When we talk about collagen loss, we oftentimes discuss it in relation to our faces (how it’s a contributor to wrinkles, how our cheeks are deflating, etc.). However, it’s worth remembering that collagen loss doesn’t stop at the chin. In fact, it increases skin laxity across the entire body — which can ultimately contribute to sagging arms and drooping derrières. Add collagen loss to a host of other factors — weight fluctuations, giving birth, and gravity — and lax skin seems like an impending fate.
While there aren’t any “easy fixes” for saggy skin, it’s also not a future of despair. A handful of non-invasive aesthetic treatments exist that can make a notable difference in the appearance of droop. Below, experts share their advice on each treatment.
A Droopy Neck
“Sagging skin of the neck — and elsewhere — is due to loss of collagen and elastin, as well as loss of fat, muscle, and bone underlying the skin,” says Dr. Caren Campbell, a board-certified dermatologist based in San Francisco, California. “The neck muscles — medically referred to as the platysma bands — becomes ropey like a tree trunk as we age, and the constant bending and wrinkling of the skin of the neck creates lines and folds.”
The best treatment for a droopy neck ultimately depends on the patient and cause of drooping. Dr. Campbell says one of her preferred non-invasive treatments for neck laxity is radiofrequency and ultrasound therapy. Such treatments include Thermage® and Ulthera®, which work to tighten the underlying structures of the skin to create lift. Prices typically range from $1,000 to $5,000 for either treatment, and they are administered at a licensed provider’s office.
Another popular treatment to try is Fraxel® laser. “Fraxel is a laser that targets water in the skin, and it is a great option for tightening skin on the neck,” Dr. Campbell explains. It creates tiny imperfections in the skin which then need to be healed by fibroblasts. Fibroblasts are the cells that produce collagen and elastin in the body.” It costs approximately $1,200 to $2,000 per treatment and a series of treatments is required.
In more severe cases of a droopy neck, a neck lift (platysmaplasty) performed by a plastic surgeon will offer the most dramatic and noticeable results. This generally costs anywhere from $4,000 to $8,000.
Like a droopy neck, sagging arm skin is typically caused by collagen and elastin depletion due to aging. It can be more dramatic in those who’ve had a lot of sun exposure over the years, since UV rays can expedite collagen and elastin breakdown. Another common cause of sagging skin in arms is dramatic or sudden weight gain or loss, as well as muscle atrophy and bone loss, which also tends to become an issue as we age.
“Lasers that stimulate collagen, like Fraxel, can improve skin texture and tone and tighten the skin,” says Dr. Campbell. “Radiofrequency and ultrasound devices like Thermage and Ulthera can also tighten skin on the arms.”
An additional way to tighten your arms is to commit to a weight lifting regimen. Even exercises that utilize your own body for resistance — such as pull-ups and push-ups — can result in notable toning and firmness.
In severe cases, an arm lift — medically referred to as brachioplasty — might be the best option. This is performed by a plastic surgeon to help remove and tighten sagging skin that’s developed on your upper arms. It’s an invasive procedure that requires several months of recovery until you’re back to your usual self, and the cost ranges from $4,000 to $8,000 for both arms.
Sagging breasts can affect anyone no matter their cup size. In fact, Dr. Rocco Piazza, a board-certified plastic surgeon, says that it’s one of the biggest complaints he hears from patients at his Austin, Texas-based plastic surgery center.
“Sagging or drooping breasts has many causes, including childbearing, breast-feeding, weight loss, and genetics. The medical term is ‘ptosis’ and it has different classifications,” he says. If you have naturally fuller breasts, then sagging may be more of an issue. You can thank gravity for that one.
In mild cases of droopy breasts, weight lifting and chest exercises that strengthen the pectoral muscles can help create lift. For many, though, the best treatment option for saggy breasts is plastic surgery. As is the case with any procedure, the treatment approach depends on your specific needs and preferred aesthetic.
“Sometimes a saggy or deflated breast can be significantly improved or reversed with a breast augmentation and no breast lift,” says Dr. Piazza. Additionally, women who are concerned only about drooping instead of augmentation may be satisfied with just a breast lift — referred to as a mastopexy — with no augmentation.
Dr. Piazza adds, “For all other women, breast enhancement to improve the shape and volume of the breast can be best performed with a breast implant and/or fat transfer with the addition of a short-scar breast lift procedure.” You can expect to pay approximately $5,000 to $15,000 for breast surgery.
A Loose Stomach
“Sagging around the tummy is usually because of a phenomenon called diastasis recti. Diastasis means separation, and recti refers to the abdominal muscles,” says Dr. Piazza. “When a woman has diastasis recti, her lower abdomen protrudes because the left and right abdominal muscles have separated from each other.”
This primarily affects women who have been pregnant and occurs when the abdominal muscles have slowly separated to accommodate a growing fetus. It often gives the appearance of being several months pregnant long after giving birth. A loose stomach can also be the result of weight gain and loss, which typically presents with drooping or hanging skin.
Physical therapy and yoga can help to a degree, says Dr. Piazza, but it should be noted that this won’t address the underlying issue of diastasis recti or hanging skin. The only way to fully correct either is through surgery, such as a mommy makeover or a tummy tuck.
“During the tummy tuck procedure, I repair the separation by bringing the muscles together and securing them into place. I prefer to repair the diastasis with a permanent suture so the muscles return to their anatomically correct position,” he says. “I then evaluate the repair in the operating room by placing my patient in a flexed position as if she were sitting up to be sure the problem is corrected.”
Panniculectomy is the process of removing hanging skin from weight loss, and it can be performed alongside a tummy tuck or on its own. Typically, the cost for both tummy tucks and panniculectomies range from $9,000 to $15,000. In mild cases of loose stomach skin, ultherapy, radiofrequency, and laser therapy is an option.
A Droopy Butt
“The buttock changes as we move through the decades. I think the biggest thing that I see is that there is an increase in the fat of the waistline and flanks. This leads to a less distinct shape to the buttock area and makes the lower back blend into the butt,” says Dr. Piazza. “The other thing I see is a decrease in the tone of the buttock muscles, which causes a less round butt shape.”
If you are open to invasive options, you can try liposuction of the flanks, which can help reshape your backside. Liposuction costs approximately $5,000 to $15,000, depending on your needs. Again, for mild cases where you just want a little firming action, lasers, radiofrequency, and ultherapy can be helpful options.
Sagging Leg Skin
The same culprits outlined above are also usually to blame for sagging skin on your legs. These include loss of collagen and elastin due to aging, sun exposure, fat loss and gain, muscle loss, and bone loss.
Non-invasive treatment options for droopy leg skin include Ultherapy and Thermage. If you’re seeking more dramatic results — which may be the case if you’re experiencing sagging skin due to extreme weight loss — then plastic surgery will likely be your best option. A thigh lift, also referred to as a thighplasty, involves removing excess skin and tissue from around the upper legs and even around the buttocks.
Your doctor will do this strategically while reshaping the area for improved contour. Per usual, plastic surgery results in a longer recovery period and is more costly. The average price for thighplasty is approximately $3,000 to $10,000, depending on where you live and what the surgery entails for each patient. Remember: Every patient requires a different approach that’s tailored specifically to their needs. We recommend scheduling consultations with reputable medical experts whose aesthetic approach vibes with your own.
[Editor’s note: As always, talk to your doctor before starting or stopping any new treatment, medication, or supplement.]