Our largest organ — the skin — can do crazy things when we’re pregnant. From stretch marks, to varicose veins, to acne, to spider veins, the list goes on.

Most of these problems disappear after delivery. Unfortunately, there’s still weight gain and loose skin to deal with.

Made of collagen and elastin, our skin expands when we gain weight. It has a hard time returning to the shape it once was.

Here are some tips for dealing with that hanging dermis, also known as loose skin.

What Happens to My Skin Postpartum?

Months after having your baby, you’ve found a new normal. Things may be settling down, and you’ve started to sleep, eat healthy, and exercise.

But lingering from pregnancy is something you don’t know how to fix: extra skin. You might see it in the belly, on the hips, or on your backside. You might only notice it in the shower, or when those favorite jeans don’t fit quite right. Maybe you’ve lost the weight and tightening that skin is what you need help with.

Loose skin can be emotionally frustrating for women who want their bodies to go back to how they were prepregnancy. But it’s important to remember that this can take time.

Your body just did an amazing thing by giving birth, so try to go easy on yourself.

What Are the Best Ways to Shape up Postpartum?

  • Lose weight slowly. Gradually losing that pregnancy weight gives your skin more time to recover and regain elasticity. Lose it too fast and the skin doesn’t have time to react.
  • Exercise. One of the best ways to regain that shape is to move your body, build muscle, and sweat. Exercise can help prevent or minimize excess skin.

Certain forms of exercise are better if you are overweight. Start slowly and gradually increase your workload as your fitness level improves. Add strength training workouts to shape and tone the muscles.

Flexibility exercises will keep your joints limber and comfortable. If you're short on time, combine into a circuit style workout to make your sessions more efficient.

What Types of Exercise Should I Try?

  • Walking. Start with 20 minutes, three to five days a week. Cardio can help burn fat.
  • Strength training. Situps and pushups are always go-to gut busters, but Pilates, yoga, and barre classes include moves like planks that force you to tighten your core, hip, and glute muscles for extended periods of time. This improves muscle tone, tightening, and lengthens you out.

Be sure to get your doctor’s approval before exercising postpartum. Always let an instructor or trainer know that you recently gave birth. There may be certain moves you need to avoid.

Other Ways to Firm up Your Skin

Eat Protein

Build muscle by eating healthy proteins and fats. Protein can also contain collagen. Your protein intake varies by how much exercise you do as well as your height and weight. You might need more protein if you are breast-feeding.

Water

Water helps hydrate the skin and make it more elastic. Your body is more efficient with more water, too. It can burn fat more easily and reduce water retention in your belly.

Essential Oils

Try castor oil mixed with peppermint or lavender oil, or lemon juice. Rub directly on loose skin at night. It might help tighten skin.

Almond oil can also help with stretch marks. Try rubbing essential oils like lavender or grape seed oil along the tummy line to help tighten the skin.

Skin-Firming Products

These are designed to increase the collagen and elastin in your skin.

Massage

This one just feels good. It can also get the blood flowing to certain areas.

Spa Wrap

Some women prefer spa wraps for a special occasion. They can help with skin firming, but only temporarily. You might see powdered kelp, sea salt, or clay in a spa wrap. These help detoxify, soften, and tighten the skin.

Exfoliate

A fancy salt or sugar scrub, or a brush or rough cloth, can help increase blood flow to different areas. This can lead to more elastic and healthy skin.

What to Avoid

Wear sunscreen when you go outside and avoid the tanning bed — it can dry out and harm your skin.

Also avoid sulfates. If your soap creates a super lather but has this ingredient, change how you clean. Sulfates can dry out and irritate skin.

Should I Get Elective Surgery?

Abdominoplasty, or tummy tuck surgery, is an option to tighten muscles and remove excess skin. But it is not a substitute for losing weight or an exercise program. Be sure to talk to your doctor about your options.

The average cost of a tummy tuck is about $5,500, according to the American Society of Plastic Surgeons (ASPS). That fee does not include anesthesia, operating room facilities, or other related expenses. While most health insurance does not cover this surgery, many plastic surgeons offer patients financing plans.

If you do elect surgery, the ASPS recommends finding a board-certified plastic surgeon in your area. Make sure you feel comfortable with them and ask for referrals.