Four Ways to Lose Stretch Marks After Losing Weight
It’s an exhilarating feeling to finally lose that extra weight. You are back in a size that you thought you’d left behind forever with your high school days, and you have a sleek new wardrobe that makes you happy to get dressed each day. You’re happier, healthier, and your self-confidence has reached heights that you haven’t felt in years.
Although you are excited to have lost all those pounds, and you pat yourself on the back daily for finally putting in the work it took to do it, the stretch marks left behind are the only sad reminder of your previous weight. In fact, the only thing you left out of your new skinny wardrobe was that bikini that you’d love to have if it weren’t for the stretch marks.
So is there anything that can be done to minimize the appearance of stretch marks left behind after dramatic weight loss?
What Are Stretch Marks?
Stretch marks typically occur when a person gains weight rapidly. It can happen during a period of rapid growth—such as during puberty. It also often occurs in the second or third trimester of pregnancy, or when a person gains pounds from overeating or from a medical condition.
Stretch marks happen when the critical collagen bundles that form skin’s structure and integrity are torn away from each other due to rapid stretching. Stretch marks appear as long, narrow, often jagged streaks. They can be red, purple, or pink. They generally fade over time to white or silver lines. They tend to affect women more than men because men have a higher collagen density factor in their skin than women, making male skin less likely to develop scars from stretching.
Stretch marks may appear on the stomach, thighs, buttocks, hips, breasts, and upper arms. Stretch marks are common, with nearly 80 percent of Americans experiencing them to some degree at some point during their lives.
While dermatologists warn us that there is no way to naturally erase stretch marks completely, there are several ways to minimize their appearance. This can be done by a combination of exfoliation, moisturizing, and rebuilding collagen.
Restoring Critical Collagen
You can help your stretch marks to shrink and fade more quickly by replacing lost collagen to the area. This is accomplished by first using a gentle exfoliating scrub to remove dead skin cells and to encourage the skin to be more open to receiving moisture. Then, apply a moisturizing body cream with a retinol treatment. Retinol encourages the sloughing off of old skin cells and the regeneration of newer, more collagen-rich skin cells which function more like the cells of younger, healthier skin. This increased cell turnover and collagen boost can speed up the timeline of stretch marks for their natural fading from red or purple to a much less noticeable white or silver color and can also tighten and decrease the roughness of the skin in the area.
This regimen needs to be followed religiously once per day until you have achieved the desired improvement in the appearance of your stretch marks.
Do not use retinol creams if you are pregnant or breastfeeding.
Use a Good Stretch Mark Cream
Many people have successfully faded and minimized the appearance of their stretch marks by using one of the best stretch mark creams available today. Ideally these creams can be used preventatively during pregnancy or weight gain, but many of them also help to heal and fade existing stretch marks. Key ingredients in these creams include vitamin E, cocoa butter, shea butter, and jojoba oil. Some also contain collagen and elastin builders as well as fatty acids, all of which soothe, moisturize, and help to heal stretch marks for a less noticeable appearance.
Some stretch mark creams contain onion extract which helps to fade and smooth scarring and is helpful for reducing the appearance of stretch marks.
Dermatologists also tell us to look for stretch mark creams with more science-based ingredients for faster stretch mark fading. These include Allantoin, which is naturally present in many plants and encourages faster cell regeneration. Hyaluronic acid is also present naturally in younger skin but can be lacking in older or damaged skin. Stretch mark creams with hyaluronic acid give your skin the power to actually draw moisture from humidity in the air and guide it deep into skin cells. A drop of hyaluronic acid can hold a thousand times its own weight in water. This deep hydration helps to heal and fade stretch marks faster, and is recommended for older, white stretch marks that are difficult to further minimize.
Microdermabrasion for Stretch Marks
Microdermabrasion treatments for stretch marks are typically performed in a dermatologist’s office and take about 30 minutes. The top layer of skin is removed through a super exfoliation process which removes dead, damaged skin cells to reveal healthier skin beneath. This process has been found to be highly effective in treating stretch marks after they have faded to white. The deep exfoliation process helps to boost collagen and elastin production to strengthen and heal skin, tightening and fading stretch marks or scar tissue.
Microdermabrasion can also be combined with a chemical peel which can further speed up the fading and minimizing of stretch marks, though it requires a little more healing and recovery time than microdermabrasion alone.
Laser Treatments for Stretch Marks
One of the fastest and most effective treatments for stretch marks is laser removal. This involves three to five sessions of about 30 minutes each and is non-surgical. Small pulses of fractional laser lights are directed at the stretch marks to break them down, reduce redness, and improve the smoothness of the area. It works for all skin tones and is highly effective. Discomfort during the procedure is minimal and any resulting redness and swelling typically resolves itself quickly. No downtime is required for these treatments.
Unfortunately, because this is entirely a cosmetic procedure, most insurance plans do not cover laser treatments for stretch marks so you will need to discuss costs with your dermatologist before your treatment.
While some people may feel self-conscious about their stretch marks, it’s important to remember that they are very common and not in any way harmful or dangerous. In fact, many people consider stretch marks to be a badge of courage for enduring a pregnancy and bringing a child into the world or for putting in the time and effort it takes to lose weight and get back in shape.
While stretch marks may never entirely disappear on their own, these treatments can help to minimize them enough to allow you to wear that bikini with pride.