Skin laxity is a condition that occurs when our skin loses its natural structure and begins to sag. Healthy, youthful skin is elastic. It snaps back into its original shape after being pulled. As time goes by, laxity takes hold and that elasticity begins to wane, forming wrinkles, lines, and creases. It can also result in pouches and flaps, especially beneath the chin or in the upper arms. This is a natural result of the aging process that happens to everyone. But it can be exacerbated by certain external and internal factors, such as sunlight, smoking, and poor eating habits.
What is Skin Laxity?
Skin laxity is a condition that occurs when the skin is no longer elastic. Healthy, youthful skin retains its original shape. It can hold itself up. It stays firm, and it doesn't sag. As we age, elasticity fades away. We start to see fine lines and wrinkles begin to form. Flaps sprout up in the submental area beneath the chin, in the abdomen, upper arms, thighs, and buttocks. Many of the signs of aging that we are all familiar with, such as sagging facial features and sagging breasts are a result of skin laxity. The process that causes it is quite simple to understand.
The middle layer of the skin, known as the dermis, is filled with collagen and elastin. These proteins form a natural structure that elevates the skin, reinforcing it from the effects of gravity. They also protect the skin, strengthen it, and help it stand up to the elements. Aging and damage from internal and external stressors can cause these proteins to decay. As our body's ability to heal itself declines, so does collagen and elastin production. That is how skin laxity takes hold. The sun is particularly damaging. The best way to delay skin laxity is to wear sunblock and stay indoors.
Common Types of Skin Laxity
We may not always notice when skin laxity takes hold, but we do notice the various problems that it can cause. Parts of our bodies sink, fold, and crinkle. Lines will sprout up across our faces, and our arms will begin to sag. It's all because of the decaying structure that normally holds our skin in place.
The jowl is sometimes referred to as a turkey neck or a double chin. It occurs when the skin below our chin, known as the submental area, begins to fall away, creating an unsightly pouch that can sometimes swing with the head. It has the unfortunate effect of making people seem as though they are overweight, even if that's not the case at all. It can be extremely difficult to remove jowls through diet and exercise. Many people choose to live with them, but they can be addressed through various cosmetic procedures such as a neck lift, laser therapy, or injectables.
Arm flaps are essentially a flap of skin and sometimes fatty tissue that hang off of the upper arm. They are one of the most common signs of aging. Even people who have a low body weight develop them. They're particularly problematic for those who have undergone a period of extensive weight loss. In those cases, it's not uncommon to see an excessively large arm flap hanging several inches. They're extremely difficult to remove with diet, exercise, and external OTC products. Most people decide to let them sit, but in severe cases, they can be removed surgically or with the use of various cosmetic procedures such as skin removal.
Marionette lines are lines that form around the corners of the mouth. They are often referred to as smile lines. They are a result of wear. The muscles around the mouth are used quite often, and when they are they form a groove in that area. Normally that groove would snap back into the place, but as collagen and elastin deplete that becomes more and more difficult. The skin falls into the groove and creases, creating a wrinkle. These lines can be treated with dermal fillers and other injectables as well as certain types of facelifts and non-surgical forms of treatment.
What Causes Skin Laxity
The mechanism behind skin laxity is simple. Collagen forms small fibers, similar in structure to hair, which grow in the dermal layer, the middle layer of skin. These fibers are part of a larger dermal matrix containing elastin and other types of protein. They reinforce the skin. Over time this structure fades and loses its ability to heal itself, which causes the skin to collapse and sag.
As we age, our bodies take on damage from various external and internal factors like the sun, smoking, and poor eating habits. This deteriorates the structure that gives the skin its elasticity. The body also starts to lose its ability to heal itself, making it difficult for that structure to be replenished.
It's extremely important to take protective measures against sunlight. The sun is by far the worst factor when it comes to skin laxity. Its UV rays penetrate the upper epidermis and break down the collagen fibers and elastin that strengthen the dermis below. That weakens the skin, resulting in laxity.
