One of the few negative things about weight loss is that some people are left with focal areas of saggy skin. Not only is this skin unsightly, but it can create hygiene issues and physical discomfort. Even minor weight loss can result in lumpy, less resilient skin that is prone to cellulite. Larger amounts of weight loss can leave some people with excessive amounts of hanging, sagging skin; which can be prone to skin irritation and even infection or chronic inflammation. Some people find their abdominal skin is so loose that it appears more like an alien landscape than the body they have come to know. It just doesn’t feel like “you”.
It used to be that you had two options on dealing with it – you could live with it or you could get it surgically removed. Well, I am here to tell you that there is a lot that can be done, and if you are still in process with your weight loss journey, there is even more we can do to minimize those dreaded bingo wings and abdominal aprons (pannus).
I remember looking at my own abdomen shortly after my second child was born, and thinking “when did I become a shar pei?” You can be ecstatic about accomplishing your weight loss goals but feel demoralized every time you look in the mirror. It is not fun, and has to be the least sexy feeling in the world! So this is what I did, and this is what I recommend to my patients and clients:
Wrinkles and skin folds are cute on babies and dogs. On us, not so much!2
First, never under estimate the power of DRY BRUSHING. Dry Brushing is a technique involving a dry brush (shocking, I know!) where you make long sweeping passes lightly over your skin. Always moving towards your lymph nodes and heart.
Arrows indicate the direction of your passes with the dry brush1
I recommend that you start with your feet and work up towards your waist, then move to your hands and brush towards your heart, finishing with your neck and torso – also directing all brush strokes towards the heart. Remember, always use a dry brush, and do this before your shower so you wash off any toxins that you release. Some people chose to purchase two brushes for this task, one a small brush that straps to the palm of your hand, and the other, a similar brush attached to a stick to make reaching inaccessible areas easier.
So how does this work, well, first we need to remember that your skin is your largest organ, and is occasionally referred to as your third kidney because it eliminates approximately a pound of toxins per day, mostly through your sweat glands. In addition, over 33% of your blood supply is directed to your skin but it is one of the last areas to receive nutrients, so it is subject to showing signs of deficiency. The skin closely interacts with the lymphatic system, another powerful system of detoxification.
ü Dry brushing stimulates lymphatic drainage and the elimination of toxins
ü It encourages circulation and revascularization of hypoxic tissues
ü By increasing blood flow, it encourages nerve conduction and wound healing
ü It stimulates your immune system
ü It stimulates the production of collagen and elastin, thus tightening skin that has lost some of its elasticity
ü It removes layers of dead skin and encourages the growth of new skin cells
ü It improves skin texture and reduces signs of cellulite
ü It stimulates hormone production and oil gland secretion
ü It helps with more even distribution of fat deposits
ü It improves nervous system functioning by stimulating nerve ending firing and receptors in the skin
ü It is invigorating
ü It is quick and inexpensive
Tips – use a light touch on thinner areas of skin, and a stronger touch on thicker areas of skin (like the abdomen, legs, and feet). It should not hurt, but it should feel invigorating. Do 8 to 10 strokes on each area before moving on. When you first get started with dry brushing, you may only be able to tolerate a few minutes of it. Once established though, it should take 10-15 minutes to cover your entire body. Do not brush moist skin as you can cause micro tears in the outer layer of skin. If you can dry brush during your weight loss journey, then you may avoid loose skin all together. If you have stubborn areas, like under the arms, love handles, or a pannus, – you can spend extra time brushing them to stimulate the skin. If you have areas that are especially sensitive to the dry brushing, you can avoid them for the time being, the same can be said for damaged or wounded skin. Never dry brush skin wounds or infections. Always shower after dry brushing, and if you can end your shower with 15 seconds or so of cold water, that will further stimulate the skin. I recommend dry brushing 6 days per week, and using a salt or mineral scrub on the 7th day. This gives your body a break to further detoxify and regenerate. After your shower, massage a high grade plant oil (olive, coconut, almond, flax, sesame, avocado, castor oil with essential oils, etc.)
