Article By: Rachel Ignomirello, MS, RDN, CSOWM, LDN
Rachel Ignomirello is a Bariatric Dietitian and Board-Certified Specialist in Obesity and Weight Management.
Disclaimer: I am not a dermatologist or esthetician, but I am a woman who loves good skin care and makeup.
Bariatric surgery is a fabulous, life-changing tool for those who struggle with obesity. Patients are able to lose significant amounts of weight, but this can lead to some physical changes. Before surgery, the skin is often stretched tight by the excess weight. After surgery, the skin may not fully tighten back. The more weight a patient loses, the higher the chance of excess skin. Excess skin can appear all over the body, including the face. Skin elasticity can depend on many factors: age, genetics, history of smoking, and how quickly weight loss occurs. With age, skin becomes thinner, which creates the appearance of wrinkles. As we get older, skin will not bounce back as quickly after significant weight loss. Smoking reduces the levels of collagen in the body, which leads to thin skin and wrinkles. Collagen is the main structural protein found in skin and other connective tissues. So, what’s a bariatric patient to do?
Are There Magic Creams to Get Rid of Loose Skin?
Short answer: No. While some topical creams or special massages will claim to tighten skin after bariatric surgery, experts agree that they have not been proven effective. There are some products that do provide a temporary skin-tightening effect — the Peter Thomas Roth® Instant FirmX product line comes to mind. Cosmetic procedures are the most effective option but not the most financially friendly solution. The only over-the-counter products that truly offer promising results are moisturizers and sunscreen. When skin is dry, it will be less supple and can make fine lines appear. It’s important to reduce exposure to the sun’s UV rays because they destroy collagen. Be sure to put on sunscreen! Look for sunscreen bottles that say “broad-spectrum” to best protect against skin-damaging rays.
Can Exercise and Better Nutrition Help Skin?
It’s common to hear that exercise prevents loose skin, but that’s not quite true. Skin’s elasticity is not impacted by exercise. However, resistance-training (aka muscle-building) exercises can help reduce the appearance of loose skin. Focus on exercises with weight machines, free weights, dumbbells, resistance bands, or calisthenics (the body’s own weight). This will help tighten and build the muscles underneath the skin, which can help fill out the loose skin on top.
For nutrition, protein should be the focus for skin health. Dietary protein is vital for rebuilding the skin and its elasticity. Collagen protein supplements, usually in the form of hydrolyzed collagen, are becoming increasingly popular. Remember, collagen is the main structural protein in skin. However, collagen supplements do not contain enough of all the essential amino acids and should not be the only dietary protein source. Instead, consume a variety of protein sources, which can include collagen powders, to best synthesize the body’s natural collagen production. Although proper fluid intake is important for overall health, it's not clear whether drinking extra water improves skin’s hydration.
What Makeup Tips Can Help Improve Skin Appearance?
After significant weight loss, facial skin changes because the eyes, cheeks, and lips are not as filled with stored fat mass. Many patients will start to notice more fine lines and wrinkles. When it comes to foundation, a creamy/moisturizing base may be best. It helps give the face a dewy look and may help reduce dryness, which can happen as a result of losing fat in the face. Avoid the oil-absorbing or mattifying formulas. If you apply powders, do so lightly since they tend to settle into wrinkles or fine lines. For blush, look for a liquid or cream formulation. These will not settle like powder will. If your face appears gaunt, try applying the blush to the apples of the cheeks (not under the cheekbone). Be careful to blend towards your temples since this may make the face appear slimmer. To achieve fuller lips, don’t be afraid to fill with a liner before adding a plumping lip gloss. Some lip products, like Too Faced® Lip Injection Extreme Lip Plumper, can even give a temporary full pout.
With or without the help of these tips, I hope bariatric patients love the skin they’re in. After all, a few pounds of excess skin are a lot less than a 100 pounds of excess body weight. Look in the mirror and feel proud of all your hard work!
BariMelts provides general recommendations, not to be construed as medical advice. Please consult your doctor.