Weight fluctuation can have a severe impact on skin laxity. When weight is gained, the skin stretches causing the collagen and elastin structure to stretch with it. Once the damage is done, the skin has difficulty snapping back into place. This can result in large, permanent swatches of loose skin.
Some people are genetically predisposed to have a weakened collagen and elastin structure. This does result in skin laxity. Even if this is the case, it's still best to take general precautions and maintain a healthy skincare regimen. External and biological factors may play a bigger part in determining laxity than genetics.
Procedures That Remedy Skin Laxity
There are many different types of cosmetic procedures that can have an impact on skin laxity. They can be invasive, minimally invasive, or non-invasive. Potential patients should look into their options, find out what each procedure entails, and the risks they may involve, as well as their rate of effectiveness.
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A facelift is a cosmetic surgical procedure designed to elevate the facial features and erase wrinkles and lines. There are many different types of facelifts. They are usually invasive operations, involving skin removal, tissue removal, and fat removal. They can take away the appearance of laxity, but they can not reverse it.
Ultrasound therapy generates high-frequency sound waves that penetrate the upper layers of the skin, known as the epidermis. The sound waves generate friction and heat that breaks down collagen and elastin proteins. The body reacts by creating a newer, better collagen structure. This tightens the skin and restores elasticity using the body's own natural processes.
Radiofrequency therapy makes use of an electromagnetic device that generates radiofrequency (RF) waves. These waves create heat beneath the skin, breaking down the collagen and elastin structure that protects against skin laxity. The body responds by healing itself, producing collagen and elastin to rebuild new collagen fibers. This tightens the skin, replenishing elasticity while erasing lines and wrinkles.
Frequently Asked Questions
Can skin laxity be prevented?
Skin laxity cannot be avoided. It is a natural result of aging. But it can be delayed. We can stimulate collagen production and undergo treatments that help replenish the natural structure that holds up our skin. We can also do our best to engage in a healthy lifestyle. Avoiding the sun and wearing SPF 30 or higher sunblock can go a long way to preserving elasticity. Avoiding sugar and tobacco can also help. We can also stay hydrated and try to keep our skin moisturized. If we're diligent, we could easily stave off laxity well into our 60s and maybe even our 70s.
Can weight loss improve skin laxity?
Tight skin is a result of healthy collagen fibers and elastin spread throughout the dermis. They provide tensile strength and elasticity, which is the amount of strain the skin can withstand without breaking and the force necessary for the skin to snap back into place when it is stretched. Weight gain depletes collagen and elastin. This weakens the skin and makes it impossible for it to conform to the body when we lose weight. Weight loss does nothing to help with laxity. In fact, many people find themselves facing the choice between living with large, sagging flaps or undergoing invasive skin removal surgery.
What is the difference between skin laxity and cellulite?
Cellulite is lumpy, sometimes saggy flesh that occurs in various parts of the body. It is a result of fat cells pressing up against the epidermis, causing the skin to form a lumpy consistency. Skin laxity occurs when the connective fibers beneath the skin start to weaken and disappear as a result of an unhealthy lifestyle and aging. This can cause the skin to sag. Sometimes cellulite and sagging skin look similar, but they have very different causes. It's easy to tell the difference between them. Skin laxity is drier. It hangs. Cellulite is fuller and it is more elastic.
Can skin laxity be treated on any part of the body besides the face?
Certain types of treatment for skin laxity are most commonly used on the face. This is because the signs of aging and laxity are most apparent in that region. The cheeks, the lines around the mouth, the forehead, and the basic facial features all sag when our skin becomes lax. But skin laxity can be treated in other parts of the body as well. Sometimes skin removal procedures are performed on the thighs, arms, abdomen, and buttocks. RF therapy and ultrasound therapy are just as versatile. Patients should speak to their providers about which portions of the body can be treated with different types of procedures.