How To Firm The Loose Skin On Your Face, According To Two Skincare Experts

By Ashleigh Cometti
Give skin a lift with these expert-approved tips, ingredients and products to tighten slackened skin. Photo / Mecca

Beauty editor Ashleigh Cometti speaks to two skincare experts about the at-home treatments to try if you’re experiencing facial volume loss.

Gravity doesn’t discriminate.

As we age, its effects on skin become more apparent and skin becomes loose, starts to sag or hollow. But gravity isn’t the only factor at

While there’s nothing wrong with loose skin (ageing is a privilege, after all), should you wish to treat it, there’s a handful of things you can try.

A slew of in-clinic treatments like Fraxel laser, LED light therapy, microcurrent devices, thread lifts and microneedling promise dramatic results by stimulating collagen production, as do injectables like dermal filler, but if you prefer to go the non-invasive route, there are plenty of options to tighten facial skin at home.

While skin-tightening creams can take longer to work (their use calls for patience and consistency), it doesn’t mean the results aren’t impressive.

Ahead of World Menopause Day on October 18, we spoke to two skincare experts for their tips on how best to combat volume loss (should you choose to) for women in mid-life and beyond.

What is facial volume loss, and what causes it?

Volume loss, also known as skin laxity, happens gradually — as our bodies lose the ability to produce as much collagen (the protein responsible for plump, juicy skin).

“This can lead to a hollow appearance under the eyes, flattened cheeks, sunken temples and smaller lips,” says Selina Mithen, product innovation lead at Advanced Skin Technology.

According to Dr Iona Weir, a cell biologist and the founder and CEO of Weir Science Ltd and Atopis skin-health systems, think about facial volume loss like a mattress.

“Your skin cell matrix gives skin its elasticity, tensile strength, and plumpness — think of a mattress with springs. Your cellular ‘mattresses’ lose their ‘spring’ over time because of a combination of internal ageing factors and external ones,” she says.

One internal factor is sex hormones, as oestrogen levels plummet as time ticks on. “Decreasing oestrogen causes a breakdown in your existing collagen and lessens your body’s natural production of new collagen and hyaluronic acid — this is what keeps your ‘mattresses’ plump and bouncy,” she says.

External factors include things like UV exposure, air pollution and other environmental aggressors, all of which can negatively impact the skin’s collagen, elastin and hyaluronic acid stores.

At what age is someone likely to start experiencing volume loss?

Menopause has a lot to answer for — hot flushes, night sweats, irregular sleep — caused by a dip in the aforementioned oestrogen, which is responsible for collagen stimulation and hyaluronic acid synthesis.

“As your oestrogen levels drop sharply during menopause, that’s when the most dramatic changes in your skin volume will occur,” Iona says.

“Any damage that’s occurred prior to menopause, such as too much sun exposure, will become very apparent during menopause. So, the lesson is: look after your skin prior to menopause, trying to fix a lifetime of neglect when you hit menopause is much harder.”

But it’s not just those in mid-life who experience volume loss, Selina says, adding volume loss begins in our 20s.

“Essentially, the fullness and plumpness of our skin starts to change during puberty. By the time we reach 30, we could have lost up to 10 per cent of our natural collagen and this continues at a regular rate over the years,” she says.

What are the best ingredients to look out for?

“Opting for results-driven products that contain clinically-backed ingredients is a great way to start,” Selina says, adding it’s easier to prevent rather than treat.

And when it comes to combatting skin sagging, these ingredients do all the heavy lifting.

Retinol. Vitamin A comes in many forms — retinol, retinal, retinaldehyde — and is revered for its ability to increase skin cell production and stimulate collagen production, which is an excellent way to appear bouncier and tighter overall. “Retinol and its derivates can reduce the production of collagen-degrading enzymes which impacts the skin’s volume loss, as well as improving epidermal thickness providing a firmer look with less visible fine lines and wrinkles,” Selina says. She recommends the Aspect Platinum range, which is geared towards mature skin types and contains powerful actives that target areas where ageing is showing its effects. Prescription retinoids like tretinoin work much faster but can be harsh or drying on skin.

Peptides. It’s been the beauty buzzword of 2023, and peptides have proven their worthiness in being added to your skincare rotation. Peptides come in various forms like synthetic peptides, which can boost collagen production, firmness and elasticity, or argireline peptide, which is designed to reduce factors in dermal ageing and combats volume loss, Selina says.

Antioxidants. Dosing up on antioxidants can be as simple as eating coloured fruits and vegetables like berries, tomatoes or grapes, Iona says. She loves the ingredient for its ability to defend against free radical damage, which can break down the skin’s stores of collagen, coenzyme Q-10 and hyaluronic acid. On the back of your skincare, look out for scientific ingredient names like superoxide dismutases, nitric oxides and reactive oxygen species — all of which are multi-factorial antioxidants.

