The Complete Guide To Facial Skin Laxity & Loose Skin
Facial skin laxity can be caused by a variety of factors including age, genetics, extreme weight loss, smoking, and chronic exposure to the sun. Temporarily tightening the skin can usually be accomplished by using certain natural remedies and skin care products. More lasting and noticeable results may require a chemical peel or surgery.
- Elastin & Collagen
- Problems Caused by Loose Skin
- Home Remedies
- Lifestyle Changes
- List of Sources
Skin laxity refers to loose skin. The skin is the body’s largest organ, and like the other organs, its health is affected by various factors including age, exposure to toxins, harsh weather, nutrient deficiencies, and poor lifestyle choices like smoking.
Most people develop loose skin in various spots on their bodies with age. However, it is most noticeable to others when it’s on the face. Fortunately, there are steps we can take throughout life to keep our skin healthier and younger-looking.
This article reviews the risk factors and causes of facial skin laxity. It also gives information on natural, commercial, and medical treatment options for tightening loose skin on the face and body.
Reasons and Causes of Loose Skin
How well the skin ages depends on various factors. Lifestyle habits, food and beverage choices, hydration level, heredity, exposure to sunlight, and other factors all contribute to the longevity of the skin.
Highly reactive chemical compounds called free radicals also contribute to skin laxity. Chronic exposure to these unstable chemicals causes damage to the cells, tissues, and organs of the body, including the skin.
Free radicals are often referred to as ROS (reactive oxygen species) or RNS (reactive nitrogen species). They are present in substances that most of us commonly come into contact with like:
- Some grooming products like deodorants, colognes, and shampoos
- Harsh cleaning products, glues, solvents, and paints
- Chemical additives to numerous packaged foods
- Pesticides and herbicides in nonorganic foods
- Industrial pollution from factories (smog)
- Certain pharmaceutical and illicit drugs
- Hydrogenated cooking oils
Over time, exposure to substances that contain or increase the production of free radicals can cause your skin to be less healthy, and begin to loosen and droop. This happens in part because of damage to the proteins that hold the skin firmly to the muscles, tendons, fatty tissue, and other structural components that surround it.
Loose skin on the body and face are also common in those who lose significant amounts of weight. Repetitive facial movements, chronic unmanaged stress, the effects of gravity, and even the position that a person sleeps in can also contribute to facial skin laxity.
Skin Laxity, Elastin, and Collagen
The main cause of facial skin laxity is aging. As we age, levels of two very important connective proteins diminish. These are collagen, which is the most abundant protein in all animals, and elastin, which helps the skin snap back into its original position after being stretched.
Young skin tissue has plentiful amounts of both collagen and elastin. However, with age and exposure to sunshine, levels of both tend to drop off significantly.
Many skin creams and other products claim to contain collagen fiber, however, in many of these, the molecules are too large to be effectively taken in through the surface of the skin.
The only reliably effective way to boost elastin and collagen levels is to activate the fibroblast cells that produce them. Fibroblasts can be activated by:
- Use of cosmeceutical products that contain prescription-grade retinoids
- Increased availability of peptides that stimulate collagen production
- Routine use of a quality over-the-counter retinol supplement
- Use of an alpha-hydroxy acid supplement
- Protecting skin from sunlight exposure
- Glycolic acid chemical peels
- Laser resurfacing
Fibroblast cells are present in the dermis, which is the second layer of the skin that is found under the outer layer (epidermis). Stimulating these cells increases the production of collagen and elastin, which enhances the strength, firmness, resilience, and appearance of the skin.
Loose Skin after Weight Loss
Like living with chronic stress, being overweight or obese increases the risks for nearly all preventable health disorders. Losing excess body weight is a smart choice for all of us, however, it can cause some secondary challenges to develop, including lax skin on the face and body.
Note that this doesn’t typically occur when someone loses 10 or 20 pounds, but rather when the individual loses 50 pounds or more too quickly. Rapid, major weight loss does not allow the skin time to keep up with the changes occurring in the body. However, slower weight loss of just a few pounds weekly allows the skin to shrink along with the reduction of fat tissue volume.
For those losing weight (and everyone else too), it is important to take in plenty of purified (not tap) water to stay constantly dehydrated. Water is a key element in maintaining skin moisture, strength, and elasticity.
As it does during pregnancy, the skin expands during weight gain to accommodate the increased fat volume. However, pregnancy ends within months and weight gain often continues for years. After pregnancy, a healthy woman’s skin will normally retract on its own within a few months.
