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How to Tell the Difference Between Fat and Loose Skin?

Anthony Diaz
Published by Anthony Diaz
Fact checked by Donald Christman, BHSc FACT CHECKED
Last updated: July 22, 2022

When you lose weight rapidly, you are left with excess skin that is sagging and unsightly, giving you the appearance of having excess fat in the wrong places on your body.

I worked directly with some fitness trainers and their immediate clients to understand everything about loose skin vs. fat.

In this article, I will share the differences between loose skin and fat, the causes of loose skin, and ways to avoid and tighten loose excess skin.

Quick Summary

  • Loose skin can be caused by several factors such as weight loss, pregnancy, illness, and smoking
  • Factors such as age, genetics, and duration of time you've had excess fat influence skin elasticity loss
  • Loose skin can be tightened through exercise, supplements, and radiofrequency treatment

Difference Between Loose Skin And Fat

Loose Skin

Loose skin is the excess skin that remains after significant weight loss or pregnancy while fat is a layer sitting beneath the skin throughout the body.

Another simple difference between loose skin and fat is that pinching loose skin is possible, whereas it is impossible to grab or squeeze fat.

Also, loose skin is wrinkled while that layer of persistent excess fat on your skin is droopy.

Most loose skin that follows weight reduction is just excess subcutaneous body fat covered by skin because you may still have fat hanging around your body after reaching your target body weight.

Subcutaneous fat is sometimes known as "soft fat," and it is readily mistaken for normal skin. Because subcutaneous fat is so persistent, it might take a while to disappear after weight loss.

Related Article: Soft Vs Hard Fat

4 Causes Of Loose Skin

Loose skin of different person

Saggy skin can be caused by several factors, such as:

1. Weight Loss

Carrying additional body weight caused by stubborn fat deposits might harm your skin's elastin and collagen fibers, making it more difficult for your skin to tighten up after losing weight.

Huge chunks of sagging skin may form if you shed 100 or more pounds [1].

If you undergo a drastic weight loss procedure such as weight loss surgery, tummy tuck, or body contouring surgery in some instances, these techniques may result in excessive loose skin hanging off the body.

The same rule applies if you’ve lost weight fast.

"Losing weight quickly denies our skin enough time to contract and get firm, and this causes the saggy, hanging skin."

- Jordan Jacobs, MD

Because younger skin recovers more quickly, your age at the onset of weight reduction can also influence how saggy your skin gets.

2. Pregnancy

After pregnancy, it is typical to have sagging, loose skin. Women with multiples, like twins and triplets, may have more loose skin around the belly than those carrying one baby.

Maternal age could also be a contributing factor.

3. Illness

Showing a loose skin

Loose skin is associated with a few medical problems, such as granulomatous loose skin, a relatively unusual form of epidermal T-cell lymphoma [2].

This disorder causes a progressive loosening of the skin of the knees and elbows.

Treatment is usually ineffective for sagging skin induced by this illness and it’s difficult to avoid loose skin if you have a diagnostic history of granulomatous.

4. Smoking

Cigarette use can cause accelerated aging. Smoking can constrict the circulatory system in the skin's outer layer.

As a result, blood circulation in your skin is disturbed, resulting in fewer nutrients and oxygen reaching your skin cells.

When you lack natural nutrition, your skin cells die, limiting your body's creation of elastin and collagen.

Factors That Affect Skin Elasticity Loss

An oversized woman model smiling

Several factors lead to loose skin after weight reduction, including:

  • Duration: The longer you remain overweight or obese, the saggier your skin will become after major weight loss, owing to collagen and elastin loss [3].
  • Significant amount of lost pounds: Losing more pounds of weight is associated with more sagging skin than when you reduce fewer pounds.
  • Age: Elderly skin has fewer collagen fibers than youth skin and is looser after losing weight.
  • Genetics: Your genetic makeup may influence how your skin reacts to weight growth and loss.

3 Ways To Tighten Your Loose Skin After Losing Weight

Partners working out in the gym

Luckily, almost everybody can get rid of loose skin and fat easily, provided that their overall health permits it. Here’s how.

1. Exercise

Gaining muscle mass can help improve your general appearance and reduce loose skin. Physical activity can improve your self-esteem, which might help reduce any self-conscious feelings about loose skin and excess abdominal fat.

2. Supplements

Skin proteins such as collagen supplements can help with weight reduction, and it helps with maintaining skin tightness and elasticity. The use of collagen can help boost collagen formation in the skin [4], aiding in firming and hydration of the loose extra skin. It would be best if you got a collagen supplement that comes in tablet or powder form.

3. Radiofrequency Treatment

Getting a radiofrequency treatment

Radiofrequency (RF) therapy is a non-surgical method of treating loose skin and is also used for body sculpting [5].

It stimulates collagen formation using heat from a high-frequency alternating current.

RF therapy has grown in popularity as it leaves no scars and no downtime. In addition, you may show improvement in skin color and firmness.

However, since the treatment is becoming well known, it does not mean you should look for one now.

Before deciding on the therapy, you should first consult an expert in the field and select a qualified practitioner who uses an FDA-approved device.

FAQs

Does Fat Loose Skin Go Away?

Fat loose skin can go away when you use the proper remedies, including topical creams that boost collagen production, paired with physical exercise (strength training and high-intensity activities) or even cosmetic procedures.

Why Do I Have Loose Skin After Weight Loss?

You have loose skin after weight loss because most of the loose skin that follows weight reduction is extra visceral fat that is covered by skin.

What Exercise Tightens Loose Skin?

Exercise like crunches, pushups, sumo squats, and reverse lunges can help tighten loose skin.

What Are the Signs of Losing Belly Fat?

Signs of losing belly fat include being hungry all the time, clothes fitting differently, and abs showing through.

What's The Difference Between Belly Fat And Loose Skin?

The difference between belly fat and loose skin is that loose skin is wrinkled and can be pinched while belly fat is subcutaneous fat cells around your stomach that are more than an inch.

Is It Fat or Loose Skin?

If you’ve been overweight or obese for a long time, your skin will be looser after losing weight because it will lose its collagen and elastin fibers.

Collagen supplement and radiofrequency therapy can help boost collagen formation in the skin, tightening it to give you healthy skin.

If you're looking for an easier way to get your loose skin to snap back faster, check out our list of the best collagen supplements, guaranteed to speed up cell turnover, leading to a dramatic improvement in your skin’s appearance.


References:

  1. https://www.nbcnews.com/health/health-news/after-huge-weight-loss-sagging-skin-remains
  2. https://rarediseases.org/rare-diseases/cutaneous-t-cell-lymphomas/ 
  3. https://www.healthline.com/health/skin/saggy-skin
  4. https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/326536
  5. https://www.webmd.com/beauty/what-is-radiofrequency-skin-tightening#

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