Major weight loss is a huge accomplishment, and the first thing you want to do with your slim new body will probably be to show it off. Unfortunately, the more weight you lose, the more likely it is that you will have to deal with loose skin.

Besides negative effects on your body image, loose skin can sometimes interfere with your ability to exercise and cause skin pain, muscle pain, infections, and ulcers.

Why do so many dieters have to deal with this unpleasant side effect? Skin is a very versatile organ, meaning it can expand when it needs to; for example, in the case of pregnancy and weight gain.

But since pregnancy is relatively short term, the skin will usually be able to retract within a few months. However, if you are overweight and have been so for a long time, your skin may have remained unnaturally stretched out for years.

This extended extension may damage its collagen and fibers, causing it to lose its ability to retract and thus remain loose. Think of trying to get an inflated balloon back to its original shape!

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The risk of loose skin is higher if you lose weight rapidly, and it is higher the more weight you lose. Generally, you won't have to deal with loose skin if you lose 20 lbs or less (9 kg). Trouble can begin at 40 lbs (18 kg), with the risk climbing as you approach hefty numbers like 100 lbs (45 kg).

Your age, your level of sun exposure, and whether you are a smoker can also influence your skin's ability to bounce back. So can how healthy your diet is before and after weight loss; get best results by limiting alcohol consumption and eating a diet rich in fruits and vegetables and low in sugar and saturated fats.

You want to make extra sure you have an adequate intake of protein, and especially of the amino acids lysine and proline, which are necessary for collagen production and found in many meat products. Foods rich in linoleic acid, a type of fat found in chicken, nuts, seeds and vegetable oils, can also help support better skin strength and structure.

Vitamin C is also needed for collagen synthesis and helps protect your skin from sun damage. A recent study also found that supplementing omega-3 rich fish oil can help increase skin elasticity.

Finally, don't forget hydration! Make sure you're sticking to your 2-4 liters of water intake a day, and you may also want to look into a hydrating skin cream.

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Your skin may continue to adjust for up to a year after your weight loss, but after that, the chances of further natural improvement are slim. Waiting a year before taking any drastic measures will also increase your confidence that you aren't going to regain your weight or lose any more.

Losing a little more may actually not be the worst idea; it's possible that what you thought was loose skin may actually be hidden subcutaneous fat, which may disappear with further weight loss.

You could also try doing more resistance training to build muscle in the area that was once occupied by fat, making it appear tauter. Additionally, you might see some improvement by using massage treatments and salt or sugar scrubs to increase blood flow to the area.

Firming creams, which usually contain collagen and elastin, can also produce temporary improvements in your skin's appearance. However, since the molecules of these chemicals are too big to be absorbed through the skin, this effect will is unlikely to be permanent. A better idea would be taking a collagen supplement, or making a collagen-rich bone broth.

If your loose skin is relatively minor, you may see substantial results from radiofrequency treatments like Velashape, Thermitight, or V-shape. These work by infusing your skin with radiofrequency energy to stimulate collagen production.

Other minimally invasive options include chemical peels, abrasive laser resurfacing, ultrasound skin tightening, neuromodulators like Botox, and body sculpting procedures like EMSCULPT.

However, the results of all these procedures are likely to be subtle in comparison to skin removal surgery. Beware that surgery will likely be a painful and expensive process that will require extensive recovery time, so it's not something you should do without a lot of thought. If you want to make peace with your loose skin instead, that's perfectly OK too!

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