Losing weight can be a great accomplishment, and if you've managed to reduce your weight, you should be pleased. You'll most likely enjoy improved health, better appearance and more energy. If you have stretch marks, though, it's time, not weight loss, that will make the biggest difference in their appearance.
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Stretch marks are associated with carrying extra weight because they appear when your skin is forced to stretch beyond its natural abilities, causing red or purplish raised scars to form on the surface of the skin where the collagen below has been damaged, explains TeensHealth, an online health and parenting information resource maintained by the Nemours Foundation. Although gaining weight, including pregnancy weight gain, is a common cause of stretch marks, stretch marks can also be caused by growth spurts, muscle growth, breast development and some medications.
Stretch marks are caused by damaged collagen, but losing weight can't repair damaged collagen, so the scars don't disappear when you shed pounds. If you've lost weight and think your stretch marks are less noticeable, it's probably because losing weight can take time and most stretch marks fade significantly with the passing of time, explains the University of Maryland Medical Center.
It's impossible to get rid of stretch marks completely, whether you lose weight or not, but losing weight can help you feel better about your body -- and therefore less self-conscious about your stretch marks. You can also use tinted body lotion or self-tanner to make stretch marks less noticeable, notes TeensHealth.
Though losing weight won't affect your stretch marks, there are a few things that can make them less noticeable. Two to six sessions of pulsed-dye laser sessions can lead to a 25 to 75 percent improvement in the appearance of stretch marks, according to Patricia Farris, clinical assistant professor of dermatology at Tulane University, in "O, The Oprah Magazine." Four or five treatments of fractional nonablative laser may improve the appearance of stretch marks by as much as 50 percent, says Anne Chapas, assistant clinical professor of dermatology at NYU School of Medicine, in "O, The Oprah Magazine."
If you have stretch marks but haven't gained weight or had a recent growth spurt, schedule an appointment with your health care provider. Though it's fairly rare, stretch marks can be a symptom of a more serious underlying health condition, such as Cushing syndrome or Ehlers-Danlos syndrome, according to the University of Maryland Medical Center.
Is this an emergency? If you are experiencing serious medical symptoms, please see the National Library of Medicine’s list of signs you need emergency medical attention or call 911.