Whether it's due to aging, weight loss, or genetics, most of us will look in the mirror one day and recognize the gravity of the situation. Our skin will be shifting downward and sagging in places where it didn't use to. Short of surgery, is there anything you can do? Absolutely. But first, it helps to understand a little about your skin's anatomy and why it shifts, sags, and wrinkles.

The Anatomy of Skin

Skin is made up of three layers:

The epidermis is the outer layer of skin. It's made of melanocytes that produce melanin, which determines your skin color. The epidermis also consists of cells that generate new skin cells.

The dermis lies underneath the epidermis and contains nerves and blood vessels, sweat and oil glands, and hair follicles. It also contains collagen, which is a thick network of fibrous tissue that gives skin its stretch, strength, and elasticity.

The fat layer is underneath the dermis and acts as a cushion and insulation for the organ, bone, or body part that lies underneath the skin.

The Causes of Sagging Skin

Weight loss. Skin stretches out to accommodate a bigger body and then, when the body becomes smaller, the skin is unable to snap back.

Aging. When skin begins to sag because of aging, it's because the collagen layer in the dermis is breaking down and losing its elasticity. This gives gravity the advantage and creates wrinkles, folds, and sagging sections in the skin, most noticeable on our faces.

Genetics and environmental factors. You can thank your mom (or dad) if you have great skin. But your environment also factors in. A person's lifestyle, sun exposure, nutrition, smoking status, as well genetics will determine the age and rate at which skin sagging and wrinkles develop.

Tips to Protect and Perk Up Sagging Skin

The best way to take care of skin for life is by making sure you nourish and protect it by eating a healthy diet; drinking plenty of water; cleansing and moisturizing carefully; avoiding smoking, pollution, and other toxins; and wearing sunscreen regularly. What else can you do? Try these five tips for perking up sagging skin:

1. Topical solutions. Apply an over-the-counter or prescription strength vitamin A cream like Retinol or Renova, an alpha or beta hydroxy acid cream and a vitamin C serum. These topical creams help generate new collagen production, smooth the skin's surface, and help slow down further aging.

2. Laser therapies. Laser resurfacing and fractional laser resurfacing can stimulate collagen growth to encourage better skin support and resurface the epidermis to improve skin's appearance.

3. Chemical peels. The treatments remove the outer layer of the epidermis to encourage new skin growth, which is smoother and less wrinkled.

4. Non-ablative lasers and light-based devices. These procedures stimulate collagen production and tighten the skin's underlying support structure.

5. Botox and fillers. These substances injected into the skin prevent facial muscles from moving in ways that form wrinkles and by filling in recesses created by sagging skin.

Perhaps the best tip for dealing with sagging skin is learning to love the skin you're in. It's what separates you from the rest of the world, what protects the rest of your body, and what allows you to feel the people and world around you.

Your skin: Take care of it, nourish it, protect it, and enjoy it.

Liesa Harte, MD, reviewed this article.


American Society for Dermatologic Surgery. "Treatments and Procedures." http://www.asds.net/Treatments/

Christiane Northrup, MD. "Aging Skin." http://www.drnorthrup.com/womenshealth/healthcenter/topic_details.php?topic_id=52