Why does body fat make my skin looser?
Fat cells literally break down your collagen fibres in order to expand, making you flabby in the process
You may have noticed when looking in the mirror that fatty areas in your body are not just "fatty", but they are also looser than normal, looking and feeling "flabby" to the touch. You may also have noticed that this applies not only to skin but also to deeper tissues where fat exists.
It seems that the resulting skin looseness and lack of elasticity cannot be explained only by the fact that fat tissue is softer in it's consistency than muscle or skin. You may wonder that the skin itself and the connective tissue inside must be in some way "broken down"...
The bad news is that this amateur observation is true and reflects what is now a well accepted fact by scientists: fat tissue, every time it needs to expand, actually breaks down any neighbouring collagen and elastin tissue, making the area "flabby" and aged in the process (collagen is what makes your skin and deeper tissues firm/tight; elastin is what makes your skin an d deeper tissues elastic/bouncy).
Evil fat needs "vital space" in order to expand and captures that vital space from your collagen cells
If you take in more calories than you ingest or even if you do not move much (independently of how much or little you eat), your body feels the need to create more fat cells (adipocytes) in certain areas and to fill those fat cells with more fat. As the fat tissue needs to expand to accommodate the extra fat and extra cells, it uses special enzymes that literally break down your collagen, elastin and other fibres that keep you looking firm, young and fresh.
These enzymes, called matrix metalloproteinases (MMP), create space for that "fat expansion". With less firming collagen fibres and elastic elastin fibres in that area and with more squishy fat cells filled with soft fat and oil, it is no wonder that the tissue in that area slowly adopts a more loose, "saggy", inelastic and aged appearance.
Furthermore, if you eat/drink/sit down too much, your body feels that you do not need so many collagen cells (fibroblasts) and replaces those firm-giving collagen cells with flab-endowing fat cells.
This is a double-whammy: fat cells replace collagen cells; and fat cells also break the existing collagen fibre network that gives your body firmness and tone.
Not just skin looseness, but skin ageing too
And there is even more bad news: fat cells continuously accumulate and release fat (these are called basal lipogenesis and basal lipolysis, respectively). By releasing free fatty acids into the neighbouring area, fat cells contribute to premature ageing of that area when these free fatty acids get oxidised, a process that also leads to chronic low-grade inflammation of the area. This phenomenon is more pronounced on the face, and contributes to wrinkle formation and ageing.
Cellulite and skin looseness
If the fat in question is subdermal fat (i.e. fat contained in pouches within the skin itself), then the skin itself becomes loose and saggy and adopts the bumpy appearance caused by the protruding fat pouches that create the "cellulitey" orange peel look (peau d' orange).
So what can be done to halt the fat tissue expansion?
To stop your fat tissue expanding and making you flabby, you obviously have to first eat less and more healthily, drink less alcohol, smoke less (smoking damages connective tissue too) and exercise more. Prevention is always better than cure.
In addition to improving your lifestyle, you can consider a quality skin-firming / anti-cellulite cream, a quality food supplement that contains polyphenols/antioxidants which help maintain connective tissue integrity and a quality skin firming/fat reduction treatment.
High-power monopolar radiofrequency is probably the exact antidote to the body-loosening fat tissue expansion, as it kills four birds with one stone:
- helps break down adipocytes
- helps release fat from adipose cells
- contracts the existing collagen fibres
- stimulates the production of new collagen fibres by fibroblasts.
It is very difficult to find a good, deep skin-specific radiofrequency treatment, as most RF treatments are focused on the surface of the skin (epidermis) rather than the deeply seated fat tissue, so make sure you do your research first.
Electro-mesotherapy is another procedure to consider, but only if a high amount of skin-firming active ingredients are included in the mesotherapy formulation used for the treatment, otherwise it is a waste of time.
Finally, specific types of anti-cellulite massage can aid in the fight against flab, but in a more weak manner than the above treatments.
Again, as radiofrequency, electro-mesotherapy formulations and massage therapist skills vary wildly, you must first do some research and ask a few questions before committing to a course of treatments.
Other treatments can mildly help with skin firming, but as they are not that effective, we see no point in mentioning them here.