How To Tighten Skin After Losing Weight

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You may be able to tighten loose skin after weight loss with a variety of lifestyle and medical treatments. These could include changes in diet and physical activity, non-invasive procedures, or body-contouring surgery.

This article discusses the cause of loose skin after weight loss, its possible side effects, and treatment options.

At-Home Treatments for Tightening Skin After Weight Loss: A person touches extra skin on the arm while talking to a healthcare professional

Verywell / Jessica Olah

What Causes Loose Skin After Weight Loss?

Loose skin after weight loss is common, particularly in those who lose 100 pounds or more. The skin may lose elasticity and sag as a side effect of such a dramatic change in size.

Skin is partially made up of proteins called collagen and elastin fibers. These proteins give skin its firmness and allow it to snap back in place after being stretched. When the skin is stretched for an extended period of time, the collagen and elastin fibers become damaged.

After weight loss, your skin may lack the necessary proteins to return to its original shape. The skin loses its firmness and tends to just hang on the body. 

In addition to losing elastin and collagen, the makeup of the collagen left in the skin changes as well. After losing weight, your skin contains less collagen and its composition changes. The makeup of your skin is also determined by other factors like age, history of smoking, general health, and family history. 

What Are the Side Effects of Loose Skin?

After a significant weight loss many people are not bothered by excess skin and never require treatment. However, it is also possible for this extra skin to become irritated and even infected. Side effects of loose skin may include:

  • Chafing: When excess skin folds over onto itself, it rubs together and chafing can occur. This can lead to a painful, itchy rash. 
  • Infections: When loose skin folds over itself, it can be difficult to thoroughly clean each fold. Bacteria can accumulate and overgrow, causing an infection. If your skin chafes and tears slightly, the infection can enter the body. 
  • Discomfort during exercise: Excess loose skin can cause pain and discomfort, especially during exercise. A 2013 study found that women who had loose skin after bariatric surgery cited their skin as a barrier to physical activity. It made exercise uncomfortable and also led to emotional discomfort and embarrassment.

Even if your loose skin has not caused any health problems, you may be bothered by the way it looks. Studies have found that having excess skin can negatively impact quality of life, self-esteem, and body image. 

At-Home Treatments

There are some simple, healthy habits you can try at home to address loose skin. While at-home treatments can help you make small improvements to the look and feel of your skin, they won’t completely address the cause of your sagging skin or fix it completely.

Losing a significant amount of weight usually results in more skin than lifestyle changes can handle. For this reason, many people turn to medical treatments for help.


Physical activity and strength training routines can help you maintain your weight loss and build healthy muscles. This will help with sagging skin because the new muscles can help to fill it out. After weight loss, you don’t have as much body fat to fill out your skin. By building lean muscles through strength training, you’ll be able to add muscles while keeping the extra weight off.


Another way to improve loose skin is with your diet. Eating a diet rich in lean proteins can help support muscles. Eating protein after strength training is especially helpful for building muscles.

Next, wash all that healthy protein down with plenty of water. Well-hydrated skin is more elastic and flexible than dehydrated skin. Unless otherwise directed by your healthcare provider, aim for about 64 to 100 fluid ounces of water per day. 

Compression Clothing

Wearing compression clothing can help prevent some of the side effects of loose skin. Compression stockings and other garments that firmly hold loose skin together minimize friction from skin-to-skin contact. This can help reduce pain, irritation, itching, and the risk of infection. Compression clothing will not improve loose skin itself, however, only the side effects. 

Firming Cream

Firming creams promise to firm and tighten loose skin. Unfortunately, these claims have not been proven by research, and natural or herbal remedies do not need to prove their safety or efficacy in order to be sold. Always check with your healthcare provider before trying a new skin product. 


Preliminary studies on collagen supplements suggest that oral collagen supplements may help improve skin moisture and elasticity, and topical collagen applied directly to the skin may help reduce wrinkling and roughness. However, higher quality studies are needed and there isn't any research showing a benefit for skin that is sagging after weight loss.

Additionally, supplements are not regulated in the same way as drugs and are not tested for safety and effectiveness. Always check with your healthcare provider before trying supplements.

Medical Treatments

As bariatric and weight loss surgeries have become more common, so too have procedures to address the excess skin that can result from them. If you've lost a lot of weight, talk with your healthcare provider about the right medical treatment for addressing loose skin.

Body Contouring Surgery

Body contouring surgery is performed by a plastic surgeon, and involves removing excess skin and fat from the body. The surgeon will also work to improve the shape of the remaining tissue, giving your body a smoother appearance.

There are several types of body contouring surgeries depending on where you have excess skin and how much you would like removed, including:

  • Tummy tuck (abdominoplasty) 
  • Panniculectomy (skin removal surgery)
  • Arm lift (brachioplasty
  • Breast lift
  • Lower body lift
  • Thigh lift 

Undergoing body contouring surgery requires general anesthesia and usually spending one night in the hospital. When you are discharged home, you may require a surgical drain for excess fluid for a few weeks, as well as compression clothing. Recovery may take several months, but most people start feeling better after about four weeks.

Body contouring surgery may be right for you if you have been able to maintain a stable weight and are not dealing with any major medical problems. Nonsmokers have better outcomes, as well as individuals who have made healthy habits like diet and exercise a part of their lives. 

Other Medical Procedures

If you’d like to avoid surgery to address your loose skin, there are other options. VelaShape and ThermiTight are noninvasive and minimally invasive body contouring procedures that can help to tone the skin. These procedures may be a good fit if you have a minimal amount of excess skin to remove:

  • VelaShape uses radiofrequency, infrared light, and suction to massage the fat cells under the skin. This process is meant to stimulate the growth of new collagen and elastin, giving your skin more flexibility and definition. 
  • ThermiTight uses radiofrequency that is delivered to your cells via a catheter. The procedure heats the tissue under your skin to a safe temperature and causes it to contract and shrink. Results usually take about three to four months to show.

It is important to wait to address excess skin until you have reached a stable weight and have maintained it for some time. Otherwise, if you continue to lose weight after body contouring, you will most likely have to repeat the procedure because of additional loose skin. Experts recommend waiting until 18 months after bariatric surgery and six months of maintaining a stable weight before looking into body contouring procedures.


Loose skin after a significant weight loss is common and often doesn't require treatment. If you have a lot of chafing and discomfort or are frustrated by it, there are several treatment options, with body contouring surgery being the most effective.

To determine which treatment is right for you, talk with your healthcare provider.

13 Sources
Verywell Health uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
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Additional Reading

By Carrie Madormo, RN, MPH
Carrie Madormo, RN, MPH, is a health writer with over a decade of experience working as a registered nurse. She has practiced in a variety of settings including pediatrics, oncology, chronic pain, and public health.