7 Effective Ways to Tighten the Skin on Your Face Without Surgery (2023)

  • Collagen loss and reduced amounts of facial fat are primary reasons for age-related drooping and sagging of the skin in the areas of the face and neck.
  • Research shows that topical applications of products containing hyaluronic acid, peptides, retinol, and vitamins B3 and C help tighten skin.
  • Cosmetic treatments involving lasers, fillers and radio frequency are also used to tighten sagging skin.

As we age, skin loosens and moisture diminishes, resulting in lines, wrinkles and sagging. Fortunately, there are a wide range of solutions to treat these signs of aging and respond to individual needs.

Effective skin-tightening strategies include firming creams, cosmetic treatments and lifestyle adjustments. Optimal results can be had by using a customized combination of treatment options.


What Causes Sagging Skin?

Although the primary cause of sagging skin is aging, secondary factors include overexposure to the sun’s damaging UV rays, which result in skin’s elastin breaking down over time. Lifestyle choices such as tobacco use and poor diet also contribute to sagging skin.

A word about prevention

Limiting sun exposure, consistently using broad-spectrum SPF protection when outdoors, quitting smoking and paying careful attention to dietary nutrition can help keep skin youthful, healthy and firm.

Best Firming Creams to Tighten Your Skin

The best skin firming creams promote the natural production of collagen and elastin. They also contain moisturizing ingredients designed to plump up the skin, minimizing the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles.

Hyaluronic Acid

Hyaluronic acid (HA) is a substance naturally produced by the body and is primarily found in the skin, eyes, joints and connective tissues. HA functions to keep tissues hydrated and provide the skin with structure, particularly in the outer layer of the skin.

Production of HA slows down as part of the aging process, causing dry skin and leading to the development of wrinkles.

Twice-daily topical applications of a cream containing at least 0.1% HA have been found to substantially improve the overall texture, elasticity and appearance of the skin in women between 30 and 60 years of age.

Creams and serums containing HA at low-molecular weights are easily absorbed and can effectively penetrate the skin to reduce wrinkle depth and provide anti-inflammatory effects.


Retinoids are vitamin A derivatives commonly added to over-the-counter (OTC) topical skin preparations for the purpose of minimizing signs of photoaging such as lines, wrinkles and hyperpigmentation.

Retinol works as an exfoliant; it sloughs away the top layer of the skin and stimulates the development of new skin cells. Retinol also stimulates the production of collagen and promotes the development of new blood vessels, giving the skin a healthy appearance.

It is advised to be cautious with the delicate eye area when using products containing retinoids, as this skin is thin and most vulnerable to damage.

Tretinoin, a prescription strength retinoid, has been found to be more effective than OTC products containing retinol. However, some people may opt for the OTC treatment because tretinoin has been known to cause significant skin irritation due to its strength.

Retinoids require consistent use over a period of at least 6 months to achieve noticeable results.

Vitamin C

Vitamin C is a potent antioxidant that provides significant protection against the effects of photoaging.

Environmental stressors such as sun and pollutants damage skin and cause it to sag and wrinkle over time. Adding vitamin C to a skin care routine helps repair that damage as well as protect the skin from the effects of oxidative stress. Oxidative stress occurs as the result of an imbalance between free radicals and antioxidants in bodily tissues.

Topical applications of L-ascorbic acid, a form of vitamin C, provides protection from the sun’s UV rays.

In summary

In many instances, one must experiment with several different types of skin tightening creams before finding the main ingredient that works best. The pros and cons of each ingredient include:

Hyaluronic acidHighly moisturizing and appropriate for all skin typesVery infrequently, users may experience allergic reactions
RetinoidsAvailable in a variety of strengths to match individual needsCan irritate sensitive skin
Vitamin CBrightens skin as well as provides protection from environmental stressorsSome people experience sensitivity to the acid content in vitamin C

Cosmetic Skin Tightening Treatments

Although skin tightening creams are a good option for those with minimal sagging and wrinkling, others may prefer to explore nonsurgical professional options such as fillers, radio frequency (RF) treatments, ultrasound and laser procedures.

While nonsurgical treatment are typically more effective than at-home remedies, it is important to note that these procedures still have their limitations.

“Nonsurgical techniques cannot correct advanced looseness of the neck or jowls,” explains cosmetic doctor Steven Goldman, MD, “but they can produce very high satisfaction rates with early facial aging.”


Injectable dermal fillers provide a noninvasive way to tighten skin. A variety of fillers are available, and these in-office procedures involve little to no downtime.

The most commonly used dermal fillers are collagen, poly-L-lactic acid and HA. Each works by adding volume to the face and plumping the skin.

Results of dermal fillers can last for up to 2 years. Downsides include possible allergic reactions as well as bruising and bleeding to the outer layer of the skin, but long-term adverse outcomes of dermal fillers are rare.

Radio frequency (RF) treatments

RF skin tightening involves the use of heat to encourage the skin to produce more collagen as well as cause existing collagen to contract, resulting in tighter skin.

“Most RF treatments are noninvasive and therefore have minimal or no downtime, which is the main advantage over surgery,” notes Dr. Goldman. “The results are also much more subtle than surgery, but natural.”

RF machines transmit currents to the skin’s underlying tissues, and while treatments were known to be quite painful when RF treatments were new, advances in technology have substantially reduced the amount of pain the average person feels with this procedure.

Ultrasound technology

Focused ultrasound treatments work in much the same manner as RF, except that sound wave energy is used instead of electromagnetic waves. Ultrasound treatment reaches deeper into the skin than either lasers or radio frequencies, which allows skin tightening to occur at a deeper level.