Myrecil. Unique to Atopis, Iona spent years developing the globally patented ingredient Myrecil, which rivals the benefits of retinol but without the negative side effects. Not only this, but Myrecil is said to help stimulate the skin’s hyaluronic acid production while inhibiting hyaluronidase, or the process which damages hyaluronic acid.

Vitamin C. If you’re looking to tighten up, collagen-boosting ingredients like vitamin C are your best bet. It’s known for stimulating the body’s own collagen production. With continued use, vitamin C can also help improve skin texture and volume, Selina says.

It goes without saying that in-clinic treatments will be your fastest option for addressing skin laxity, and Selina recommends reaching out to a qualified skin professional if you need a little extra support in managing volume loss.

“A skin professional will be able to offer advice on the most effective treatments for your concerns and skin type,” she says, adding her picks include SkinPen (microneedling) and hyaluronic acid fillers.

Are there any lifestyle changes that can help?

Iona recommends chowing down on a diet rich in nutrients that are able to stimulate collagen synthesis — think berries, citrus, eggs, chicken and sardines.

If you are planning to lose weight, Selina recommends doing so gradually. “Rapid weight loss can leave the skin losing firmness. Losing weight slowly gives the skin time to bounce back,” she says.

Both experts agree that it’s important to avoid deliberate sun exposure as much as possible and layer up with sunscreen.

Ultraviolet rays can impact the structural integrity of proteins like collagen and elastin, which give skin its firmness and plumpness. Less collagen = the more likely it is that fine lines, wrinkles and sagging will occur.

If you are bound for the great outdoors, be sure to slather on a broad-spectrum sunscreen with an SPF rating of 50 or higher to prevent sunburn, premature ageing and skin cancer. Remember to always reapply it every two hours (or more often if swimming, sweating or towelling).

Beyond this, Iona says side-stepping stress is equally important, due to its negative effects on hair and skin.

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This super serum plumps, smooths and hydrates skin thanks to its unique concentration of 6 per cent niacinamide and 1.5 per cent hyaluronic acid, cocktailed with the brand’s signature Avène Thermal Spring Water, which features throughout the range. The lightweight serum melts into skin, smoothing the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles and tightening laxity, while leaving skin looking healthy and radiant.

Geared towards those with sensitive skin or retinol newbies, Kiehl’s potent daily retinol serum sees a fractioned dose of pure retinol combine with ceramides and peptides to transform skin minus redness, dryness and peeling. Not only will it accelerate skin-cell turnover, but help to fortify the skin barrier, rebuild skin integrity and protect fresh new skin cells.

If you’ve always struggled with the drying effects of retinol, then consider subbing in Elizabeth Arden’s latest skincare offering in place of two products in your skincare regime. The retinol/moisturiser hybrid sees high-performance retinol (that’s what HPR stands for) plus power peptides, phytoceramides, hyaluronic acid, bisabolol and ginger root support the skin’s natural cell turnover and firm skin, minus irritation that retinol can cause. Not to mention it’s gentle enough for day and night-time use, and first-time retinol users.

With so many creams on offer tailored to firming faces, Clinique’s newbie serves double duty by targeting necks, too. Positioned as a “de-ageing moisturiser”, this cosseting cream (which launched on Monday) is said to help lift sagging skin and reduce the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles, leaving skin feeling firm and hydrated.

Available by consultation only, this specialised serum contains three forms of vitamin A to combat the appearance of dryness, crepeyness, fine lines and wrinkles. It’s preventative, too — supporting skin renewal and DNA repair, while preventing future lines from forming by promoting collagen growth.

Developed with 2600 dissolving micro-needles in every patch, this skin innovation penetrates the surface of the skin to deliver its active ingredients deep within the dermis. Each patch is suitable for use on fine lines and wrinkles anywhere on the face (including the delicate under-eye area) to reduce their appearance while boosting skin elasticity and volume.

Designed with mature or dry skin types in mind, Atopis all-in-one night cream and serum hybrid looks to the brand’s signature Myrecil ingredient, which replicates the benefits of retinol (think plumpness and hyaluronic acid production in the skin) but minus the harsh or drying side effects.

Harnessing the power of encapsulated retinal, Murad’s newest serum targets mild-to-moderate signs of ageing. Independent studies conducted by the brand revealed that after two weeks of continued use, users discovered deep-set wrinkles and crepey skin were visibly smoothed, and the sagging effect around the neck and jowls lifted.

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