The bad news is that you can’t get rid of them, but they will fade and you may be able to help that along a bit. Unfortunately, genetics plus amount and rapidity of weight gain/weight loss are the main factors that determine whether you get them or not.
If skin has been stretched by rapid growth due to pregnancy, weight gain, or extreme weight loss, it can be affected by a form of scarring called stretch marks, or striae. Stretch marks often start off as reddish or purplish in colour, then over time, become glossy skin that appears streaked in silver or white. Stretch marks occur in the dermis, the middle layer of skin, which is very elastic and allows it to retain its shape. However, when it’s stretched too far or for a long period of time, the dermis can break, leaving stretch marks.
Both men and women can get stretch marks and they can occur on various parts of our bodies, with the most common including the abdominal area, thighs, hips, breasts and upper arms.
When you lose quite a lot of weight, stretch marks can initially become more obvious – as the surrounding skin shrinks, the pigmentation is concentrated in a smaller area and therefore appears darker. This can be really disheartening, after all your hard work in shedding the excess kilos. But don’t despair – they will definitely fade and become almost unnoticeable in most cases.
The following tips may help to prevent stretch marks from occurring:
Drink plenty of water. Proper water intake keeps your skin soft and less likely to develop stretch marks.
Caffeine can increase your risk of stretch marks. If you drink a lot of coffee or tea, make sure you balance this out with extra water.
Stretch marks can also result from a nutritional deficiency. Make sure you eat foods that promote skin health. These include:
Zinc-rich foods such as nuts or fish
Foods high in vitamins A, C, D, such as carrots, citrus fruits and milk
Protein-rich foods such as eggs, meat and poultry
You can never completely eradicate stretch marks, but there are some options that may make them less obvious.
You can try using Tretinoin cream (commonly known by the trade name Retin-A). Some studies have shown that applying 0.1 percent Tretinoin cream may help with stretch marks. This apparently works best on fairly recent stretch marks, while they still have their darker pigmentation.
Some people swear by emu oil – commonly available at health food stores and some pharmacies in Australia. Vitamin E oil is another commonly recommended treatment.
Laser therapy is the most drastic option and should be carried out by a qualified dermatologist. The best results seem to be achieved with pigmented stretch marks, and these treatments may be quite expensive.
Massage, dry skin brushing and moisturizers such as cocoa butter are touted as helping to reduce the appearance. Quite honestly, the stretch marks are going to fade by themselves anyway, so it’s difficult to say whether these things help or not. They’re unlikely to do any harm though, and are cheap options.
So, what can you do?
At the very least, massage and moisturizing etc will help improve circulation to the skin, giving it an overall healthier appearance. But the best way to disguise stretch marks is with fake tanning products. Professional spray tans or self-tanning products will both hide a multitude of sins. In between tans, a moisturizer with an added tanning product, like Johnson & Johnson’s Holiday Skin, is an easy way to build up and maintain a golden glow and minimize the appearance of those stretch marks.
Don’t forget that all of those photos of celebrities that you see in magazines have been digitally altered to make them “perfect”….most of them have exactly the same imperfections as the rest of us – including stretch marks. And look around next time you’re at the pool or the beach – you may be surprised to find just how many people have stretch marks. This may not make your stretch marks disappear, but it should make you feel a whole lot less self-conscious about them.