Other things you can do now to avoid your outer shar pei and encourage skin tightening:
1. Limit sun exposure. Avoid sunburns and tanning beds.
2. Get a massage. Massage therapy stimulates circulation, and can release pockets of inflammation.
3. Keep hydrated! Another reason for you to be drinking that water.
4. Increase your consumption of raw foods. Raw foods contain enzymes that promote immune function and digestion, and decrease inflammation.
5. Consume high quality protein. Your body needs high quality protein to replace and repair its own supply. Collagen and elastin both require protein building blocks.
6. Make sure to wash chlorine from skin after swimming. Avoid putting chemicals or artificial creams or moisturizers on your skin.
7. Use alcohol in moderation. Alcohol can severely impact collagen synthesis.
8. Use seaweed or other ‘wraps’ to help tone the skin
9. Take at least 1 Epsom salt bath per week to pull toxins and to increase your serum levels of magnesium (at least 2 cups of Epsom salts in a bath for at least 20 minutes)
10. Use an abdominal or sports wrap on areas you tend to be losing too quickly from so that the skin remains compressed.
11. Avoid cigarette smoke at all cost!
Healthy skin requires normal levels of collagen and elastin. Dry brushing will encourage the production of these, but supplementation is likely necessary.
Vitamin C is the backbone of collagen formation. 500-3000 mg per day is the average daily requirement range. If you are losing weight quickly or already have lose skin, you will require doses towards the higher end of the spectrum.
Magnesium is required for hyaluronic acid production (the gel-like substance that is found in skin, joints, and soft tissue). It is also required for over 200 different biochemical processes in the body.
Omega 3 fatty acids support the fatty membrane structure of all cells and improve skin repair and turn over.
Lysine, argenine, glycine, and proline – amino acids necessary for collagen and elastin production. Glycine also plays a role in blood glucose regulation, muscle repair, digestion, and glutathione production. You can supplement with these individually or use a broad spectrum amino acid containing supplement like whey protein to get in all of the amino acids.
Bone Broth – One of the traditional foods that is rarely found in the modern diet, it has been suggested that a lack of bone broth (and its associated minerals, gelatin, and collagen) is one of the major reasons why arthritis is so prevalent now. Minerals found in bone broth are highly absorbable, far more than from most dietary supplements. If you make your own bone broth (which I highly recommend) roast your bones first, then gently boil them with your cut vegetables and 2 tbsp of apple cider vinegar to help make the minerals more absorbable. You know you’ve made a great bone broth when you refrigerate it and find a thick layer of gel on it. When you cook meat, try cooking it on the bone for additional collagen and proteoaminoglycans.
Green tea – a potent source of catechins, which help with collagen and elastin production. Enjoy a few cups of green tea each week to reap its benefits.
Taking these steps will make a marked improvement in your skin. Now some people will always be candidates for surgery, but I always recommend using natural methods first, because once you cut, there is no going back. If you can do these while you are undergoing your weight loss, your skin will tighten at nearly the same rate as your fat loss – thus likely preventing sagginess to begin with. What do you have to lose other than those bingo wings?!
Edited to add: I’ve had several requests for me to show what a dry brush looks like: http://www.amazon.com/Tampico-Approx-Inches-Yerba-Prima/dp/B008MONZFI/ref=sr_1_4?s=beauty&ie=UTF8&qid=1386109118&sr=1-4&keywords=skin+brush
Copyright (c) 2013 Miranda Jorgenson. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed in whole or part with out the express written permission of the author. You are welcome to share this link or print this page and use in its entirely.
1. Drybrush picture. Retrieved 12/3/2013 from http://mayamoonhealingarts.com/dry-skin-brushing/
2. Shar pei. Source: imgfave.com via DoanPhuong on Pinterest, Retrieved 12/3/2012 from http://www.gracielushihtzu.com/baby-shair-pei
3. Pannus. Retrieved 12/3/2013 from: http://www.eplasty.com/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=627&catid=173:volume-12-eplasty-2012&Itemid=121