Have you noticed markings on your skin that look like stripes following weight loss?
Chances are they are Stretch marks, also known as striae or striae distensae. Stretch marks occur when there is rapid stretching or shrinking of the skin, causing tears in the inner layers of the skin.
Stretch marks are very common in both males and females, and it is estimated that up to 90 percent of the population has them.
Although stretch marks are a major dermatological complaint, they are not considered a medical concern.
If you are worried about whether the linear streaks will disappear after weight loss, below is everything you need to know about stretch marks and weight loss.
Signs and Symptoms
Weight loss stretch marks appear like purple, red, blue, black, or pink stripes on your skin, depending on your skin color. When they first appear, they look a little raised and can be itchy.
With time, they fade and flatten, becoming less conspicuous. Mature stretch marks appear like white scars.
Weight loss stretch marks can appear in multiple areas of your body typically where excess fat is stored.
These include breasts, upper arms, tummy, thighs, and buttocks. They also occur in other places, such as the shoulders and back.
Causes of Stretch Marks During Weight Loss
You get stretch marks when your skin stretches, and the inner layer of the skin—the dermis—tears. The tears cause the deeper skin layers to be visible, forming stretch marks.
The dermis, where stretch marks are formed, consists of elastic and collagen fibers that let your skin stretch as the body grows. When rapid growth occurs, the skin over-stretches and these fibers break.
Consequently, inflammation occurs within the skin, causing small blood vessels in the tissue to dilate.
The purple or red color of striae when they first appear is due to the increased blood flow to the inflamed site.
You can get stretch marks from rapid weight loss or rapid weight gain. However, in most cases, it’s not losing weight that causes these scars but putting on weight. And they only become visible after losing a few pounds.
That said, striae can also develop after losing significant amounts of weight in a short amount of time.
The loose, excess skin that results weighs down healthy skin, causing stretching and, in turn, stretch marks.
Additionally, people that engage in strength training to lose weight can get striae if they gain muscle fast. That’s because the skin over-stretches to accommodate larger muscles.
How To Prevent and Get Rid of Weight Loss Stretch Marks
Weight loss stretch marks are scars, and scars are permanent. However, you can make them less visible and prevent them from occurring through:
You should ensure to stay hydrated because dry skin is more likely to tear when there is stretching of the skin due to fast weight or muscle gain. Drinking at least eight glasses of water each day will keep your skin soft and moist.
Keeping hydrated also boosts your skin elasticity, allowing your skin to retract after weight loss. Avoid caffeinated drinks as they dehydrate your skin, increasing your likelihood of getting stretch marks.
Consuming a diet rich in vitamins and minerals can reduce your risk of getting stretch marks. In particular, vitamin C, zinc, copper, and silicon aid in collagen production, a protein responsible for skin strength and elasticity.
Stimulating collagen growth also helps reduce the appearance of existing weight loss stretch marks and reduces your risk of developing more.
Eat fewer sugary foods as excess sugar damages collagen and elastin through glycation.
The sugar in your bloodstream attaches to these proteins, producing advanced glycation end products (AGEs). AGEs are potentially harmful compounds that promote stiffness and loss of elasticity.
Some prescribed or over-the-counter topical skincare products available on the market claim to treat or prevent weight loss-related stretch marks. These include:
- Tretinoin creams
- Creams containing hyaluronic acid or glycolic acid
- Silicon or collagen-based gels
- Products containing cocoa butter, almond, and vitamin E
These creams and ointments aim to boost elastin and collagen production, reduce redness and inflammation in striae, and hydrate your skin.
However, there is limited evidence supporting their effectiveness in removing stretch marks or reducing their appearance.
For best results, use these products on early stretch marks as they’ll have little effect on mature streaks.
Natural Remedies for Stretch Marks
Various natural remedies can help improve the appearance of new striae. These include:
- Vitamin A (retinol): vitamin A helps keep your skin healthy and smooth by stimulating collagen production.
- Hyaluronic acid: hyaluronic acid has a high water retaining ability and is crucial in skin hydration and elasticity.
- Centella asiatica: a medicinal herb that improves skin hydration and helps repair the skin barrier.
- Aloe vera: helps reduce redness and inflammation and retain moisture in the skin.
- Coconut oil: keeps your skin hydrated and strengthens your skin’s protective barrier.
Do Weight Loss Stretch Marks Go Away?
Weight loss stretch marks do not go away. However, they fade and turn white over time hence becoming less visible. Several products like tretinoin creams and treatments such as light and laser therapies can make striae fade quicker.
How To Tell if Stretch Marks Are From Losing or Gaining Weight
Stretch marks after rapid weight gain may occur due to pregnancy, adolescent growth spurt, rapid muscle development, or Cushing’s syndrome.
Stretch marks that result from losing weight may be due to excess skin caused by massive weight loss or strength training for weight loss that results in rapid muscle gain.
Stretch marks after weight loss are not unusual and can affect men and women alike. They can be due to excess skin pulling on healthy skin or rapid muscle development following strength training for weight loss.
These streaks will fade in time but will not disappear completely. And although not a medical emergency, their presence can affect some people’s self-esteem.
Certain products, procedures, and home remedies can help reduce their visibility, particularly when used on early striae. Losing weight gradually, hydration, and good nutrition can reduce the risk of stretch marks developing.
- SJM Journal (n.d). An Update in the Etiopathogenesis of Striae distensae: A Review Article. smj.journals.ekb.eg/article_198390_a2b138a796c222463f54be31e39c20ca.pdf
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