As you gain and lose weight, your skin adjusts. Losing a large amount of weight quickly can cause leftover skin that hangs. After all, the skin was stretched to fit a larger body size.

Loose skin can leave you feeling uncomfortable with your body. It can also cause medical issues if you have a large amount.

The cause of loose skin depends on several different factors, including:

  • your age
  • how long you’ve been overweight
  • genetics

The main causes of loose skin are the amount of weight lost, and the individual person’s response (genetics of skin elasticity). 

Generally, people with a lot of loose skin will require some type of surgical intervention to greatly reduce it. For example, you might consider surgery if you’ve lost 100 pounds or more and have kept it off for a while.

But you may be able to improve how you look and feel on your own. Here are six steps to help you avoid or get rid of loose skin.

1. Lose weight gradually

If you have a significant amount of weigh to lose, go slowly. When you lose small amounts of weight slowly over time, your body will have more time to adjust.

“The slower you lose weight (within reason, of course), the better looking your body will be after weight reduction,” says Dr. Philip Caravella, a weight loss and fitness expert in St. Augustine, Florida. “When you take one to two years to achieve the weight that you desire, you won’t likely have hanging or sagging skin because your body has the time to 'shrink' your skin back into an ideal look. No surgery after the weight reduction will be required for most people to achieve their 'perfect' look."

2. Drink water

Staying hydrated has many health benefits, including helping you maintain healthy skin.

“The less hydrated you are, the less elasticity your skin will have,” says Brandon Mentore, a strength and conditioning coach.

3. Eat clean

Your diet has a lot to do with your overall look and feel. Maintaining a healthy balance will help you keep the weight off and thus reduce the chance of saggy skin when losing weight. Eating foods that are rich with vitamins and minerals will help nourish your body, including your skin.

Concentrate on eating:

  • fresh vegetables
  • fruits
  • whole-grain foods
  • lean meats (chicken, fish, lean beef, some pork)

“Avoid processed meats. They are dangerous on many levels," says Dr. Caravella.

Developing healthy habits will also prevent yo-yo dieting, which can lead to more weight gain, and more chances of stretching your skin.

4. Stay active

Regular exercise also plays a major role in keeping your body and skin healthy. If you use diet and exercise to lose weight gradually, you’re more likely to maintain the weight loss over time than if you rely on fad diets. Choose activities that you’ll enjoy and stick to.

5. Strength train

One of the best ways to get rid of loose skin is to add muscle. Strength training helps your body build muscle. It involves using resistance against the muscle to increase mass, using things like free weights, doing bodyweight exercises like pushups, and/or using resistance bands.

“Resistance exercise will fill in the area below the stretched skin, and will improve the appearance,” says Dr. Ziltzer.

The added muscle will also help your body to burn more calories, boost your metabolism, and make you look more toned.

6. Moisturize

Taking good care of your skin will help it to maintain some of its elasticity. Use a gentle moisturizing cream with vitamin E. Regular moisturizing helps skin to stay healthy and looking young.

The takeaway

If you’ve lost a significant amount of weight, talk to your doctor about ways to get rid of loose skin safely. They may be able to recommend other natural treatment options, or discuss next steps if you’re interested in surgical intervention.