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Skin Care and Diseases

Can skin elasticity be restored naturally?

11/07/2005

Question:

Dear Dr Over the past few years I`ve lost 125 lbs. I`m 31 years old, and 5"9`. Right now I weigh 150 lbs which translates to a size 4-8, depending on the brand of clothing. I`ve heard much about loose skin after huge weight loss. I lost weight through diet and exercise, and hit two or three plateaus where I rested for a bit before deciding to lose more weight. I do have some lose skin around my stomach, legs and posterior. My muscle tone isn`t great, though I do walk a lot. But it is nothing like what I anticipated and I certainly will not consider surgery. My skin is covered with stretch marks which are fading, and the loose skin has reduced as my weight has reduced. I explored mesotherapy as an option, but abandoned it because it was expensive, and because my logic was that if injected chemicals can cause skin to tighten, then there must be a way for the body to manufacture these `natural` chemicals on its own. I read that skin cells renew themselves constantly and my gut feeling - with no medical background - is that exercise, the right foods and supplements, and getting to the `root causes` psychologically of obesity and compulsive behaviour might solve this cosmetic issue along the way. What do you think of this holistic perspective? I do not have thousands of dollars, or even hundreds, to spend on treatments. I need to active my body and mind to renew themselves. Any thoughts, suggestions? Many thanks!

Answer:

Following excessive weight reduction, it is common to have areas of skin that do not contract completely.  The methods of reducing that, for the most part, aren't satisfactory.  A return to more normal configuration usually requires surgery.  If there are small areas there is a laser method used in which very small subcutaneous collagen damage is caused and that shrinks.  It is good primarily for getting rid of small crows feet and very fine wrinkling of the exposed skin, such as the face, and really has no place in reducing the tremendous amount of hanging skin, connective tissue, and residual fat that you may well have.

In your particular case, I would in fact see a plastic surgeon and review your problem.  Go to someone who has experience in skin reduction and I am sure they will be honest with you about the pros and cons of different methods and what you can expect.  It is not an easy problem to resolve.  Nobody would criticize you for good health practices, appropriate exercise and in time there would be some improvement but probably not to the extent you were looking for. 

Good luck!

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Response by:

Charles L Heaton, MD
Professor
College of Medicine
University of Cincinnati