Women know this all too well. Pregnancy means significant weight gain. And then when you deliver your baby, it means losing weight dramatically. And those two processes are a recipe for something we all want to avoid. Today, we will talk about whether can you get stretch marks from losing weight and how to cope with this condition.
The general rule of thumb is that a stretch mark occurs when people lose or gain weight quickly. They are essentially a scar and develop when collagen and elastin are damaged. Those two are proteins that keep the skin healthy.
And it is not just pregnant women. Weight lifters who build muscle mass quickly can also get stretch marks. You can say they are a visible reminder that you have lost weight.
We have to note stretch marks are harmless. But not all people want them to be visible. Sometimes they can disappear completely on their own, and sometimes, you might need to give them a little push.
What Are Stretch Marks?
The medical term for stretch marks is striae distensae, striae atrophicus. They are narrow streaks of lines that can appear on the skin. They appear in different areas of the body, including the hips, thigh, chest, stomach, breast, butt, and even arms.
Stretch marks appear as discolored stripes, usually in white, red, blue, narrow pink, or purplish color. There are many causes of these lines, but mainly, it is pregnancy, breast development, growth spurts, muscle growth, weight loss, and weight gain.
Their appearance can vary from one person to another. But usually, it stands out in contrast to the normal skin color and texture.
What Causes Stretch Marks?
As we said before, the majority are from weight loss and weight gain. But usually, weight gain is a bigger concern for stretch marks than weight loss. Why? Because when you gain weight, your skin undergoes stretching and tearing.
Because of that tearing and stretching, collagen and elastin, two hormones of the connective tissue, become damaged. The result is the appearance of a stretch mark.
Medical studies show that they occur due to structural changes in the collagen fibers and the reduction of elastin and fibrillin fibers.
Pregnant mothers are at risk of stretch marks because hormonal changes soften the fibers of the skin. And as the baby grows in the stomach, your skin stretches in the abdominal area.
Pregnant women also get bigger in the breast and thigh area.
Signs And Symptoms
In pregnancy, the first sign of stretch marks is itching in the area. But what about general symptoms? They can look purple, blue, black, pink, or red streaks on the skin.
New stretch marks look slightly raised and have a glassy color. Yet, over time, they fade to white and look slightly depressed.
And older stretch marks look a lot like scars. They can appear anywhere on the body where you store fat. But the most common areas are the thighs, hips, buttocks, and breasts.
Stretch Marks After Weight Loss
Now let’s talk about the main question, can you get stretch marks from losing weight? Yes, and they appear in the region where you lost fat.
For example, if you lost fat in the thigh area, you will get stretch marks there.
Why does this happen? Well, the simple explanation is that excess leftover skin following rapid weight loss causes stretch marks.
Here is a fun fact: you have probably gotten stretch marks during rapid weight gain. Your skin stretched during weight gain, but those marks were not visible at that stage. And then, after you shed some pounds, you can see those hidden stretch marks.
We have to note, pregnant women undergo dramatic and drastic body transformations before, during, and after pregnancy.
The result is an increased risk of scarring or stretch marks. We have to note that according to some studies and statistics, 90% of women experience stretch marks post-pregnancy weight loss.
Why Do I Get Stretch Marks From Losing Weight?
Let’s dive deeper into the problem and explain what happens. Excess skin after massive weight loss might cause stretching and tearing of the skin. As we said before, majority of the stretch marks are caused when you gained weight. And they became visible when you shed the extra pounds.
There are many factors like hormones and genetics that determine how prone you are to getting these marks. The medical explanation is that the skin can be stretched too fast, whether by rapid weight gain or weight loss, for the underlying connective tissue to keep up. This causes the skin to rupture and leaves a scar behind. We know those scars as stretch marks.
Types Of Stretch Marks
There are two major types of stretch marks, red stretch marks, and white stretch marks.
The red ones, known as striae rubra, are fresh and appear reddish or purplish during the initial stage. They form when the dermal layer of the skin is stretched. This allows blood vessels to show. You will experience itching as one of the first signs.
White stretch marks, or striae alba, is the most stubborn and appear white in color. They happen when the blood vessels reduce in size, making the fat under the skin visible. Because they are mature stretch marks, it might take longer to treat them.
Can You Prevent Stretch Marks From Losing Weight?
We answered the question can you get stretch marks from losing weight. But can you prevent them from happening?
There is no scientific proof or way that says you can prevent these marks altogether. Yet, there are some steps you can take to reduce the appearance of these marks.
Most importantly, trying to slowly lose weight. This will lower the chances of developing stretch marks. OF course, this is not possible with pregnant women, who lose dramatic weight after childbirth.
Those who lose weight naturally should strive to lose 1% of body weight per week. Anything above that limit puts you at risk.
How To Reduce The Appearance Of Stretch Marks
If you look at pregnancy forums and mom forums, you will notice three things women say about reducing stretch marks. And here is a dirty little secret, you can do it even during pregnancy.
First and foremost, you need to stay hydrated. Dry skin increases the risk of stretch marks, while soft skin reduces the risk. So, make sure to consume enough water to maintain your skin smooth.
Second, follow a nutritious diet. Make sure to consume a balanced diet comprising a variety of vitamins and nutrients. This means lots of vegetables, fruits, lean meat, fish, and so on.
Last, but not least, get enough vitamin D. And you can do that by spending a decent amount of time outside when the sun is not too hot.
Can They Disappear On Their Own?
Stretch marks may disappear on their own, but this is a rare thing. It is quite possible for them to heal, after all, they are scars. And scars heal.
But this applies only if they are still red. White and older stretch marks are much harder to treat.
Do Creams And Lotions Help?
As a woman or a man trying to cope with stretch marks, you will probably see countless commercials of creams and lotions promising to reduce the appearance of stretch.
Yet, we must disappoint you. In most cases, they will not deliver the result you want and hope for. The only type of stretch mark cream that helps is Retin-A, which can reduce redness or even reverse the scarring. How? By causing collagen to rebuild.
Instead of buying expensive creams and lotions, we suggest trying some remedies for stretch marks that might work better. Or even if they do not work, you will not pay a fortune for them. Here are some ideas you can use as a topical treatment.
- Try Argan oil which will increase the elasticity of your skin
- Lemon juice has natural bleaching properties, and it might reduce the visibility of your marks
- An egg white is rich in protein and amino acids, and when applied to stretch marks, it will lighten them
- Potato juice contains skin-lighting enzymes that can blemish the spot
- Cocoa butter can reduce stretch marks and you should use it during and after pregnancy. Best to use it at night, and massage it well into the skin
- Almond or coconut oil can help when massaged on the skin regularly
- Apricot oil has exfoliating properties, making it an effective asset for healing stretch marks
- Castor oil or olive oil has moisturizing properties, helping your skin remain soft and reducing the risk of stretch marks
- Aloe vera gel is another effective remedy you can massage on the spot