What Causes Skin Laxity and What Can We Do to Treat It?

A patient asked me what could be done for sagging skin in the upper arms. So, I decided to do some research into what causes it.

While excessive weight loss and pregnancy can be factors, the cardinal cause is age. As one gets older, skin relaxation occurs: the lean muscle in the body begins to deteriorate, and pockets of fat begin to show up. The amount of sagging depends on the individual, on factors such as body type and weight. As one ages, the skin around the stomach, upper arms, and legs begins to droop, creating a flabby, almost shapeless look to the body.

Though skin laxity is a natural process, it can have a negative impact on one’s body image. Fortunately, there are several treatments that can contour and tighten the skin.


While liposuction, abdominoplasty (tummy tuck), and brachioplasty (tightening of the arm skin) are the mainstream solutions, However, patients are looking for less invasive alternatives. Luckily, a new treatment method has been developed.

According to a study reported in Lasers in Surgery and Medicine, combining infrared light (IR), bipolar radio frequency (RF), and vacuum and mechanical massage has proven effective for skin laxity.

Though this looks promising, doctors and scientists have only conducted studies on the arms, legs, sides, and stomach. Researchers have yet to research this treatment method on other parts of the body. As a result, studies are ongoing.


ASDS — American Society for Dermatologic Surgery. Sagging Skin. http://www.asds.net/sagging-skin/. Accessed August 11, 2016.

Brightman L, Weiss E, Chapas AM, et al. Improvement in arm and post-partum abdominal and flank subcutaneous fat deposits and skin laxity using a bipolar radiofrequency, infrared, vacuum and mechanical massage device. Lasers Surg Med Lasers in Surgery and Medicine. 2009;41(10):791-798. doi:10.1002/lsm.20872.

Teimourian B, Malekzadeh S. Rejuvenation of the Upper Arm. National Center for Biotechnology Information. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/9703097. Published August 1998. Accessed August 9, 2016.