Dealing With Stretch Marks After Weight Loss

Eliza Martinez
Reviewed by Terri Forehand RN
Slender woman with stretch marks

Stretch marks occur when rapid weight gain occurs because the skin must stretch to accommodate the new body size. Stretch marks are common during pregnancy, but also occur if you put on a great deal of weight. While there is no proven way to get rid of stretch marks, there are several methods for minimizing and fading them.

Tretinoin Cream

It goes by such names as Retin-A and Renova, but tretinoin cream contains ingredients that can help fade stretch marks that are only a couple of months old, such as those that occur with pregnancy, according to the Mayo Clinic. While the exact reason tretinoin cream works on newer stretch marks is unknown, research reported in the journal Archives of Dermatology reports that individuals using the cream had a dramatically improved appearance and minimization of stretch marks when compared to those who didn't use the cream.

There are a few factors to consider before using tretinoin cream.

  • Many doctors don't recommend its use during pregnancy, though it's likely safe for most women soon after delivery.
  • The cream isn't effective on old stretch marks.
  • Ingredients in tretinoin cream can irritate the skin. If skin changes occur, it's best to discontinue use and contact your doctor.

Follow the dosing directions carefully when using tretinoin cream. The dose differs among users, according to the Mayo Clinic, so make sure you get clear instructions from your physician so that you use the proper amount each day.

Microdermabrasion

It sounds scary, but microdermabrasion is simply a topical treatment that involves gently blowing tiny crystals against the skin, which helps remove the top layer of skin. This allows newer and healthier skin to shine through, according to Denver Dermatology Consultants. This technique is commonly used to fade stretch marks, but understanding the procedure is important before opting in.

The American Society of Plastic Surgeons outlines the following things to consider before choosing microdermabrasion for stretch marks.

  • The procedure may feel scratchy and uncomfortable.
  • Once the sanding portion of microdermabrasion is complete, a dermatologist will use a vacuum-like device to suck away all the dead skin cells.
  • You may have to use a special cream or lotion after the procedure to ensure and enhance good results.
  • There is no recovery time needed after microdermabrasion.

While you're very likely to see some positive results after microdermabrasion, it's important to remember that this treatment only targets the top layer of the skin, while stretch marks often go much deeper. That means that you may notice an improvement in the appearance of your stretch marks, but you might also have to undergo several rounds of microdermabrasion to keep the minimization from fading and letting the stretch marks show through again. Additionally, you may have to combine the treatment with other options for the full results you desire.

Laser Therapy

According to research published in Dermatologic Clinics, laser therapy is proven to help reduce the appearance of both white and red stretch marks. The therapy works by aiming lasers at the site of your stretch marks, which can help stimulate the growth of collagen and skin pigmentation that helps mask the stretch marks. Laser therapy works alone in some cases, but must be combined with other methods of treatment in other cases.

Several factors determine the type and intensity of which laser treatment is appropriate. The following are the types of laser therapy used for stretch marks, according to the experts at Consumer Health Digest.

  • Pulsed-dye lasers are one of the most common types used and work by enhancing circulation, which leads to collagen production. This type of laser is the ideal choice for new stretch marks, says Dr. Brian Zelickson, Director of the Zel Skin and Laser Center in Minneapolis.
  • For older stretch marks, fractional nonablative laser treatment is effective. This type of treatment uses non-abrasive materials to target the deep layers of skin and requires several sessions. This type of laser therapy is safe and requires little to no recovery time, according to Palomar Medical Technologies.
  • According to Harold J. Kaplan, MD, a plastic surgeon, the excimer laser is the most ideal treatment for old stretch marks. The treatment involves restoring the skin's pigmentation, thereby helping reduce the appearance of the stretch marks. However, Kaplan cautions that several sessions are required to see results and those results are not long lasting.

Ask your doctor for a referral to a reputable dermatologist, well trained in laser therapy for stretch marks. Ask for references and photos of past work to be sure the result is what you expect before you undergo the treatment.

Alternative Treatments

A walk down the lotion and cream aisle at any drugstore or supermarket proves that there are many products on the market that claim to get rid of stretch marks. Before making a purchase, remember that there is no way to completely get rid of stretch marks. That doesn't mean that some of these products won't work for fading stretch marks, but simply that there is no proven research that they're the best choices.

The following options are some that might be effective, according to the experts at Homemade Medicine.

  • Cocoa butter
  • Vitamin E oil
  • Olive oil
  • Elastin cream

Exercise and Diet

Exercise can help firm your muscles and skin, which can mask stretch marks. Try lifting weights or yoga. A healthy diet also keeps your skin looking as healthy as possible. While it won't get rid of stretch marks, a well-balanced diet is beneficial for keeping your skin looking young and fresh.

Disguise Stretch Marks

For skin that sees the light, the experts at The Nemours Foundation, suggest using sunless tanning cream to disguise stretch marks. They aren't a cure and won't rid you of the marks, but can mask them so you feel more comfortable in clothing that shows skin, such as a bathing suit.

Talk with your doctor about the appropriateness of any of these methods before using them for stretch marks.

Living With Your Stretch Marks

They might be unsightly and a major cause of concern, but take comfort in the fact that stretch marks fade naturally with time. Gaining weight slowly, during pregnancy and throughout life, is the best way to cut down on the risk of stretch marks, according to the Mayo Clinic.

Take care of your skin by keeping it moisturized and eating a healthy and well-balanced diet, which is the best way to ensure that you get plenty of all the nutrients you need for healthy, radiant skin.

Dealing With Stretch Marks After Weight Loss