Stretch Marks After Weight Loss: Causes and Preventatives
Stretch marks occur due to changes in collagen fibres and reduction of elastin and fibrillin fibres, resulting in weight loss.
Stretch marks are a visible reminder that you have lost weight. It is ubiquitous in males and females. Stretch marks are simply the drawbacks of shedding extra pounds. It is harmless and often becomes less noticeable. However, some underlying health conditions cause decreased elasticity in the skin tissue, leading to stretch marks. Therefore, weight loss is not the only factor behind these marks.
Stretch marks do not often disappear completely, and you can’t always prevent them from occurring. But there are ways to make stretch marks less noticeable. Consequently, stretch marks are a consequence of the physical changes that occur throughout a person’s lifetime. Therefore, almost everyone has at least a few of these marks.
Stretch Marks: An Introduction
Stretch marks, medically termed striae (striae distensae, striae atrophicus), are narrow streaks or lines that can appear on your skin. You’ll find stretch marks in different body areas, including arms, hips, thighs, chest, stomach, breast, and butt. They appear as discoloured stripes, such as white, red, blue, narrow pink or purplish. Weight loss, weight gain, pregnancy, breast development, growth spurts, and muscle growth are some common scenarios causing the appearance of stretch marks. In addition, a study shows that your genetics and protein in the body determine how likely you are to get stretch marks.
The appearance of stretch marks varies from person to person. However, it usually stands out in contrast to your normal skin due to its texture. For instance, stretch marks can be shiny, dark, and lifted at first. Then, it might evolve into thinner and paler silvery skin indentations like scars. In addition, women tend to get stretch marks more frequently than men, especially on the breasts, while men see them most often on the lower back.
Causes of Stretch Marks
The majority of stretch marks are not from weight loss but rather when you first put extra weight on. When you gain weight, the skin undergoes stretching and tearing. As a result, collagen and connective tissues in the skin become damaged and result in the appearance of stretch marks. Although the skin is flexible, if it gets overstretched in a short range of time, the outcome is often internal tears that form scars understood as stretch marks. It is primarily a case of pubertal growth, pregnancy, and weight gain.
A study shows that stretch marks occur due to structural changes in collagen fibres and the reduction of elastin and fibrillin fibres. It results in a loss of vascularity and elasticity, making the skin more vulnerable to stretch marks. Your skin is prone to stretch marks when you are pregnant because the hormones soften the fibres of your skin. And as the baby grows, your skin stretches in the tummy region. Furthermore, you also develop them on your breast and thighs as they get bigger. The first sign of stretch marks during pregnancy is some itching. In addition, the use of steroids and medical conditions like Cushing syndrome and Ehlers-Danlos syndrome cause stretch marks.
Stretch Marks After Weight Loss
The stretch marks from weight loss typically appear in the region where you lost fat. For example, your thighs, arms, shoulders, and buttocks are the common sites for weight loss induced stretch marks. To be more precise, excess leftover skin after rapid weight loss is often the primary cause of stretch marks. However, your skin stretches when you gain weight, but those marks are usually not visible at this stage. You start seeing those hidden stretch marks only after you shed some pounds.
Pregnant women undergo dramatic body transformations to return to their pre-pregnancy weight in a short time. Unfortunately, the residual lax skin often remains after intense fluctuations in weight. As a result, it increases the risk of inevitable scarring or stretch marks. While 90% of women experience stretch marks after post-pregnancy weight loss, the remaining 10% seem to dodge such a common occurrence due to hereditary factors.
How to Prevent Stretch Marks From Losing Weight?
While there is no ultimate way to prevent these marks altogether, there are some steps to reduce the appearance of stretch marks if they do form. For example, cosmetic and dermatology experts say that slowly losing weight can lower your chances of developing stretch marks. How much weight you lose in a week also determines the occurrence of these marks. Try to lose only around one per cent of your body weight per week. Going above that limit might put you at risk for stretch marks. It helps you retain muscle during weight loss and reduces the likelihood of getting stretch marks. Most importantly, maintain your skin hydrated to provide it with the elasticity to re-contract.
