How to tighten skin? Why does the skin lose its elasticity?
As we hit our thirties, our skin goes through changes due to various factors, from normal aging to harsh weather conditions. In this article, you’re going to learn the different causes of skin sagging and how to tighten your skin using medical and home treatments.
Why Does Your Skin Lose Its Elasticity?
Our skin begins to age by our mid-20s, but it’s only by our mid-30s that the initial signs become visible. During the normal aging process, the production of collagen, the protein that gives the skin its strength, starts to slow. Elastin, which allows the skin to stretch and snap back into its original shape, becomes less springy and could even break. And the fats under our eyes, cheeks, chin, temples, and nose start to diminish, too, giving us that gaunt look.
Extra loose skin in the different areas of the body, especially around the stomach and under the arms and legs, is common among people who lost a lot of weight fast. Why does this happen?
When you gain weight, your skin tries to accommodate the fatty tissue buildup by stretching. But when you burn off too much body fat fast, the elastic components in your skin’s second layer (dermis) and last layer (subdermis) are unable to recover their elasticity fast enough to fit your new figure. These layers would eventually adjust, but that would take at least one to two years to happen.
Smoking and Secondhand Smoke
One cigarette contains thousands of chemicals that could potentially destroy the collagen and elastin components of your skin. Even secondhand smoke could have the same negative effect on your skin.
Cigarette smoke triggers oxidative stress, which leads to low supply of oxygen to your skin (tissue ischemia) and closing of your blood vessels. (Oxidative stress happens when there’s an imbalance between the production of free radicals and your body’s ability to neutralize their harmful effects.) This in turn causes a group of enzymes called metalloproteinases to break down collagen, causing deeper wrinkles and loose skin.
There’s no exact explanation on how smoking triggers premature skin aging. However, DermNet New Zealand offers these theories:
- The heat coming from the cigarette burns the skin.
- There are alterations to the elastic fibers of the skin.
- There’s an insufficient blood supply to the skin because of constricted blood vessels, which triggers changes in your elastin and loss of collagen.
- The skin doesn’t retain sufficient moisture.
- There are low levels of vitamin A.
Women in the U.S. usually have their menopause between the ages 48 and 55, according to the data provided by eMedicineHealth. Menopause is a normal body process that happens when a woman’s ovaries stop producing eggs and there’s a decline in the female hormones (progesterone and estrogen). In some cases, menopause is due to surgical removal of the ovaries, cancer treatments, and certain diseases.
Menopause can produce different unpleasant effects, including on the skin. It could cause wrinkles, thinning, and sagging due to low levels of estrogen in the blood.
The estrogen hormone is responsible for stimulating the dumping of fat over the female body. So when its production starts to decline during menopause, the body reallocates the fat to other parts of the body, like the buttocks, thighs, and/or abdomen. And the fat under the neck, face, hands, and arms is gone, causing wrinkles and sagging to appear.
Disorders or Diseases
A good example is diabetes. People who have this disease often suffer from different skin problems, including brittle and dry skin that leads to sagging and wrinkles.
The culprit is the high amounts of sugar in the blood. Sugar damages the skin by chemically bonding with proteins to form “advanced glycation end products” (AGEs), a group of proteins or lipids (fats) that contributes to the destruction of skin collagen and elastin.
Rare disorders could also cause loose skin. Cutis laxa and Ehlers-Danlos syndromes are two examples. Cutis laxa is a general medical term for a group of skin disorders that cause skin to sag and become inelastic, giving that loose, folded appearance. Meanwhile, people with Ehlers-Danlos syndromes may experience loose joints, fragile skin that’s prone to bruising and tearing, severe scarring, hyperelastic skin, and poor wound healing.
Exposure to Harsh Weather
Everyday, the skin is exposed to harsh weather, environmental pollutants, and chemicals. One of the biggest culprits is the ultraviolet (UV) rays coming from the sun or tanning beds. UV rays can break down the collagen and elastin in the skin over time, causing the skin to sag, wrinkle, and unable to snap back to its original shape. These negative effects may not show up while you’re young, but they will eventually later in your life.
Your skin’s appearance can be a telltale sign of what’s going inside your body. Pale skin, sunlight hypersensitivity, acne, dry skin, and premature skin aging are just some of the signs that your body lacks certain nutrients.
Health specialists say that vitamins and minerals, whether you get them through supplements, food, or topical products, play a crucial role in a healthy complexion. And a lack (or excess) of essential nutrients may significantly alter the structure, function, and appearance of your skin. Vitamins that are great for your skin are vitamins A, B-complex, C, E, and K.
Too much booze can wreck your skin. It makes it dry because of its dehydrating effect. When your skin is dry, you’re more likely to suffer from wrinkles, which make you look older than your age.
And alcohol doesn’t contain any nutrients. What’s worse is it destroys or prevents the absorption of nutrients, which can negatively affect your body function and skin. Alcohol specifically destroys vitamin A and B-complex vitamins–all of which keep your skin healthy.
