When you’re pregnant, your belly stretches to incredible proportions. After your baby has been evicted, you may be shocked to discover that vacant pouch stubbornly remains.
Loose skin is totally normal after pregnancy. We’ve all dealt with it. It’s a badge of honor — evidence of your body’s strength.
But loose skin can be uncomfortable. It can prevent clothing from fitting properly, and if you have more than a little, it can become irritated or cause infection. Plus, let’s face it, it can be a major blow to our egos.
Although you can’t completely control the outcome, we’ve listed several things you can do to help tighten loose skin.
How to Prevent and Tighten Loose Skin After Pregnancy
The ways to prevent loose skin and tighten loose skin after pregnancy are much the same. You can improve your skin’s elasticity with a healthy diet, hydration, exercise, massage, skin products, supplements, and vitamins. There are also non-surgical and surgical treatments available.
What Causes Loose Skin After Pregnancy?
From the time we are born, our skin, the largest organ in our body, is constantly growing, stretching, and changing.
Our skin is amazing. If broken, it does all the work to heal itself, rarely leaving a mark behind. It regulates your temperature and renews itself every 28 days.
The average adult body contains 8 pounds — 22 square feet — of skin (1). Collagen and elastin allow our skin to expand enough to accommodate another whole person during pregnancy.
Like a balloon being slowly inflated, the skin on your belly stretches until you feel like it might pop. But just like a deflated balloon never fully retains its pre-stretched shape, your postpartum belly may not entirely return to the same shape it was before pregnancy.
There’s no reason to despair, though. There are many things you can do to help the process along and tighten your loose belly skin.
How Do You Get Rid of Loose Skin After Pregnancy?
It’s a good idea to incorporate as many of these tips as possible for your best chance of getting rid of your saggy belly skin.
Eat a Healthy Diet
One of the best ways to help your loose skin retain its elasticity is to ensure you are getting a good balance of the nutrients it needs.
Eat a variety of foods that are rich in vitamins, nutrients, and antioxidants for optimum skin health (2).
Foods high in healthy fats such as fish, nuts, seeds, and avocado are especially good for your skin. Protein is also an important factor and can be found in a variety of natural sources such as lean meat, cheese, eggs, and tofu (3).
Keeping ourselves replenished by drinking plenty of water or green tea and eating water-rich foods will help our skin retain moisture and maintain or even increase its elasticity.
Get Your Heart Rate Up
An active, healthy lifestyle will contribute to good skin health. Cardio exercise can directly improve elasticity (6).
So, pop your baby in the stroller, and go for a brisk walk. Rock a home workout video. (There are plenty of free options online!) Have a dance party with your kids, or get in some alone time by going for a solo jog, bike ride, or hike.
However, if you’re still working on repairing your pelvic floor muscles after delivery, you might want to be careful with jumping jacks. (Not that we’re speaking from experience…)
The best exercise is the exercise you’ll most enjoy. If it gets your body moving, your blood flowing, and your heart rate up, it will also work to tighten that loose tummy skin.
Always consult your health provider to get approval before starting any postpartum exercise routine.
Increasing muscle mass won’t directly improve your skin’s elasticity. But having a tight layer of muscle beneath the surface can help to fill the gap and smooth loose skin.
After receiving your doctor’s approval, try a strength-building routine that focuses on core muscles. But whether you head to the gym or work out at home, be sure to start slowly and gradually increase the intensity of your workout. Doing too much too soon and losing weight too quickly can be harmful to your body and can increase loose skin.
Massage Your Skin
If you show your belly a little love, it will love you back. Choose an oil or lotion that feels and smells nice, and massage that loose belly skin. Massage improves circulation beneath the skin.
A massaging device may also be beneficial. One study showed that an anti-aging skin lotion used in combination with a massaging device produced positive results when tested on facial skin (7).
Massaging your belly can help break up remaining fat deposits, and it aids in digestion. Your belly will thank you for the love one way or another.
Use Skin Nourishing Products
The market is saturated with skin-firming products that claim to have miraculous anti-aging, skin-firming benefits. A few notable ingredients in these products are:
- Retinol, a form of vitamin A.
- Hyaluronic acid, a tissue-lubricating substance.
- Q10, a collagen-supporting antioxidant.
Although it’s difficult to find studies proving the effectiveness of these products on loose belly skin, there’s evidence of their effectiveness in treating wrinkles and fine lines (8). And there are many reviews from women who swear creams such as the NIVEA Skin Firming & Toning Body Gel-Cream played a role in reducing their postpartum loose skin.