Other Ways to Reduce Stretch Marks Risk
Unlike dry skin, which increases your risk of stretch marks, soft skin does not incline towards it. Drinking sufficient water can help maintain your skin smooth and well-hydrated throughout the day. Try to restrict your intake of caffeinated drinks such as coffee, as they might boost your likelihood of developing stretch marks.
Eat a Nutritious Diet
Consuming a balanced diet that comprises a variety of vitamins, nutrients, and minerals is one of the best things you can do for your skin and holistic health. Therefore, ensure that your diet contains foods rich in zinc, vitamin C, protein, vitamin D, and vitamin E, as they can boost your skin health and collagen production.
Get Enough Vitamin D
Research indicates that lower serum levels of vitamin D lead to a higher occurrence of stretch marks. Vitamin D deficiency leads to an increase in oestrogen receptors. It is responsible for the higher incidence of stretch marks amongst women with lower levels of vitamin D. Therefore, getting recommended vitamin D helps reduce the chances of stretch mark formation. You can eat vitamin D rich foods like mushrooms, cheese, eggs, fish, soy products, and broccoli. In addition, sunlight is a natural source to gain the much-needed vitamin D required for your body.
Maintain Healthy Weight
Maintaining a healthy weight is one of the best realistic ways to deter stretch marks. When your skin is overstretched or compelled to overgrow, collagen creation is disrupted, resulting in stretch marks. Therefore, retaining a steady and decent weight through good nutrition and workout is your best bet to prevent stretch marks.
Treatments for Stretch Marks
Make an appointment with your dermatologist to communicate your options if you still have those marks despite your best actions to reduce them. Your doctor can prescribe the best and most personalised treatment options. However, some treatments can cause unfavourable side effects, particularly during pregnancy. Therefore, it is crucial to evaluate the pros and cons of any medicine you choose.
Here are the common approaches for treating stretch marks:
A study shows that tretinoin cream 0.1% is an effective topical therapeutic agent for improving the clinical appearance of stretch marks. Tretinoin is a retinoid medication that boosts cellular turnover and collagen production. It shows maximum effects during the early stages of stretch marks. But no topical treatments can eradicate stretch marks, though they may help reduce their manifestation. In addition, tretinoin or retinoic acid can cause side effects like peeling, redness, discolouration, and sun sensitivity. So be sure to confirm the use of tretinoin with a healthcare provider.
Other generally used therapies are olive oil, coconut oil, bio-oil, and cocoa butter, which moisturise your skin and reduce dryness-induced stretch marks. But there is little information indicating the effectiveness of these topical applications. So while this is not a sure bet, there is no damage in practice.
Besides tretinoin, hyaluronic acid is another effective topical treatment for stretch marks as it increases collagen production. Other topical agents used are trofolastin, silicone, glycolic acid, trichloroacetic acid, ascorbic acid, and pirfenidone.
Laser Therapy and Other Procedures
Laser therapy is another standard procedure for stretch marks. However, it works best when utilised during the preliminary phase of stretch mark arrangement when they are raw and still red. Laser therapy targets the vasculature, reduces redness, and minimally prevents stretch mark progression.
Fractionated, Intense Pulsed Light, and excimer lasers are for older stretch marks. These laser therapies strive to boost collagen creation. An additional drastic strategy to stretch mark reduction is plastic surgery such as abdominoplasty. Eliminating excess residual skin after weight loss will lessen the stretch marks on your body. However, these methods come with risks and are highly invasive.
Microneedling therapy is a minimally invasive method that stimulates stretch marks healing by increasing collagen and elastin synthesis. As a result, it shows improvements in the appearance and texture of stretch marks. For long term results, you might need an average of three sessions of micro-needling treatment at four-weekly intervals.
Tips to Make Your Stretch Marks Less Visible
If you retain stretch marks, you are not alone. Stretch marks are prevalent for people of all ages. If the stretch marks are a cosmetic concern for you, there are ways you can conceal them or reduce their appearance.
Use Self Tanners
Sunless self-tanners can enable you to fill in the colour of your stretch marks and prepare them to appear nearer to the same colour as the rest of your skin. However, regular tanning will not be effective as well because it can negatively influence the health of your skin.
If you need to cover up some of your stretch marks for short periods, using foundation makeup that fits your skin tone can help conceal your stretch marks.