Staying hydrated is crucial for a healthy skin, nails, and hair. When you’re dehydrated, the fats under your skin become soft and collapsed, resulting to a sagging skin.
There are different ways that our body routinely loses water, such as when we sweat, urinate, breathe, and defecate. Sickness (vomiting and diarrhea), rigorous physical activities, insufficient water intake, and living somewhere with a warmer-than-usual or humid climate could contribute to dehydration.
Aside from skin dryness and poor elasticity, dehydration may also cause the following symptoms:
- Dry mouth
- Extreme thirst
When you’re experiencing constant stress, your body produces excessive amounts of cortisol. This steroid hormone could accelerate the aging process through various ways:
One, it could increase your blood sugar levels, which stimulate glycation in the skin. This then destroys elastin and collagen, which are responsible for making your skin look tight, youthful, and plump.
Second, cortisol could make your skin dry and dull by affecting its ability to hold on to water. As you would notice, dry skin could make someone instantly look a decade older.
Genetics may also play a role in certain changes in your skin as you age. In an interview by the Daily Mail, consultant surgeon Paul Banwell said that as much as 50% of aging may come from your father or mother.
A person’s ethnicity may also be a factor in skin aging. For instance, people with darker skin have higher protection against wrinkles and skin cancer. The downside is they’re more likely to lose fat in their cheeks, have puffy bags under the eyes, and sagging skin under the chin as they age. 
People with fair complexion are more susceptible to the effects of ultraviolet rays of the sun or tanning beds. That’s why their skin shows signs of aging faster.
What Your Doctor Can Do About Sagging Skin (Without Surgery)
Botox uses a toxin called the botulinum toxin that the Clostridium botulinum bacterium produces. In medical setting, doctors use it to treat different types of muscle disorders. Cosmetically, botox helps reduce or remove wrinkles by causing temporary muscle function loss by blocking muscle nerve activity.
Cost: The average cost of botox could be between $350 and $500 per area, according to DocShop.com.
- Flu-like symptoms
- Pain or bruising of the injected area
- Crooked smile
- Dry or watery eyes
- Droopy eyelid
Laser Skin Tightening Treatment
There are different types of laser skin tightening treatments out there, including carbon dioxide (CO2) laser (brand: Fraxel Repair), Infrared Laser Skin Tightening (brand: Titan), and Harmony Pixel Perfect. Most of these treatments work by stimulating collagen production in the second layer of the skin (dermis) and assist in the renewal of damaged skin cells.
Cost: Laser skin tightening treatments can be expensive. The cost will usually depend on the number of sessions and size of the area. According to CostHelper.com, you could pay anywhere between $750 and $7,500 for one to five sessions.
Risks: Laser treatments typically have the same side effects. Since they use heat, there’s a slight possibility that you could suffer from minor burns and skin discoloration.
Ultrasound Skin Tightening
As the term hints, ultrasound skin tightening is a non-invasive procedure that uses ultrasound energy to penetrate the deep layer of your skin (dermis), where collagen and elastin are located. This procedure is able to go as deep as 5mm (millimeters). Laser treatments can’t supposedly reach that deep under the skin.
The perfect candidates for this procedure are those who have mild to moderate skin sagging of the face and neck. Younger people (30 years old and below) can also take advantage of ultrasound skin tightening. As of now, Ultherapy® is the only FDA-approved ultrasound skin tightening procedure.
Cost: This procedure can be expensive. An article published in Today.com says that you could pay around $4,000 to $5,500 on average for a full face and neck session in New York City. The price tends to be lower in other parts of the United States. The good news is one session is usually enough to produce favorable results.
Risks: After the procedure, your skin may swell and become inflamed. However, in most cases, you can immediately return to your normal activities after undergoing this procedure.
Monopolar radiofrequency (RF) treatment doesn’t only tighten the skin, but it can also reduce cellulite and contour the face and body. It works by sending RF energy deep into the second layer of the skin (typically up to 20mm) and fat under the skin. Compared to other types of radiofrequency treatments (bipolar, tripolar, and octipolar), it produces more significant skin-tightening effect because it reaches deeper into the skin.
Cost: One session of monopolar radiofrequency treatment will cost you around $200 to $400, although it could cost as much as $3,500. Ask your doctor if he or she offers discounts for multiple sessions.
Risks: You may temporarily experience swelling, numbness, burning sensation, itching, blisters, tingling, or pitted scarring.
Dermal fillers may contain a soft tissue, biodegradable hyaluronic acid gel, calcium hydroxylapatite, collagen, or PMMA (polymethyl-methacrylate). Practitioners use these FDA-approved medical device implants to smooth wrinkles, plump the lips, and fill out hollow areas of the face to reduce the signs of aging. Some of the popular dermal filler brands are Juvederm, Restylane, and Sculptra.
Cost: The price will normally depend on the type of dermal filler you use. The American Society of Plastic Surgeons suggests that dermal fillers could cost between $613 and $1,821. Health insurance plans don’t include dermal fillers, but plastic surgeons may have financing plans available for their patients. Make sure to ask.