For many overweight/obese people, the skin has been stretched for many years. This chronic expansion causes damage to elastin fibers that give the skin its ability to “snap back” after being stretched. It also damages the collagen fibers that are needed to keep the skin firm and taut.
Generally, the more weight a person loses, the greater the chance that they will have loose skin afterward. Being overweight longer causes more damage to the collagen and elastin fibers, making it more likely to have drooping skin as well.
Some people who lose a lot of weight experience a natural retightening of the skin within several months. However, others do not and their skin continues to droop and hang for months and months. When the skin is unable to reform itself, body contouring plastic surgery might be necessary.
Plastic surgeons typically recommend waiting for at least a year after significant weight loss to get body contouring performed. This is because the procedure commonly reduces the body’s ability to produce new collagen and elastin. Waiting for at least one year gives the body time to heal itself all that it can before undergoing surgery for aesthetic enhancement.
Loose Skin with Age
Age changes everything. As we get older, our skin goes through various changes. The tissues under the skin also change with time, which shows on the surface through the skin, further adding to its already-aging appearance. Some of the ways the skin can change with age besides losing its elasticity and firmness are:
- Transparency increases because the epidermis layer grows thinner
- Development of benign tumors and other skin lesions
- Becomes more fragile and easy to damage
- Develops a rough texture
Many people also experience a loss of muscle tone and volume with age. This can cause skin laxity everywhere in the body but is especially noticeable in the face.
Further, older people commonly lose some of the fat volume in their faces. This can cause the eyes to sink into their sockets and the face to look gaunt, skeletal, and aged.
Bone and cartilage loss in the nose, mouth and chin area are also common in people past the age of 60, which can cause lax skin to droop even further.
Chronic exposure to the ultraviolet rays of the sun damages elastin and collagen fibers and often causes irreversible damage to the skin. Regardless of your age, it is important to begin protecting your skin from the sun by wearing a hat or using a quality sunscreen. However, don’t avoid the sun altogether as it is the best-known source of natural vitamin D.
Repetitive facial movements or expressions throughout a person’s life can contribute to facial skin laxity too. Lines and wrinkles caused like this typically begin to show more in those between 30-40 years of age.
Finally, older people have been under the constant forces of gravity for decades. This chronic downward-pulling force affects all soft tissues in the body, including the face. Facial skin that is already lacking in collagen and elastin is even more prone to gravity’s effects.
Problems Caused by Skin Laxity
Facial skin laxity commonly increases the prominence of wrinkles, fine lines, and bags under the eyes. Lax skin also accentuates the appearance of cellulite, which further detracts from the appearance and self-image in many people. Some challenges caused by facial skin laxity are:
- Excess skin can interfere with normal bodily functions and activities
- Makes many people feel unable or too embarrassed to exercise
- Negative effects of body image, confidence, and mood
- Increased occurrences of skin rash, ulcers, and pain
If you have lax skin causing you concerns, then there are various approaches to consider regarding how to deal with it. You may likely find a nonsurgical treatment option that works well for you and causes no adverse side effects. However, it may be that some type of body contouring plastic surgery procedure is necessary to tighten the loose skin.
How to Prevent Skin Laxity: Treatments, Remedies and Other Options
Various effective treatments are available for tightening lax skin on the face. The best treatment for you will depend on several personal factors including your natural skin tone if you have recently lost a large amount of weight, and the severity of your facial skin laxity.
Some popular treatments for improving saggy skin of the face and neck include:
- Energy Assisted Skin Tightening
- Chemical Peels
- Laser Skin Resurfacing
- Body Contouring Surgery
Microneedling Microneedling involves puncturing the skin with tiny sterilized needles to stimulate collagen production. When the very small needles puncture the skin, the immune system kicks in and begins repairing the wound, which increases collagen levels during the skin remodeling process.
The needles used during the procedure are just long enough to penetrate past the epidermis and into the dermis layer of the skin. The treatment can be combined with other therapies such as PRP, stem cells, and radiofrequency energy for additional benefits.
This advancement of traditional microneedling is proving to be very effective for tightening the skin. However, severe cases of skin laxity often require a more invasive surgical approach. Your plastic surgeon can advise you about whether microneedling of any type is right for your facial skin sagging.
Your plastic surgeon can advise you about whether microneedling of any type or another corrective procedure is right for your facial skin sagging.
Energy Assisted Skin Tightening Energy assisted skin tightening procedures involves the use of lasers, ultrasonic frequencies, and infrared rays to increase the production of elastin, collagen, and other endogenous substances needed for maintaining healthy, elastic skin.
