Weight Loss and Stretch Marks: Do Stretch Marks Go Away?

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Stretch marks are very common in males and females. They appear during phases of rapid growth such as puberty, pregnancy, and muscle gain. Usually, they are harmless and require no treatment, although there are some underlying medical conditions that can lead to stretch marks.

Although stretch marks are not typically preventable or treatable, they do fade over time. You should know that stretch marks are an often unavoidable effect of physical changes that occur during your lifespan. Almost everyone has at least some of these marks.

Accepting your skin as it is may help you deal with these changes. Below you will find more information about the causes of stretch marks as well as information on the available treatments.

What Are Stretch Marks?

Stretch marks, medically known as striae (striae distensae, striae atrophicus), are indentations in the skin that appear as discolored streaks. They can be dark and shiny and raised at first, but over time, they can become indentations that are light or silvery and look similar to scars. Usually, stretch marks have a different texture than your normal skin.

Stretch marks can occur anywhere on the body in males and females, but most commonly are seen on the abdomen, breasts, biceps, thighs, hips, and buttocks. Women tend to get stretch marks more often than men, especially on the breasts, while men see them most often on the low back.

Stretch Marks After Weight Loss

Stretch marks that remain after weight loss are common. They likely are not preventable and are not necessary to treat. However, they will likely fade over time, just like stretch marks that occur due to any period of growth where the skin has stretched. You can try treatments like laser therapy for stretch marks after weight loss, but they may not work very effectively unless the stretch marks are new.

Causes of Stretch Marks After Weight Loss

Stretch marks are caused by rapid growth leading to skin stretching. Collagen and connective tissues in the skin become disrupted and cause the appearance of fine lines which can be dark and purple-blue. These marks usually fade over time to silver or lighter skin color.

Common Causes

  • Weight gain
  • Puberty-induced growth (breasts, hips, etc.)
  • Pregnancy and lactation
  • Muscle growth (hypertrophy)
  • Steroid use such as corticosteroid creams
  • Medical conditions (adrenal illnesses, diabetes)

Prevention of Stretch Marks After Weight Loss

Stretch marks are not usually preventable. They are extremely common due to rapid growth phases such as puberty and pregnancy.

For the most part, these life events are unavoidable for many people. Stretch marks are harmless and a natural part of the physical changes most everyone experiences. Stretch marks sometimes disappear on their own after weight loss or childbirth, or they can fade over time.

Stretch Mark Treatments

There are few effective treatments for stretch marks, and those that work typically have minimal effects. Topical treatments and laser therapies may produce some results. Treating stretch marks is unnecessary as they are a common, natural effect of physical changes during the lifespan and are typically harmless.

It's vital that you discuss any potential treatments with a healthcare provider.

Some treatments can cause adverse side effects and others are contraindicated during pregnancy. It's essential to weigh the pros and cons of any treatment you choose regardless of your sex or life stage.

Topical Treatments

Although research on effective topical treatments is limited, some may be effective. But no topical treatments can eliminate stretch marks, though they may help fade their appearance.

One topical treatment, tretinoin, has shown mixed results for effective use therapeutically. Tretinoin is a retinoid treatment that increases cellular turnover and collagen production. Two others, Trofolastin and Alphastria creams, may help when used preventatively.

Other commonly used treatments are cocoa butter and olive oil. But there is little evidence showing the effectiveness of these topical applications.

It is important to note that tretinoin is potentially dangerous. Side effects include redness, peeling, discoloration, and sun sensitivity. It may also cause deformities and other issues with fetuses if used during pregnancy. Be sure to discuss the potential use of tretinoin with a healthcare provider.

Moisturizing and massaging the skin during rapid growth periods such as pregnancy has not been proven effective.

Still, it is possible that these practices could help the skin to stretch and adjust during skin expansion, reducing the prevalence of stretch marks. While this is not a sure bet, there is no harm in the practice.

Laser Therapy and Other Procedures

Laser therapy is another standard procedure for stretch marks. However, it appears to work best when used during the initial phase of stretch mark formation when the marks are fresh and still red.

The most commonly used laser therapy is pulse dye laser (PDL) which you can have performed at dermatology clinics. Laser therapy targets the vasculature, reduces redness, and minimally prevents stretch mark formation progression.

Fractionated, excimer, and IPL lasers are often used for older stretch marks but show limited effectiveness. These laser therapies aim to increase collagen production and resurface stretch marks to blend in with the surrounding skin.

A more drastic approach to stretch mark removal is plastic surgery such as abdominoplasty. Removing excess skin that has stretch marks will obviously reduce the stretch marks on your body. However, these procedures come with risks and are highly invasive.

A Word From Verywell

The optimal way to address stretch marks may be to accept them as part of natural physical changes during life, including puberty, pregnancy, and muscle gain. You should know that most people have at least some stretch marks.

Stressing about your stretch marks can lead to body anxiety and reduced self-esteem. If you feel this way, you may wish to speak to a mental health professional. Diet culture, advertising, and social media often perpetuate unattainable ideals of how bodies should look. These ideals are not helpful for self-acceptance and are not in line with reality.

If you want to treat your stretch marks, weigh the pros and cons of the available treatments. Also, be sure to discuss any of them you are considering with a healthcare provider.

7 Sources
Verywell Fit uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
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  2. Wollina U, Goldman A. Management of stretch marks (with a focus on striae rubrae). J Cutan Aesthet Surg. 2017;10(3):124-129. doi:10.4103/JCAS.JCAS_118_17

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  4. Ud‐Din S, McGeorge D, Bayat A. Topical management of striae distensae (stretch marks): Prevention and therapy of striae rubrae and albae. J Eur Acad Dermatol Venereol. 2016;30(2):211-222. doi:10.1111%2Fjdv.13223

  5. Baldwin HE, Nighland M, Kendall C, Mays DA, Grossman R, Newburger J. 40 years of topical tretinoin use in reviewJ Drugs Dermatol. 2013;12(6):638-42. PMID:23839179

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By Rachel MacPherson, BA, CPT
Rachel MacPherson is a health writer, certified personal trainer, and exercise nutrition coach based in Montreal.