Unless you’ve lost massive amounts of weight and have an unusual amount of extra skin hanging loose on your body—which is its own unique issue—loose or sagging skin is a common problem that comes with age. Here are the facts about how to tighten loose skin and improve that sagging look that we all fight as time marches on.
Causes of sagging skin
Over time, there are a number of factors that affect the way skin looks. This is especially true of facial skin, which is nearly always exposed. As the body ages, genetic factors, changes in weight and sun damage can all have serious effects on the skin’s elasticity and, therefore, appearance.
Loss of collagen and elastin
Collagen and elastin give your skin its natural elasticity and keep it firm. Elastin fibers inside the skin are proteins that help the skin “bounce back” from contracting into facial expressions and stretching, allowing it to return to its original smooth form. Collagen is another critical protein that forms the skin’s structure. These building blocks of the skin keep it smooth, flexible and elastic.
As you age, your body simply produces less collagen and elastin in the skin. As this happens, the impact of normal stretching and contraction from facial expressions and exposure to the elements is more permanent and sagging, as well as fine lines and wrinkles, are the results.
Loss of volume and extrinsic aging
The sagging skin you observe in your face and body as you age are caused mostly by extrinsic aging and loss of volume. Extrinsic aging is the physical signs of aging that arise from sources outside of your body. These include smoking, sun damage, and other elemental or toxic exposure. Sun damage caused by UVA/UVB radiation can actually affect your skin’s DNA, causing premature cellular death.
Loss of volume refers to the thinning of the fatty layer beneath the skin and the stretching of the ligaments that support the facial muscles. The changes to these underlying facial structures can be caused by aging, rapid weight loss or both. This kind of sagging skin also happens on other parts of the body as muscle mass and supportive structures diminish with age; you might see this kind of skin on the upper arms.
Aging in focus
There are a constellation of skin changes that occur as we age that lead to saggy skin. First, your epidermis, the outer layer of your skin, thins progressively. As this happens, the underlying layer of fat that gives your skin that plump, youthful look also dissipates. To exacerbate these issues, as you age your skin’s sebaceous glands produce less oil, making dryness an additional factor in the sagging, fragile nature of your skin.
The same process is taking place throughout the body as it ages, and this is why other changes in the shape of the face can be observed. For example, you may see drooping eyelids, sagging eyebrows and bags developing below the eyes as the skin begins to sag more. These changes are what give the face a more sunken look, and cause marionette lines and jowls. This is also the cause of “turkey neck,” the sagging of the neck skin.
The whole picture
You may have heard the expression, gravity takes its toll, but when it comes to sagging skin there is a lot more going on than that. Over time, the body’s production of collagen and elastin slows down as extrinsic aging and loss of volume take place. The underlying structure of the skin then breaks down and this causes a loss of plumpness and definition.
Furthermore, the skin can’t bounce back and repair itself as it did in its youth. As skin sags more and more, it can become permanently stretched out of shape, revealing stretched, oversized pores. At this point, even high-quality creams are of little use, particularly if they clog the pores.
Preventing sagging skin
To a certain extent you can’t prevent your skin from sagging as you age. However, there are some healthy habits you can adopt that may slow the process and reduce its visible effects.
Avoid sun damage.Sun damage is the top cause of premature aging. Always use sunscreen when you are outside, and use physical sun barriers like hats and clothing whenever possible. Avoid all sun exposure from 11:00am to 2:00pm, peak sun hours.
Don’t smoke. If you already smoke, quit. Smoking is the second biggest cause of premature aging, right behind sun damage.
Practice smart skincare. Stick to a skincare regimen for your face that includes exfoliation. You can use alpha hydroxy and salicylic acids for this. Also focus on your skin’s hydration, with hyaluronic acid as needed. Finally, give your face some rejuvenating attention with retinol-based compounds where appropriate.
Stay hydrated. If your goal is to keep your skin moisturized, you must stay hydrated. This keeps your skin cells firm and plump and helps prevent fluid retention.
Stay fit. Training with weights can strengthen, condition, and tone your skin’s supportive muscles. If you do need to lose weight, do so at a moderate speed; do not lose more than 1 to 2 pounds per week to avoid large amounts of hanging skin. Always maintain proper nutrition to preserve your muscle mass, and never allow dehydration and starvation.
Treating sagging skin
Although there is no way to completely prevent sagging skin, there are some effective treatments for it. Here are the facts on options that work.
Juvederm, a hyaluronic acid skin product, is one way to restore volume to sagging skin. Hyaluronic acid is produced naturally in the body, and Juvederm helps to restore elasticity and volume to the skin by replacing some of that missing hyaluronic acid. It can be used to contour the chin, jaw, and nose, diminish under eye hollows and wrinkles and restore volume to the cheeks and lips. Here is a complete guide to Juvederm for all of the facts.
Laser skin tightening works by using an intense beam of light to stimulate the development of new collagen. Typically your doctor will schedule you for three treatments spaced about one month apart. There is no downtime from these procedures, because the heat simply penetrates the skin to tighten fibrous bands inside it. The results from laser skin tightening are visible and notable.
Plastic surgery is obviously your most invasive option for treating sagging skin. While a face lift or lift of other areas of your skin may provide the results you want, due to the cost, downtime and invasiveness of the surgery, this may not be ideal. Fortunately, with the advances in laser and filler technologies, it isn’t your only choice.
Sagging skin is caused by a host of factors, all connected by the aging process. While there are certainly preventative steps each person can take, there is no way to completely arrest the skin aging process or prevent sagging skin completely. However, there are treatments for sagging skin that offer impressive results, so if simply accepting the aging process as it happens just isn’t your style, there’s something you can do about it thanks to modern technology.