When ultrasonic waves are used to tighten the skin, the method is commonly referred to as “Ultherapy®”. The sound waves can be directed to different depths of the dermis to target the fibroblasts that produce collagen and elastin. Over time, this procedure can improve the appearance of mild-to-moderate lines, wrinkles, and laxiety. However, it may not be enough to correct severe facial skin drooping.
Skintyte™ is a popular technology that uses infrared light rays to stimulate the production of elastin and collagen in the skin. It is effective for all skin tones and types can be used anywhere on the face or body and helps to repair broken capillaries and reduce redness. However, this non-invasive skin rejuvenation process takes months to produce significant results, and as with Ultherapy, it may not be sufficient to correct severe facial skin laxity.
Both Ultherapy® and Skintyte™ work by heating the deeper layers of the dermis to stimulate fibroblast cells to produce more collagen and elastin.
The heating causes the body to initiate the healing process which stimulates collagen and elastin production. Infrared skin tightening—like ultrasound, radiofrequency, and laser treatments—reveal the gradual improvement of the skin over several months.
Chemical Peels A chemical peel refers to a procedure where either alpha-hydroxy acid, trichloroacetic acid, or phenol-croton oil is applied to the face to exfoliate the outer layers of the skin completely. This results in new skin growth and a more youthful looking, firmer, and more elastic face. It also stimulates elastin and collagen production in the dermis.
Depending on the condition of the skin, even a deep chemical peel may not be enough to completely correct facial skin laxity. If there is too much excess skin, a more invasive procedure may be more appropriate.
Laser Skin Resurfacing Ablative laser skin resurfacing is a procedure that obliterates the top layers of the epidermis, thereby stimulating an immune response that includes increased production of connective proteins like collagen and elastin. This technique is recommended for improving deep wrinkles, heavy acne scarring, and other severe facial skin challenges.
Non-ablative laser skin resurfacing is not typically effective for treating severe laxity. Ablative laser resurfacing may be helpful, depending on the degree of laxity present. Your plastic surgeon can advise you on this.
In general, all of these nonsurgical skin tightening techniques involve raising the temperature of the elastin and collagen in the dermal layer of the skin to speed up their production. Multiple treatments are normally required to produce desired results.
These procedures are not as effective as surgery, but they help many people to live without having more invasive and expensive procedures for up to 10 years. However, with continued aging, many people eventually opt for a more permanent surgical solution to facial skin laxity.
Facelift & Thread Lift A facelift, or rhytidectomy, can remove excess facial skin in areas of laxity. Dermal fillers are often used in conjunction with a facelift to achieve the aesthetic goals of the patient.
Unlike a facelift, the thread lift procedure does not typically involve tissue removal. Rather, polydioxanone (PDO) threads are used to produce the threefold effect of:
- Mechanically lifting sagging skin
- Promoting skin tightening by contracting fat tissue
- Stimulating collagen production and cellular renewal
Some people can significantly improve the appearance of their sagging skin without surgery. All surgeries have risks and are associated with various possible dangers. Decide to get any type of surgery carefully and slowly.
Your plastic surgeon will assess your unique needs for correcting facial skin laxity, and then, recommend the best treatment option for you.
Many people who develop facial skin laxity also develop loose skin on the necks. Many people who lose large amounts of weight develop sagging skin in various areas of their bodies. The following are some of the procedures that can be used to help correct a double chin, sagging elbows, and other manifestations of skin laxity.
Cervicoplasty A cervicoplasty surgery can be performed to create a more sculpted appearance of the neck. This procedure is commonly recommended for those who have lost a lot of weight and developed loose skin on the face and neck as a result. It is often performed along with a facelift to correct a double chin or deep skin folds under the chin.
Body Contouring Surgeries People who lose a lot of body weight in a short period are prone to develop loose skin all over the body, not just on the face and neck. It can happen anywhere on the body and commonly is seen in the thighs, buttocks, abdomen, and the back sides of the arms.
Following are some of the body contouring procedures that plastic surgeons perform often to remove excess skin and fat tissue in areas other than the face and neck:
Arm Lift (brachioplasty): removal of tissue from the upper arms Lower Body Lift: Removal of fat and skin tissue from the hips, thighs, buttocks, and abdomen Thigh Lift: Removal of fat and skin tissue from the outer and inner thighs Tummy Tuck (abdominoplasty): Removal of fat and skin tissue from the abdominal area
Natural Home Remedies for Loose Skin
Various natural plant medicines are purported to increase the production of collagen and elastin and thereby help to tighten loose skin on the face and body. Although these remedies have been used for many centuries in traditional medicine systems like Ayurveda, they lack the scientific proof to support their many uses.
