How did I get this extra skin, and how can I get rid of it?

Ever looked in the mirror and ask, “How did this happen?”

April 29, 2021

4 min read

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Have you ever looked at the skin on your belly and wondered just what happened? How did you end up with this loose, sagging skin right in the one place you don’t want it? Let’s take a closer look at your skin, and what could have caused it to end up looking that way.

Let’s talk about skin

Your skin is actually your body’s largest organ. It covers you from head to toe to keep you safe from the outside world. It is composed of different layers, the epidermis, dermis, and the subcutaneous layer. 

Your epidermis is the outermost layer of your skin, and it’s what keeps you protected from foreign materials, bacteria, and viruses that could make you sick. Your dermis lies below that, it’s a thicker layer that contains collagen and it’s where your skin’s elasticity is found. As you get older, and your skin gets stretched out, you skin loses that elasticity. Your subcutaneous layer is the deepest, and it anchors your skin to the underlying fat and other tissues of your body. Have you ever heard the term “subcutaneous fat”? That literally means fat under the skin.

So what happened? Where did all this loose belly skin come from?

Pressure against your abdominal wall causes the wall to be pushed out. The skin over your abdominal wall is stretched out to accommodate the structures pressing against it.1

Your skin does have a certain amount of elasticity, so a little stretching might not cause it to loosen and droop. However, after being stretched beyond a certain point, it loses that elasticity and can no longer “bounce back.”

Think of it like blowing up a balloon. Balloons have a lot elasticity, and they can be blown up to a much larger size than they originally start out at. But if you’ve blown up a balloon and then let out the air, it doesn’t always return to its original size, and it can be wrinkly or uneven. That’s what happens with your skin.

Why did my skin stretch so much?

Pregnancy and childbirth

When you’re pregnant, your body goes through several changes to accommodate the growing baby. That includes shifting your internal organs and pressing against your abdominal to force it to start expanding. As this happens, your skin is being stretched and stretched. Once your baby is delivered, your skin is still stretched out past the point that it can “bounce back.”

Major weight gain and loss

Gaining even a moderate amount of weight can cause your skin to stretch out, but that doesn’t mean that it completely loses its elasticity. Your skin might be able to return to its original appearance following moderate weight gain and weight loss.

Gaining an excessive amount of weight can cause your skin to stretch out past the limits of its elasticity. This can happen in areas where your body tends to store the most fat – your belly, hips, thighs, and buttocks. If you lose the weight, the fat will be gone, but that skin has lost much of its elasticity.2

How do I know if loose skin is my problem?

Take a look at yourself in the mirror, and see if your skin looks loose or saggy. Are there stretch marks on your belly? Does your skin hang over the waistband of your underwear or pants? Do you have to size up in pants to cover and hide your loose skin? In extreme cases, you might even experience rashes from the constant friction of your skin rubbing against itself or trapping moisture.

What Won’t Help

You might be tempted to try some at-home solutions to help the loose skin problem, but, unfortunately, these none of these methods do much to help.

Diet Won’t Work

Eating a healthy and balanced diet is important for your overall health, but it can’t tighten your loose and saggy skin. In fact, dieting and losing more weight can make your skin even looser.

Exercise Doesn’t Work

Exercise, like a healthy diet, is important to your overall well-being. It’ll strengthen your muscles and help you lose fat, but your skin will still be loose.

Topical Creams Don’t Work

Unfortunately, a topical cream won’t help get rid of your extra skin either. Creams can help moisturize your skin, but they can’t tighten skin that has lost its elasticity.

What Will Work

The only way to remove extra, loose skin is with surgical removal.

Tummy tuck, also called an abdominoplasty

A tummy tuck will remove extra skin and fat around your belly, and can also repair a condition called diastasis recti.

When you get a tummy tuck, your plastic surgeon will create a low incision that can be hidden beneath most underwear and swimsuits. The skin and fat of your belly will be lifted away from the underlying muscle, and a muscle repair will be done to bring your abdominal muscles together. After that, your extra skin and fat is removed, and your remaining abdominal skin is redraped, a new opening is created for your belly button, and all your incisions are stitched shut.3

You’ll be left with a tummy that is flatter and narrower. Your loose skin will be gone, and some of your stretch marks might even be removed.

So how do you get rid of that skin?

If you’re self-conscious about the appearance of your loose skin on your belly, you should schedule an appointment with a plastic surgeon to learn more about getting a tummy tuck. If you are concerned about having pain, it’s good to know that we now have excellent ways to minimize pain after surgery. If you are concerned about scarring, there are new ways to improve and hide incisions. Nothing does what a tummy tuck does to improve the look of your tummy!

  1. Gutowski, Karol A. “Evidence-Based Medicine: Abdominoplasty.” Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery 141, no. 2 (2018): 286e-299e.
  2. Gusenoff, Jeffrey A., and J. Peter Rubin. “Plastic surgery after weight loss: current concepts in massive weight loss surgery.” Aesthetic Surgery Journal 28, no. 4 (2008): 452-455
  3. Gutowski, Karol A. “Evidence-Based Medicine: Abdominoplasty.” Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery 141, no. 2 (2018): 286e-299e.

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