Risks: Dermal fillers don’t usually cause any serious side effects, but they may cause bruising, swelling, tiny bumps, and redness at the injection site.
How To Tighten Your Skin At Home
Fill your plate with skin-friendly foods
What you eat (or don’t eat) affects your skin, so choose wisely. You can never go wrong with fruits and vegetables that are rich in vitamin C and protein-rich foods. These nutrients naturally boost collagen production for a more youthful and glowing skin.
- Red peppers
- Cottage cheese
- Chicken breast
- Fish and seafood
On the other hand, there are also foods that could make you look older than you are. Make sure to avoid the following:
- Salty foods
- Trans fats
- Processed meats
- Fried food
- Charred meat
- Artificial sweetener
- Sodas and juices
- Caffeinated drinks
Firming creams and moisturizers may help
Do firming creams work? Opinions completely vary. Steve Barton, the Scientific Skincare Advisor for Boots, says there are firming creams that offer longer-term effects if you use them for prolonged periods, while others have temporary, quick-fix effects. 
These firming creams work in different ways to improve skin elasticity. They may lift the outer surface of the skin or plump it up to make it appear smooth and tight. Good products use vitamin A (in the form of retinol), AHAs (alpha hydroxy acids), BHAs (beta hydroxy acids), and vitamin C to erase wrinkles and fine lines, improve skin-damaged skin, lighten pigmentations, and shrink pores.
The Dermatology Review recommends checking the following ingredients in the skin firming creams you plan to purchase:
- Coenzyme Q10 (CoQ10)
- Green tea
- Vitamins A, C, and E
- Natural ingredients, like fruit extracts and Wakame seaweed
- SPF protection of at least 15
Take vitamins and minerals that are good for your skin
Just to make it clear: Vitamins and minerals are not the fountain youth. However, they may help prevent premature aging and enhance the overall health of your skin.
Some of the most important vitamins for skin health are vitamins A, C, K, and E. These vitamins hep you achieve a more youthful look by increasing the production of collagen and/or prevent its further destruction to preserve skin elasticity, neutralize free radicals, and protect the skin from the negative effects of sunlight.
Manage overwhelming stress
Chronic and unmanaged stress is bad for your skin. That’s why it’s important to find good ways to deal with it before it causes more damage to your skin and overall health. Here are some tips to prevent or manage stress:
- Express what you’re thinking and feeling. Bottling up your emotions is bad for your mental and physical health. It could cause hormonal imbalance, which in turn could lead to weight gain and different skin problems.
- Learn to say no to more responsibilities. If you already have too much on your plate, assign unimportant tasks to other people to prevent burnout.
- If you feel you’re burning out, take forced breaks. You could also take a short vacation every weekend just to refresh your mind and body.
- Take time to laugh. It’s an effective stress-relief medicine. A study shows that immersing yourself in positive experiences that make you laugh can potentially reduce harmful stress hormones.
- Perfectionism is a good source of unnecessary stress, so learn to settle for “good enough.”
- Let’s face it. You can’t control every situation or people, so change how you think and deal with toxic people and situations.
- Don’t exchange in hot-button conversations.
Get enough sleep every night
Most experts recommend getting 7 to 9 hours of sleep every night. To have better sleep every night, take note of the following tips:
- Avoid using blue lights because they can disrupt your normal sleeping pattern. Eletronic gadgets (smartphone and tablets), LED light bulbs, and compact fluorescent light bulbs emit blue light.
- Sleep and wake up at the same time every day, regardless if you get your 7 to 9 hours of sleep. By restricting your time in bed, you’re boosting your desire to sleep or remain sleeping. This technique is usually effective for people suffering from insomnia.
- If you can’t sleep, eat a high-carb meal 4 hours before your bedtime. According to a research, carb-rich foods are effective in making people sleepy. 
- Have a warm bath at least an hour before you plan to sleep.
Avoid excessive sun exposure
Your skin normally can combat the effects of free radicals, but bathing under the sun for too long may overwhelm its defenses. This may lead to permanent damage or worse, skin cancer. If you have to be outdoors, make sure to wear sunscreen with high SPF protection.
Drink green tea for a healthy skin
Green tea offers many benefits for your skin. For instance, it could reduce wrinkles caused by excessive sun exposure because of it contains selenium. A study also shows that drinking at least 2 cups of green tea daily can lower a person’s risk for skin cancer by up to 65%. 
Drink enough fluids daily to prevent dehydration
The common recommendation is to drink 6 to 8 glasses of water each day. But, this could change depending on your activity level, gender, and health status.
Water is always the best choice to keep your body hydrated because it has no sugar and calories. If you can’t stand the taste of plain water, you can drink natural fruit juices (lemonade), sports drinks, and coffee. Just make sure to stay away from sugary beverages because they can cause insulin spikes that could lead to inflammation, which destroys collagen and elastin. This then results to skin sagging and wrinkles.
Tightening the skin is a tricky process. Home remedies and medical treatments can help, but their effect is often temporary. Make sure to weigh the pros and cons before undergoing any medical procedure for skin tightening.
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