Use Topical Cream or Ointment
Several topical creams help make stretch marks look way better in appearance. Be sure to research and find out what is best for your skin type.
Wear Clothes with More Coverage
Wearing long sleeves or lengthier pants can conceal areas with stretch marks. However, these marks should never lower your self-esteem and choice of clothing. Wear what you are most comfortable with.
Stretch marks are a cosmetic concern since it is impossible to remove them altogether. It arises due to a rapid increase in body weight, pregnancy, growth spurts, and certain health conditions. In addition, the remaining stretch marks after losing weight might make you feel self-conscious. However, treatments are available to improve the stretch mark appearance by tightening and plumping your skin. For example, you can use self-tanner or tinted body lotion to make stretch marks less noticeable. You can also use topical creams with soothing and moisturising components that help with physical or chemical exfoliation. If these options do not work for you, talk to your dermatologist to discuss more invasive options. Though it’s relatively rare, these marks might indicate more serious underlying health conditions, such as Cushing syndrome or Ehlers-Danlos syndrome. Therefore, talk to your doctor if you have stretch marks but haven’t gained weight or lost weight.
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Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
Q. Do stretch marks go away when you lose weight?
A. Stretch marks are not likely to disappear, even if you lose weight. Sometimes, rapid weight loss increases the risk of stretch mark formation. However, the majority of the stretch marks are from your weight gain. So when you lose some weight, they become more visible.
Q. Why am I getting stretch marks if I’m losing weight?
A. Stretch marks generally occur when people gain or lose weight rapidly. For example, when you lose weight, your skin responds by quickly shrinking and stretching. When this happens, the collagen and elastin in your skin can rupture, resulting in stretch marks. Therefore, slowly losing weight can reduce your chances of developing stretch marks.
Q. How do you avoid excess skin when losing weight?
A. To avoid excess skin when losing weight, use firming creams. A good choice for a firming cream includes retinoids. Also, you can use supplements. While there is no mysterious pill to repair loose skin, specific supplements may be helpful. Finally, drinking water and staying hydrated is one of the most effective ways to keep your skin tight when losing weight.
Q. How do you prevent stretch marks when losing weight?
A. To prevent stretch marks, you need to control your weight loss rate. Try to lose only around one per cent of your body weight per week. In addition, you need to stay hydrated and eat a nutrient-rich diet. Also, include vitamin C in your diet, soak up some vitamin D, and eat foods rich in zinc. All these factors help boost collagen and reduce the severity of stretch marks.
Q. What does losing 50 pounds do to your body?
A. Dropping fifty pounds can have drastic consequences on your body. You are inclined to sleep better, particularly if you are enduring sleep apnea. Your blood pressure and cholesterol are inclined to drop, and incredible things like the memory process and the health of your eyes enhance. However, you become more likely to experience hanging skin.
Q. Does skin shrink after weight loss?
A. Due to its elastic nature, skin can shrink after fat or muscle loss. If additional fat stays in the skin for an extended time, it can lose some of its elastic capacity with weight loss. However, the skin can retract or shrink for minor to moderate amounts of weight loss. It might not be the same for rapid weight loss.
Q. How do I tighten my stomach skin after weight loss?
A. There is no immediate cure to tighten stretch marks in your stomach. However, topical treatments can help make them look less noticeable. For example, using hyaluronic acid and retinoids such as tretinoin increases collagen production. As a result, it gives a more firmness or tightness to the loose skin in your stomach.
Q. Is it fat or loose skin?
A. In most cases, loose skin is undoubtedly just a case of extra subcutaneous body fat coated by the skin. Subcutaneous fat is soft fat. It is flexible or jiggly and feels like hanging skin.
Q. Can exercise reduce stretch marks?
A. Daily exercise has a mixture of benefits, but it cannot cause your stretch marks to disappear. Stretch marks are a form of scars, and workouts cannot improve scar tissue or rebuild the ruptured elastin and collagen.
Q. What is massive weight loss?
A. Massive or extreme weight loss is interpreted as a continuous loss of more than one kg a week. For example, losing40% of your excess weight in a short period comes under the category of massive weight loss. Under such situations, your body is uncertain about handling the sudden fat composition changes, and unhealthy symptoms are bound to occur.