How to Tighten Loose Skin: Causes, Remedies, and An Unconventional Approach
Loose skin, along with wrinkles and sunspots, is one of the main reasons people spend money—a lot of money—on skincare products. If you’re interested in a better solution and have wondered whether red light therapy tightens loose skin, the answer is yes, it does. And, you'll get results without the side effects of creams or the expense and risks of plastic surgery.
Just how much money goes to skin health every year? To find that out, the global e-commerce marketplace, Groupon, conducted a survey of 2,000 American men and women. The survey revealed that the average person spends about $600 per year on moisturizers and anti-aging skin care products.
When people buy anti-aging products for the face, it is typically because they want to minimize the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles, and firm up sagging skin. In terms of the latter, the results are often disappointing. Most products that claim to result in firmer skin are only partially effective or have fleeting results. But before we get into what works and what doesn’t, we’ll discuss why skin loses elasticity in the first place.
In this post, we’ll cover why skin starts to droop, solutions that work and don’t work, and how red light therapy can be the answer to firmer, more youthful skin.
Causes of Loose Skin
Sagging skin can appear anywhere on the body, with the face and neck, back of the upper arm (tricep), and abdomen being the most typical areas.
The most common cause of sagging skin, says dermatologist Eric Seiger, is simply aging. “As you age, your skin begins to lose its natural elastin and collagen,” he says. Healthy collagen development is one of the primary contributors to plump, youthful skin, so as this production slows down with age, connective tissue becomes weaker and skin looks more tired.”
This is also one main cause of fine lines and wrinkles, whereby the skin is "taught" to stretch in a certain way according to someone's dominant facial expressions. But due to age-related collagen depletion, the skin doesn't bounce back as quickly, which leads to the formation of wrinkles.
Other potential causes of loose skin include:
- Sudden and dramatic weight loss;
- Pregnancy, including postpartum weight loss and hormonal changes;
- Loss of muscle mass, with effects particularly noticeable on the face/neck, and upper arms;
- Heredity: Caucasians tend to develop earlier signs of photoaging than other populations, according to a 2016 study published in the Journal of Clinical and Aesthetic Dermatology;
- Sun exposure: French researchers confirmed that UV exposure appears to be responsible for 80 percent of visible facial aging, including sagging skin;
- Diet: According to researchers at Dartmouth Medical School diets high in sugar damage collagen fibers and prevent them from repairing themselves;
- Smoking, heavy drinking, and other detrimental lifestyle choices;
- Illness or disease;
- Chronic dehydration.
Remedies for Sagging Skin
Whatever the cause, many people who notice their skin starting to sag are often (A) not happy about it, and (B) motivated to find solutions to rectify the sagging problem.
Unfortunately, the quest to rid one’s body of sagging skin leads people to make decisions that often don’t achieve the desired results.
One example is skin tightening creams and serums that contain collagen-boosting ingredients. These can tone and tighten problem areas, but results are temporary.
Products containing retinol, or chemical derivatives of vitamin A, will boost the production of collagen. But they are only effective with continuous, ongoing use, and some individuals are very sensitive to retinol.
A more permanent solution is cosmetic surgery, but it carries risk and can be very expensive.
Health and Lifestyle Changes
Making healthy life choices, such as those included here, is beneficial for innumerable reasons, including helping to firm up sagging skin.
- Avoid drastic dieting; aim to lose no more than one to two pounds per week;
- Exercise daily to improve blood flow, and include resistance training to build muscle;
- Stay hydrated. Although there is no magic formula for how much water you should drink, remember that if you’re thirsty, so are your skin cells;
- Improve your nutrition. Avoid processed foods and sugar, and include plenty of protein-rich foods, leafy greens, and foods that are high in antioxidants like cranberries, blueberries, kale, and pecans;
- Use sunscreen;
- Minimize stress. It releases unhealthy amounts of stress hormones, which prevent the body from performing its normal repair functions;
- Keep alcohol use to a minimum and avoid smoking.
