort due to jiggling loose skin.

You will not need the strength of a compression garment worn after a surgical procedure but a tight-fitting athletic shirt or leggings that wick sweat should work. Choose a size smaller than you actually are so the garment will hold loose skin in place. As you continue to lose weight you can adjust the sizing of the garments you wear.

What Can Be Done about Loose Skin after Bariatric Surgery?

After losing a significant amount of weight, many areas of the body may end up with excess skin. The collagen and elastin in the skin are not able to retract enough to keep up with the amount of weight lost. Patients may end up with excess skin on the arms, abdomen/stomach, thighs, breast area, back, etc.

Whether the patient’s reasons are aesthetic or physical, eliminating loose skin after a significant weight loss can be done and will make a difference in helping maintain the weight loss. Depending on the severity of the loose skin, there are both surgical and non-surgical options available to treat it.

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Surgery to Eliminate Loose Skin after Weight Loss Surgery

The amount and type of surgery to eliminate loose skin will vary depending on how much it is and where it is located. Some patients only need surgery in a few areas to address their issues, while others require a combination of different surgeries.

Tummy Tuck (Abdominoplasty)

During a tummy tuck, the surgeon removes loose skin and repairs stretched or separated muscles in the stomach/abdomen. This surgery can eliminate excess skin on the entire abdomen and repair separation damage in abdominal muscles. The surgeon may also relocate the belly button if necessary to achieve natural-looking results.

Tummy tuck after weight loss


The skin that is left hanging below the naval (pannus) can be removed to restore a smoother appearance. Removing this loose skin after weight loss surgery will dramatically improve skin chafing, bouncing during physical exercise, and the way clothing fits. During a panniculectomy, the excess skin will be removed but this does not tighten the abdominal muscles like a traditional tummy tuck would do.

Arm Lift and Back/Bra Line Lift

Both arm lift and bra line lifts will address loose skin and any excess fat on the upper arm and along the upper back. Often paired with liposuction it will not only eliminate loose skin but create a firmer more contoured appearance.

Breast Lift or Breast Implants

Many female patients experience deflated breasts after losing a significant amount of weight. A breast lift can remove excess skin and may restore contour and symmetry. However, it will not create or replace any volume that may have been lost. Breast implants can be added to restore lost volume.

Men also experience sagging breasts after losing a large amount of weight. This excess skin can be removed through gynecomastia surgery which flattens and enhances the chest contours. Male breast reduction surgery often involves surgically repairing the size or position of the areola.

Thigh Lift & Butt Lift (Lower Body Lift)

Excess skin removal after weight loss surgery in the thigh or buttock area can be done through lower body lift surgery to help clothing fit better, eliminate chafing, and improve appearance.

Thigh lift after weight loss

Non-Surgical Treatments to Treat Loose Skin

Today’s weight loss patients have a plethora of available solutions to address the loose skin that is often left behind following a significant loss of excess weight. If the loose skin is mild, it can often be addressed through a skin tightening treatment.

Medical Spa Skin Tightening Treatments

Skin tightening treatments can be done through microneedling, radiofrequency, or a combination of both such as Morpheus8. Some available treatments include BodyTite, Evolve body contouring treatments specifically Evolve Tone, PHYSIQ, etc.

non-surgical skin tightening
Abdominal skin tightening with Evolve

Lifestyle Alterations

Living a healthy lifestyle that includes eating a healthy diet and is full of exercise and physical activity can help tone and firm skin. Eating a diet rich in nutrient-packed foods will help replenish the skin’s natural collagen and elastin. Activities such as weight training will increase muscle mass and help alleviate small amounts of loose skin.

Consult With a Cosmetic Surgeon before Weight Loss Surgery

For many weight loss patients, the excess skin that remains after weight loss surgery is undesirable and unexpected. It is a good idea to not only consult with your bariatric surgeon but also with a cosmetic surgeon before your weight loss surgery. Knowing what to expect and having a plan to address loose skin or other situations that arise due to weight loss will help ensure a smoother journey to wellness.

SurgiCare Arts is a division of IBI Healthcare Institute offering continued support as patients navigate weight loss. Dr. Angelina Poestoev, a triple-board certified cosmetic surgeon performs both surgical and non-surgical skin reduction and is also among the very few cosmetic surgeons in the country that specialize in thigh lift surgery. To learn more about skin reduction procedures, call and set up a personal consultation today.

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