Lost Weight and Found Wrinkles? You’re Not Alone

Dropping pounds from your body can have a surprising side effect on your face. One writer details her reaction—and what happened when she tried a potent skin-care regimen for a month. Could retinol and vitamin C give her a lift?

As someone who gained and lost 30 pounds, then gained and lost 50 pounds, and finally, gained and lost 100 pounds, I appreciate how unexpected and annoying weight-loss-related skin changes can be.

I’ve yo-yo dieted—or as they call it today, weight cycled—my entire adult life. I’ve had loose skin on my arms and stomach as a result. After all, the longer your skin is stretched out around your body, the more damage endured by your collagen and elastin, the fibers that keep skin plump. Picture a hair tie that’s been stretched to the max for months on end (if you know, you know!).

But it was a gut punch to see skin hanging in the mirror…from my face.

After two years of dutifully logging my Points®, going to weekly Workshops, and exercising with a personal trainer, I really had no clue that my face would reveal new lines and wrinkles. No doctor’s brochure warned me that the skin under my chin would suddenly take on the texture of a crumpled piece of tissue paper.

This wasn’t supposed to happen to my face! I’m the girl who puts on SPF 50 in the dead of winter. I spent the better part of a decade writing about the best skin care for women’s magazines; I never forget to moisturize, and my dermatologist regularly oohs and ahhs at my lack of sun damage.

Through genetics, fastidiousness, or a combination of both, my skin has always been soft and youthful. I assumed that when I lost weight, it would just snap back to approximately where it should be. Nope.

“As you lose collagen, you also lose volume in your temples and the side of your cheeks, which pushes the area between your nose and corners of your mouth down,” says Nina Desai, M.D., a board-certified dermatologist in Manhattan Beach, California. This, she says, is what makes the jawline look saggy and facial creases more pronounced.

Skin laxity doesn’t only happen to people with extreme weight loss—30 to 50 pounds is enough. While losing weight is incredibly rewarding, it can be disappointing for some (like me) to put in the work with diet and exercise...only to gain a new problem that’s not rectified with diet and exercise.

It takes cosmetic surgery to permanently remove excess skin, but topical skincare—with the right active ingredients—can significantly improve skin quality in the face, neck, and décolletage. These areas are particularly vulnerable since they’re so exposed to environmental stressors like sunlight, pollution, and free radicals, which are molecules in the atmosphere that break down collagen.

As a remedy, I tried a collagen-boosting retinol and free-radical-fighting vitamin C—some of dermatologist Desai’s favorite actives—in a RoC skin care routine for 30 days.


MY DAYTIME ROUTINE



Vitamin C is a rock star antioxidant, highly effective at neutralizing free radicals, says Desai. Drinking orange juice isn’t enough, though.

RoC’s vitamin C is blended with harmonious antioxidants, firming peptides, and hydrators. Desai says when vitamin C is mixed with other antioxidants, you get better results than with vitamin C alone. As another perk, vitamin C is also a great brightening agent that gradually fades hyperpigmentation and brown spots.

To megadose my skin with vitamin C first thing in the morning, I smoothed four to six drops of RoC MULTI CORREXION® Revive + Glow Daily Serum over my clean face and neck. You can apply it at night, too, but for me, extra protection from free radicals before soaking in all of New York City’s pollutants feels like the right move.

If my skin was feeling dry, I applied RoC MULTI CORREXION® Revive + Glow Gel Cream to enhance the antioxidant’s effect. If not, I skipped the gel cream and used my usual sunscreen.

RoC’s vitamin C formulas are better than your average C creams, which often lose potency over time, as this antioxidant tends to destabilize quickly. The version RoC uses is highly stable (read: long-lasting) and in a good 10% active concentration.


MY NIGHTTIME ROUTINE


Retinol is considered by most—if not all—dermatologists to be the gold standard topical anti-aging ingredient. A retinoid and derivative of vitamin A, retinol is one of the most effective and most clinically proven skin-care ingredients available.

“Retinol boosts your skin's collagen production, which adds back volume, helps smooth fine lines and wrinkles, and improves the look of some of that skin laxity,” says Desai. If you need another reason to love retinol, how’s this: When it kicks up cell turnover, it helps clear up breakouts too.

For a one-two punch at night, I used RoC Retinol Correxion Line Smoothing Night Serum Capsules followed by RoC Retinol Correxion Max Daily Hydration Crème. Each capsule has skin-renewing retinol and antioxidants in a convenient little pod that keeps ingredients potent.

After twisting the (biodegradable!) capsule open for those few drops of clear fluid, I applied it to my clean, dry skin. I was pleasantly surprised. I was prepared for it to feel oily (it wasn’t), and I suspected there wouldn’t be enough serum to cover my face and neck (wrong again).

After giving it 30 seconds to absorb, I massaged a pea-sized amount of the 24-hour hydrating cream into my face. Along with retinol, it has another ingredient dermatologists love—hyaluronic acid, which draws moisture into the skin for a smoother look. Using my fingers, I stroked from the center to the outside of my face and up my neck to the jawline in a haphazard approximation of a facial massage. (Can’t hurt, right?)

The next day, I looked glowy and refreshed. My skin is known for acting up when challenged by a new skin-care product, but I saw no hint of redness or irritation (which, by the way, is hardly unheard of when using retinol).

The fine lines around my eyes and mouth were barely perceptible, and my complexion was now somewhere between luminous and dewy. This magic happened overnight! Granted, one-day results are temporary, but over time (four weeks, according to the company’s clinical results), the retinol tightens droopy skin and smooths wrinkles.

I’ve used the regimen for about a month, and my skin looks fan-freaking-tastic. Clear, luminous, and plump. That crepey little neck pouch is still there if I look for it, but it’s far less noticeable, and I’ve pretty much stopped caring about it.

For me, the health benefits of losing weight overshadow nearly any cosmetic concern. I know there are in-office and surgical treatments if I need them later. But in the meantime, I’ll be buying more RoC so my skin bounces back better, looks great on the ’gram, and can live its best life.