These are healthy and smart lifestyle choices, but they will only be partially effective in helping skin become firmer and more elastic—and that’s where red light therapy comes in. While it will take time for your skin to restore its youthful firmness, you can achieve satisfying results by adding red light therapy to your lifestyle regimen.
How Does Red Light Therapy Work on Loose Skin?
Red light therapy, also known as low-level light therapy (LLLT) or photobiomodulation (PBM), is a popular and highly effective therapeutic treatment. It is used to reduce the signs of aging (including fine lines and wrinkles and age spots), promote wound healing, treat chronic skin conditions, and reduce the appearance of scars, among dozens of other uses.
Red light therapy uses wavelengths of red light that range in length from 630 to 660 nanometers (nm), and near-infrared (NIR) light that ranges from 810nm to 850nm. These wavelengths stimulate beneficial processes at the cellular level—healing from the inside out. That’s why red light therapy is so effective at restoring healthy skin tone and reversing other signs of aging. Here’s how red light can tighten sagging skin.
Increased Cellular Energy
The human body is made up of trillions of cells, all with their own structures and functions. The performance of individual cells directly affects the whole, and restoring normal cellular functioning is the only way to restore optimal health—which includes reversing sagging skin and restoring its firmness and elasticity.
When you wake up tired after a lack of sleep, you can't perform at your best. The same is true of your cells. When they are low on energy, it is referred to as mitochondrial dysfunction: a condition in which the “energy factories” within cells (known as mitochondria) are not producing enough “power” and the cells can't do much more than focus on survival.
Mitochondrial dysfunction can have many causes including chronic inflammation or oxidative stress. Fortunately, red light therapy can reverse this dysfunction and bring your cells’ energy production back to normal.
When red light shines onto your skin, it absorbs into the tissues where it interacts with light-sensitive chromophores in each cell. This interaction stimulates mitochondria to produce adenosine triphosphate (ATP), which is the body’s primary energy source. Whether energy is metabolized through food or light, it ultimately ends up as ATP.
A boost in energy will help cells perform their normal specialized functions, as well as repair and regenerate, at full capacity.
Increased Collagen and Elastin Production
While the entire body can and does benefit from improved cellular energy production, there are a few cells that are particularly responsive to red light.
According to a 2008 research review by Joseph Tafur and Paul Mills of the University of California at San Diego, these cells include:
- Fibroblasts (the cells responsible for collagen synthesis)
- Epithelial cells (the stretchy cells on the surface of the skin; acting as the barrier between you and the environment)
In short, red light therapy is extremely helpful for your skin cells, especially the cells that produce collagen and keep your skin firm and smooth.
Collagen, a protein that makes up about 80 percent of the skin, provides the structure for skin, which is what keeps it feeling firm. Elastin is the protein that makes skin stretch and bounce back. Without these key proteins, the skin has no support and no elasticity.
The key to restoring firmness and elasticity is to stimulate healthy collagen production that will support the skin, much like the springs in a mattress support someone’s weight.
Good skin tone also relies on good blood and lymph circulation to the skin. Blood flow brings nutrients to the skin, and lymph removes waste from the skin, reducing oxidative stress and the presence of cell-damaging pathogens.
Endothelial cells, which make up the inner layer of capillaries, are present both in the cardiovascular system and the lymphatic system. A 2017 study by researchers from Austria found that red light therapy promotes the growth of endothelial cells to improve circulation.
Red Light Therapy: Part of a Holistic Approach to Skin Health
The benefits of red light therapy add up to powerful results. Reduced inflammation and oxidative stress, better circulation, more collagen production, and improved cellular metabolism all work in tandem to support skin health.
Red light therapy supports skin health from the inside-out. It’s not a temporary fix like skin tightening creams, nor is it an invasive solution like cosmetic surgery. Instead, red light is a safe, non-invasive, natural treatment to give cells the boost they need to perform at their best.
