- Stretch marks are common and affect up to 90% of people.
- Many factors outside of your control determine the prevalence and appearance of stretch marks.
- A registered dietitian nutritionist can help you achieve healthy, safe weight loss with a focus on overall health and daily life improvement.
Although common, certain people are more likely to get stretch marks than others.
Stretch marks are a natural process of skin growth and change in the human body.
Although they’re a common skin complaint, they’re not harmful or cause for concern.
Keep reading to learn what happens to stretch marks after weight loss, tips for managing and embracing stretch marks, and how a registered dietitian nutritionist (RDN) can help with safe weight loss.
Do Stretch Marks Go Away When You Lose Weight?
Stretch marks don’t usually go away completely when you lose weight.
However, stretch marks generally fade and become less noticeable with time.
When stretch marks first appear, they are red (striae rubrae).
New stretch marks can be treated with topical creams to reduce swelling and irritation and improve skin collagen and fiber creation, resulting in less noticeable stretch marks when healed.
Clinical trials related to topical treatment of older stretch marks are low quality and contain small amounts of participants.
Therefore there is little evidence that topical treatments can improve old (healed) stretch marks.
Interestingly, stretch marks related to puberty tend to become less evident with time, and stretch marks during pregnancy improve after delivery.
Why Do I Have Stretch Marks?
Stretch marks are a type of skin scarring related to the stretching of the skin.
There is some debate concerning how stretch marks are formed.
Additionally, increased corticosteroids in your body from medications or conditions can cause stretch marks.
They look like lines or different colored thin stripes on the skin.
The body undergoes many phases of rapid growth from birth to adulthood.
Often, rapid weight changes cause the skin to stretch.
Common conditions or growth periods leading to stretch marks include:
- Pregnancy (more common in younger women compared to older women, larger babies, or multiples).
- Puberty (growth spurt).
- Weight gain (rapid and abdominal weight gain).
- Fast muscle growth (weight lifters).
- Conditions associated with increased corticosteroids within the body (Cushing syndrome and Marfan syndrome).
- Side effects from medications or use of topical corticosteroids.
Factors That Determine Whether Stretch Marks Will Fade or Stay Visible
Time Frame of Weight Loss
Rapid weight loss does not cause stretch marks.
The stretch marks were formed when the body first gained weight.
However, losing weight can make stretch marks more visible.
Losing up to two pounds weekly is recommended as a safe, realistic, and healthy rate for most adults by the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics (AND).
Amount of Weight Lost
A realistic weight loss goal is to lose up to 10% of your baseline body weight per the AND and aim for up to two pounds per week.
This weight loss rate helps preserve your muscles and, with adequate protein and physical activity, can improve muscle strength.
Stronger muscles help skin tissues to tighten.
Nourish has a team of dietitians available for online appointments. Ninety-four percent of Nourish patients pay $0 out of pocket to see a dietitian. Get started now.
Genetics plays a role in the development of stretch marks.
If people in your family develop stretch marks, you’re more likely to develop them as well.
Conditions requiring prolonged steroid use (Cushing Syndrome) or other diseases with higher levels of corticosteroids within the body are associated with stretch mark development.
Stretch marks are more common in women than men, and they’re more visible on darker-skinned individuals.
Skin with high elasticity is associated with less visible stretch marks.
Small studies treating stretch marks with a procedure called carboxytherapy tells the body to repair that area and improve skin elasticity by 58%.
Adequate hydration affects all parts of the body, including your skin.
Adequate fluid intake is essential to normal healthy skin.
Even slight dehydration can negatively impact your skin.
Excess or unprotected sun exposure can cause skin sagging and thin skin due to the loss of structure and collagen.
Damaged skin is more prone to further stress, like stretch marks.
Tips for Managing and Reducing Stretch Marks
Stay Hydrated and Moisturized
Drinking adequate water and moisturizing your skin can help preserve its elasticity.
Opt for unsweetened beverages such as water, carbonated water, and unsweetened tea to replenish fluid levels and prevent excess sugar intake.
Incorporate Strength Training to Build Muscle
As mentioned, incorporating physical activity, like weight lifting or strength building, can improve muscle strength.
Try bodyweight exercises or include weights to gain muscle strength.
Stronger muscles tighten skin tissues.
Exfoliation is a process of removing dead skin cells from the outer layer.
Removing dead skin can allow for healthy new skin to be more visible.
The American Academy of Dermatology Association recommends proper exfoliation to prevent damage to the skin.
They provide five tips to do this safely and how to assess your skin type.
Use Stretch Mark Creams or Oils
Overall, research on the effectiveness of stretch mark creams or oils indicates a slight improvement.
Results show some improvement of stretch marks but require continual application, leading to lower compliance over time.
Tretinoin cream applied to new stretch marks that are still red (striae rubrae) is helpful compared to no treatment over six months.
Consult with a Dermatologist for Treatment Options
A dermatologist is a doctor who specializes in conditions that affect the skin, hair, and nails.
A dermatologist can help you determine the best treatments to help you with your stretch marks.
Treatments could include medications or skin treatments, but they will likely not be covered by insurance (or considered out-of-pocket expenses).
Embracing Your Body and Accepting Stretch Marks
Your skin is the largest organ in your body and is a powerful protective barrier for your other organs.
Your skin stretches amazingly well in response to phases of growth throughout your entire life.
Sometimes, the rapid growth can lead to stretch marks.
Consider embracing these stretch marks as tokens to remind you of a past season of change or growth.
They can serve as reminders of how you were able to adapt and overcome throughout different periods in your life.
Stretch marks affect up to 90% of people.
Most factors that predispose you to getting stretch marks are out of your control.
Taking care of your skin and body can help reduce the appearance of stretch marks.
If stretch marks are bothersome to you, seeking out help from a dermatologist can provide you with the most effective results.
Most people have stretch marks, but some accept and embrace their stretch marks as a normal part of life.
How a Dietitian Can Help
A registered dietitian nutritionist can help you achieve a healthy rate of weight loss from sustainable lifestyle changes.
These changes should help you lose weight but, more importantly, impact your overall health and quality of life.
Frequently Asked Questions
See a Registered Dietitian with Nourish
- Covered by insurance
- Virtual sessions
- Personalized care