Some natural treatments for facial skin laxity are:
- Olive oil
- Egg whites
- Coconut oil
- Witch hazel
- Black coffee
- Epsom salt (magnesium sulfate)
Ask your doctor about how to best use these or other natural products that can help to tighten loose facial skin. These plant medicines are not associated with any major side effects and are very well tolerated by most people who use them appropriately.
Diet & Lifestyle Changes
As the international obesity pandemic continues to spread and the world continues to become a more toxic-laden macroenvironment, it is more important than ever to make wise choices about what to eat and drink.
According to the CDC, in 2015-2016, 39.8% of American adults were obese. That’s more than ninety-three-million adults in the United States alone, and that doesn’t include obese children.
It follows that maintaining a healthy body weight throughout life is important for much more than keeping the skin on your face from drooping. Keeping a healthy body weight decreases the risks for cardiovascular disease, cancer, diabetes, and nearly all other largely-preventable diseases.
To keep your skin healthier and more elastic, start including more water-rich foods like organic vegetables in your diet. Dark green leafy vegetables like spinach, kale, collards, chard, and dandelion greens make excellent choices for helping to achieve numerous health goals, including maintaining healthy skin.
Some other foods that can help your body to produce more collagen and elastin are banana, lime, red onion, scallion, lemon, garlic, shallot, avocado, sweet potatoes, almonds, quinoa, and salmon. There are many others as well.
Finally, taking a collagen supplement can be beneficial on several levels. Collagen products are commonly sourced from cows and pigs. They are almost pure protein and provide the body with the amino acids it needs to synthesize its connective tissue proteins. Pure gelatin and quality bone broth products also supply these important nutrients.
Resistance Training Lifting weights helps to build muscle mass and strength. Increasing muscle mass is one way to secondarily keep the skin taut and firm. When the muscles atrophy, or shrink, the skin is left unsupported much in the way it is when a person loses a large amount of fat mass. Along with various other proven benefits of regular exercise, performing resistance training regularly can help the body and face skin laxity from developing. Any form of exercise that is performed regularly is also a great choice for maintaining the health of the skin and other organs.
Facial Exercises Although numerous sources claim facial exercises and facial yoga will help keep the face defined and sculpted, there is very little scientific evidence that offers support. While these exercises may help to reduce facial fat stores and improve facial muscle tone, they will do very little to tighten excess sagging skin to any significant degree.
Skincare Products There are hundreds of skin care products available that are marketed for enhancing the skin of the face and helping to create a tighter, more youthful appearance. Some of these products contain man-made versions of collagen and elastin but the molecules are not well-absorbed into the epidermis.
Other products are claimed to activate fibroblasts in the dermis that are responsible for collagen and elastin synthesis. While some of these products may be somewhat helpful for tightening facial skin that is only mildly loose, they will likely not be effective for extreme skin drooping.
If you are in the market for skin tightening products, then look for those that contain substances like retinol (vitamin A) or other anti-aging retinoid compounds like tretinoin which has been shown to reduce early skin aging, loss of elasticity, and loss of pigmentation.
It is important to remember that increasing the production of collagen and elastin is an inside-the-body job, not something that can currently be effectively accomplished via application of skin creams or ointments. Healthy food choices and regular exercise remain the best natural defenses for facial skin laxity.
Aging, a poor diet, dehydration, extreme weight loss, loss of muscle tissue, fat tissue drooping, genetics, and the effects of gravity all contribute to the breakdown of collagen and elastin in the skin. This can cause the skin of the face and body to sag and droop, which often has a profoundly negative effect on a person’s self-image and desire to socialize with others.
There are various non-surgical products, techniques, and procedures used to tighten loose skin and make it appear more attractive. However, most of these are not effective enough to benefit those with severe facial skin laxity. In such cases, surgical intervention is often recommended.
Before undergoing a facelift, thread lift, or other types of rhytidectomy, it is good to exhaust other non-invasive treatment options. Many people can postpone having invasive surgery for a decade or longer by using alternative treatment options like chemical peels, laser resurfacing, or microneedling.
If you have loose skin on your face or neck that causes you constant concern or a low self-image, then discuss corrective options with your doctor. You may find a treatment option that can restore a more youthful appearance and help you to have a higher quality of life.