Given the body’s remarkable ability to repair itself, giving it a boost with red light therapy—along with healthy lifestyle choices—can make a world of difference in restoring youthful skin tone.
Treating Loose Skin at Home Using a Red Light LED Panel
To get started with red light therapy, you don’t even have to leave home. You can invest in your own device with high-quality light-emitting diode (LED) panels and enjoy red light therapy in the comfort and convenience of your own home. Be sure to use it on bare skin, as the wavelengths are not as effective with clothing as a barrier.
Here’s what you need to know to get the best results from red light therapy.
It took quite a while for your skin to stretch and sag, and it will take time for the damage to be undone and skin to firm up. Skin cells regenerate about once a month, and they don’t regenerate at the same time. Collagen and elastin proteins also need time to form and to settle into their roles.
For best results, expect red light therapy to be a longer-term, albeit very effective treatment. Commit to an ongoing skincare regimen using red light, and you may also experience wonderful unexpected benefits, like a reduction in fine lines, wrinkles, and age spots.
You may see some fast results, but the most dramatic changes will start to be noticeable four to six weeks after you’ve started. You will achieve even better results if you also commit to healthy lifestyle changes.
Consistency Is Key
You can use red light daily if you wish, but you’ll see great results from several 10- to 20-minute sessions each week on a consistent basis. You’ll typically start to see results within a month or several months, depending on your individual starting point.
Be sure to shine the LED light on each affected area separately if you have a small LED red light panel such as the BIO 300. You can treat various areas of the body simultaneously with a large panel such as the BIOMAX 900.
Use Both Red and Near-Infrared Light for Best Results
Red light stimulates cellular metabolism and other beneficial processes in the top layers of the dermis. NIR light absorbs deeper into the body where it can penetrate connective tissue and even bone. You’ll get superior results by using a combination of red and NIR light.
One of the ways to improve skin tone is to exercise and build muscle mass, which will give the skin something firm to rest against.
A joint study between researchers from the Massachusetts General Hospital, Harvard Medical School, and the Universidade do Sagrado Coração in Brazil reviewed more than 40 studies, with more than 1,000 elite and non-elite athlete participants. The researchers found that NIR light and a combination of red/NIR light therapy can increase muscle mass, as well as decrease inflammation and oxidative stress in muscle. This means NIR light can help develop firm musculature to support the skin while it’s firming up.
The PlatinumLED BIO series contains 660nm (red) and 850nm (NIR) wavelengths that can be used individually or together.
The PlatinumLED BIOMAX series exposes you to five different wavelengths of red and NIR light simultaneously. Each wavelength has a different penetration depth, ensuring that both the skin and various layers of underlying tissue will receive treatment.
Invest in an LED Panel that Delivers High Light Energy Output
You may have seen handheld red light wands on the internet, but don’t waste your money on them. They are underpowered, which means they won’t deliver enough light energy into your body’s tissues. You may get some results, but they will be much slower and less noticeable.
You need a high-output device to “push” light photons into your body's tissues. Only a high-quality LED panel will do the job. The initial cost could easily pay for itself as you experience an overall improvement in health.
Check out the differences between the PlatinumLED BIO and BIOMAX series. With both series, you get the most powerful irradiation available on the market. You also get the most beneficial (and most widely studied) wavelengths of red and near-infrared light.
Enjoy More Youthful Skin (No Matter Your Age)
Red light therapy stimulates skin cells, collagen-producing fibroblasts, and the circulatory system. At the same time, it reduces skin-cell-damaging oxidative stress and inflammation. As your body begins to perform at its peak and your systems start to function normally again, you may experience a gradual tightening of loose skin.
Many people who start using red light therapy to treat loose skin often discover hidden benefits such as faster recovery from exercise, a reduction in pain, better moods and mental functioning, and improved sleep … the list goes on and on. So if you’re curious to learn more about the varied benefits of red light therapy, check out these articles on the PlatinumLED blog.