There are several non-invasive and minimally-invasive procedures used for treating loose skin after pregnancy or weight loss. These include ultrasound, radiofrequency, and laser treatments.
These treatments are generally effective, but they often take time and multiple appointments. They can also be expensive, and the results don’t always last forever. The risk of side effects is also much higher than with more natural options like healthy eating or exercise.
If you plan on using a non-surgical treatment for your loose skin, do your research first, and weigh the risks and benefits of each option.
Body Contouring (Tummy Tuck Surgery)
The most effective way to get rid of postpartum loose skin is through body contouring surgery. With surgery, all excess belly skin can be removed, and the results are permanent.
This process involves a surgeon making incisions and removing any excess belly fat and loose skin from the lower belly before shaping and tightening the remaining skin.
A tummy tuck surgery comes with risks and a hefty price tag. It’s not recommended for people who plan on having future pregnancies. It’s also a good idea to wait until your youngest child is fairly independent, as you will not be able to lift them or bend easily for weeks following the procedure (9).
Can You Prevent Loose Skin After Pregnancy?
Although it’s impossible to prevent your stomach from stretching, there are ways you can help it retain its elasticity. This may help to reduce loose skin after your baby is born.
Most of the methods of preventing loose skin are the same as for postpartum treatment.
- Eat a healthy diet: A balanced diet will help you maintain a healthy weight during pregnancy, which will prevent additional stretching of your belly.
- Stay hydrated: Water will keep your cells happy and your body nourished as it grows and changes to support the life within it. Pregnant women should drink approximately 10 cups of water per day (10).
- Exercise: Staying active and building muscle will help to support your body both during and after pregnancy. Be sure to discuss your prenatal exercise routine with your doctor.
- Use moisture-rich skin products: There are a wide variety of lotions, creams, and butters available that claim to prevent excessive stretching of belly skin during pregnancy. Keeping your skin nourished will help maintain elasticity and prevent damage as your belly grows.
Here are some commonly asked questions about loose skin after pregnancy.
How Long Does It Take for Skin to Tighten After Pregnancy?
There is no predefined amount of time required for your skin to tighten after pregnancy. This is dependent on many factors such as genetics, the number of babies you’ve had, your pre-pregnancy weight, age, your skin’s health, and more. It will look different for every person.
Remember, it took nine months for your belly to stretch to accommodate that little watermelon, so you can expect that it will also take some time for it to tighten back up. Whatever you do to help the process along, be patient with yourself.
Give your body some grace. Thank it for the work it did in growing your baby. And allow it the time it needs to recover.
Can Taking Collagen Reverse Sagging Skin?
Studies have shown that collagen can positively impact loose, sagging skin by greatly increasing its elasticity, firmness, and thickness (11).
Some of the foods that can help your body produce collagen are chicken (and chicken skin), fish (and fish skin), pork (and pork skin), leafy greens, citrus fruits, egg whites, white tea, bone broth, and cashews.
However, taking collagen supplements may be even more efficient for improving your skin’s elasticity than eating these foods. In supplement form, the collagen is already broken down, making it easier for your body to absorb (12).
Collagen supplements may come in capsules or powders and can be found at most pharmacies, health food stores, and online.
What is the Best Vitamin to Take for Skin Elasticity?
Aside from collagen, there are several vitamins that may help with skin elasticity. These are vitamin C, vitamin A, and vitamin E. All three of these antioxidants are useful for protecting your cells from damage (13).
Although they won’t directly contribute to tightening loose skin, if these vitamins are taken during pregnancy, they can help increase elasticity, which can help you avoid excess loose skin after your baby is born.
The best way to absorb vitamins is through food. Look for foods high in antioxidants, including vitamins C, A, and E to help prevent loose skin. Some good choices are citrus fruits, melon, berries, sweet potato, leafy greens, carrots, avocado, cocoa, nuts, and seeds.
The Bottom Line
You may never be able to entirely eliminate the evidence of your pregnancy on your belly, but there are a few steps you can take both before and after pregnancy to tighten that loose, sagging skin.
Make healthy food choices, drink enough water, enjoy some cardio activity and muscle-strengthening exercise, massage your belly, and nourish your skin. And if you choose to take things further, you can opt for a non-surgical treatment or a tummy tuck.
Most importantly, show your body some love and kindness. It grew and nourished your precious baby. That’s worth appreciating.