Laser treatments

“The primary advantage of resurfacing lasers is that they reduce wrinkles, sun damage and pigmentary irregularities, so they smooth the skin better than any other device,” says Dr. Goldman.

Laser skin tightening treatments work by creating a controlled superficial burn to the skin, which promotes collagen production. Although this heals quickly, visible signs of skin irritation will be quite apparent following treatment.

“All lasers have downtime,” explains Dr. Goldman. “At least a few days off work are required for most patients, depending on the strength of the laser.”

Lasers provide a safe and effective skin tightening treatment option with minimal risk of long-term negative consequences when the procedure is performed correctly.

Choosing a Cosmetic Skin Tightening Treatment

Fillers, RF treatments, ultrasound procedures and lasers each offer unique advantages and disadvantages that should be taken into consideration when deciding on the best option for your loose skin.

While injectables offer quick results by adding additional volume to a loose area, their effects are temporary and reinjection is required at least every 2 years to maintain results.

RF and ultrasound treatments offer comparable results. Both treatments require little to no downtime and provide more permanent effects than injectables. That said, improvements are more subtle than other nonsurgical options and appear slowly following treatment.

RF and ultrasound treatments are also not well suited to tackling all of the issues associated with lax aging skin.“Skin texture, sun damage and surface wrinkles are not affected by ultrasound or RF,” says Dr. Goldman.

Laser treatments offer the most drastic results of these procedures. “Lasers smooth the surface and therefore produce a more significant change, but require downtime for healing,” explains Dr. Goldman. “If a patient has more wrinkles and sun damage, lasers are a better option.”

It is also important to keep in mind that these treatment options are broad categories that encompass a number of specific tools and techniques, each with further points to take into consideration.

“There are differences in the specific devices in terms of effectiveness and doctor preference,” says Dr. Goldman. “These technologies are also constantly evolving, so it’s important to see a physician who understands the advantages and disadvantages of the latest devices and technologies.”

Treatments and Home Remedies That Don’t Work

Home remedies for tightening skin have existed for a long time, however their claims are not backed up by studies.

Cucumber masks and other topical treatments

Home remedies using witch hazel and cucumber masks may have some short-term benefits such as shrinking pores, but again, there is no scientific evidence that these treatments have anything but fleeting effects.

Facial exercises

Facial workouts designed to maintain smooth, taut skin have long been endorsed by various celebrities, but there is little evidence to support the effectiveness of these exercises.

For his part, Dr. Goldman rejects facial exercises as an appropriate skin tightening option. He says, “Skin firmness has to do with the inherent elasticity of the skin. Deeper structures like facial fat pads can also droop over time. These will not change with facial exercises.”

Overworking your facial muscles may also result in the exact opposite of the intended result: looking older.

Skin tightening supplements

A variety of OTC anti-aging supplements are available that claim to have skin tightening properties. However, these supplements occasionally make dubious claims that are not fully supported. “Supplements may have some benefit but the scientific evidence from studies is tentative at best,” says Dr. Goldman.


Skin becomes lax and dry with age and damage due to sun exposure, but several treatments are available that have been proven to counteract these effects.

For firming creams, the common denominator in skin tightening points to the production of collagen. HA, retinoids and vitamin C are all effective ingredients to seek out when choosing a facial cream.

Keep in mind that one of the most important aspects of any skin care regimen is consistency, so no matter what course of action you take, optimal results depend on establishing and adhering to a regular routine.

For those seeking rapid, more dramatic results, professional treatments include laser, RF or ultrasound skin tightening. Make an appointment with your dermatologist to discuss how these options could address your needs.

Preventative measures can also go a long way to counteract the effects of time: adhering to a well-balanced diet, limiting exposure to the sun’s harmful rays and avoiding tobacco use.


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  • Pavicic T, Gauglitz GG, Lersch P, Schwach-Abdellaoui K, Malle B, Korting HC, Farwick M. Efficacy of cream-based novel formulations of hyaluronic acid of different molecular weights in anti-wrinkle treatment. J Drugs Dermatol. 2011 Sep;10(9):990-1000. ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/22052267
  • Rayahin, J. E., Buhrman, J. S., Zhang, Y., Koh, T. J., & Gemeinhart, R. A. (2015). High and low molecular weight hyaluronic acid differentially influence macrophage activation.ACS biomaterials science & engineering,1(7), 481–493. doi:10.1021/acsbiomaterials.5b00181
  • McDaniel, David H., Mazure, Christopher, Wortzman, Mitchell S., Nelson, Diane B. (2017, August 1) Efficacy and tolerability of a double-conjugated retinoid cream vs 1.0% retinol cream or 0.025% tretinoin cream in subjects with mild to severe photoaging. Retrieved from https://doi.org/10.1111/jocd.12381
  • Pandel, R., Poljšak, B., Godic, A., & Dahmane, R. (2013). Skin photoaging and the role of antioxidants in its prevention.ISRN dermatology,2013, 930164. doi:10.1155/2013/930164
  • Gold, Michael H. (2010, May 3) Update on tissue tightening. The Journal of clinical and aesthetic dermatology, 3(5), 36–41. ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2922712/
  • Funt, D., & Pavicic, T. (2013). Dermal fillers in aesthetics: an overview of adverse events and treatment approaches. Clinical, cosmetic and investigational dermatology, 6, 295–316. doi:10.2147/CCID.S50546
  • Preissig, J., Hamilton, K., & Markus, R. (2012). Current Laser Resurfacing Technologies: A Review that Delves Beneath the Surface. Seminars in plastic surgery, 26(3), 109–116. doi:10.1055/s-0032-1329413

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