Stretch marks, also called striae, commonly appear as purplish, reddish or pink indented streaks on the breasts, abdomen, buttocks, upper arms and thighs. Even if you rub creams, lotions and oils on your skin, you may not prevent stretch marks from forming. People often believe that weight loss will cause stretch marks to disappear as the skin shrinks. However, weight loss may not only make old stretch marks worse, but also cause new ones to form.
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Stretch marks typically result from overstretching of the skin, according to Medline Plus. The skin stretches during the major growth spurts associated with pregnancy and puberty. Certain health conditions, such as Cushing syndrome or Ehlers-Danlos syndrome, can also cause stretch marks. Medications, such as corticosteroid creams, pills or lotions, can cause stretch marks to form as a side effect. Finally, weight changes can cause stretch mark formation.
Weight loss may make your stretch marks worse, especially rapid weight loss, explains Dr. David Caruso, a family practitioner in St. Marys, Pennsylvania. When you lose more than 2 lbs. of weight each week, your body produces hormones that disrupt the collagen production of your skin. This disruption can result in the formation of stretch marks. In addition to this, weight loss often makes stretch marks caused by overstretching of the skin to appear more prominent. As your skin rebounds from weight loss, the stretch marks get closer together, and appear as though you have more.
Help prevent the formation of striae by maintaining a healthy weight, explains Dr. Caruso. Even during the rapid growth of pregnancy and puberty, you can limit stretch mark formation by staying within normal weight ranges. If you keep your skin healthy by drinking plenty of water and eating a balanced diet, collagen production may increase to help limit stretch mark formation from overstretching or weight loss.
Treatments for stretch marks before and after weight loss vary. Over-the-counter creams to reduce the appearance of stretch marks and scars may reduce striae slightly, but prescription creams may help a little more, advises Dr. Caruso. Makeup products and sunless tanning creams, sprays or lotions may help you hide the appearance of stretch marks. Medical procedures, such as pulse dye laser therapy, microdermababrasion, fractional photothermolysis and excimer laser, provide the best results for stretch mark removal, but still may not remove them completely. No one can predict the outcome of any treatment, but most treatments fail to completely eliminate stretch marks.
It can take months or even years for stretch marks to fade, explains Dr. Caruso. They will eventually fade to a silvery-gray or white color over time. Some stretch marks may even disappear completely with time. Slow weight loss will sometimes allow the skin to adapt and reduce the appearance of stretch marks. After a weight loss of at least 30 lbs. over a period of 20 to 30 weeks, you may begin to notice your stretch marks fading.