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Stretch Marks From Weight Loss vs Weight Gain

Updated: Jun 5

What Are Stretch Marks?

Stretch marks also known as ‘striae distensae’ are most commonly described to be lines/streaks within the skin that appears when rapidly expanded.

They can appear in a variety of colours and skin texture, this can range from pink, purple and even red stretch marks. It can also be described as a type of scar that will appear on the skin after rapid weight loss or rapid weight gain.

Causes of Stretch Marks

Stretch marks are most commonly caused by rapid weight gain within the body that cause the skin to stretch causing the collagen and elastin fibres within the skin to tear and break.

This results in the appearance of stretch marks on the body. However, on the other hand stretch marks can be caused by rapid weight loss, this is due to a sudden decrease in the skin elasticity which results in it struggling to adjust to the rapid changes in body mass. In addition to this, stretch marks can be caused by all sorts of things that will result in rapid growth ranging from growth spurts to pregnant women.

What is Collagen?

Collagen is used within the body to provide structure and strength to the skin and connective tissues, it plays a massive role in maintaining the elasticity of the skin.

To increase the amount of collagen within the body you can eat foods such as berries, leafy greens, fish and citrus fruit. These all contain the necessary protein collagen that when consuming foods that are rich in collagen or support collagen production can help maintain healthy levels of collagen in the body which can reduce the appearance of stretch marks overtime.

What Is The Difference Between Weight Loss Stretch Marks And Weight Gain Stretch Marks?

The only difference between both weight loss stretch marks and weight gain stretch marks is directly to the way the skin is expanding or shrinking both causing formation of striae distensae.

When rapid weight loss occurs it leads to excess skin which struggles to shrink due to the elastic fibres becoming damaged, this makes it harder for the skin to fully recover resulting in striae distensae.

This is most often found in a weight loss journey or pregnant women and the best thing to minimise it is by keeping the skin hydrated and trying to lose excess weight gradually.

On the other hand excessive weight gain also cause striae distensae this is due to the rapid increase in muscle mass/rapid muscle gain or body weight, this leads to the skin stretching, tearing the collagen fibres within the skin leaving tears. This also increases the risk of stretch marks on the skin damaging skin cells leaving behind a type of scar that is found on the area of excessive weight gain.

Where Are They Most Common?

Stretch marks are a normal part of life and can occur within a variety of places, the most common being around the abdomen area, thighs, hips and buttocks. It may even be found on the back and even upper arms when rapid muscle gain occurs.

They often occur at the sight of the excessive weight loss or weight gain due to the shrinking and expanding of the skin, this will be different due to everyone storing and building fat naturally in different places.

How Can I Prevent Striae Distensae?

Cocoa Butter -

Cocoa butter is a moisturiser that is often topically used to help improve the skins elasticity, this is due to cocoa butter being a rich moisturiser that can nourish the skin keeping it hydrated.

This leads the skin to become more flexible and have better elasticity. When cocoa butter is applied to the skin things such as excessive muscle growth that causes the skin to stretch, however due to the regular appliance of cocoa butter the skin will be more flexible and elastic as the skin stretches leading to a decrease in stretch marks appearing.

Vitamin C -

Collagen production is known to be produced when the body is exposed to vitamin C, this will lead to better overall health and elasticity of the skin which in turn will help prevent stretch marks completely.

When consuming a rich diet in vitamin C with the combination of skin care products which are also rich in vitamin C you will potentially minimise all appearances of stretch marks. Foods that contain Vitamin C consist of broccoli, bell peppers, and tomatoes.

Vitamin D -

Although there is little evidence to suggest that vitamin D actually targets stretch marks it is shown that healthy levels of vitamin D overall will lead to healthier skin and when paired with topical creams and a balanced diet it may be beneficial for the appearance of stretch marks.

Vitamin E -

Although vitamin E is essential and a powerful antioxidant that is very important for nourishing and protecting the skin, it may not prevent stretch marks, this is due to the primary cause being excessive weight gain or weight loss leading to the stretching of the skin.

However, the best way to prevent stretch marks is pairing vitamin E with moisturisers and a healthy diet to get the most benefit and minimise the appearance of stretch marks. To get more vitamin E within your diet eating foods such as almonds, spinach, avocados and sun flower seeds.

Olive Oil -

While olive oil is used very often for stretch marks it will not guarantee that it can prevent stretch marks. Although, on the other hand olive oil is very beneficial when applied topically. This is due to it improving overall health and elasticity of the skin which when paired with a a healthy diet rich in vitamins C & E it may lead to a greater preventions of stretch marks

Hyaluronic Acid -

This is a substance that should be within stretch mark creams and moisturiser that helps retain the moisture within the skin and allows it to stay hydrated and plump.

It is often implicated within these creams due to its ability to provide intense hydration for the skin and improving appearance on wrinkles and fine lines.

Hydraulic acid Is also naturally found in our skin and may increase from foods such as bone broth, soy based products and citrus fruits.

Retinol -

This is most often found within products and is a form of vitamin A that is used for anti-aging and skin-renewing benefits.

It may help improve the appearance of wrinkles and fine lined within the skin. When used in high concentration retinol can cause skin irritation in the skin and is often generally used gradually to prevent any possible side effects.

Foods that contain retinol are animal based foods such as eggs, dairy products and fatty fish.

Overall although all listed above are great ways to try and prevent stretch marks nothing is guaranteed and is is solely down to the individual, some of these methods may prevent stretch marks for some individuals however it may not for others.

It is still highly important to maintain healthy skin due to dry skin leading to skin damage, skin tears and discomfort.

In addition to this eating a balanced diet high in both vitamins as well as moisturising will lead to better skin health which will protect the body from external elements, act as a barrier from infection as well as helping regulate body temperature.

What to do with older stretch marks?

As listed above all topical treatments and topical creams are great ways to reduce stretch marks as much as possible, increasing collagen within your skin will hep decrease the appearance of older stretch marks, topical creams should contain Ingredients such as retinol, hyaluronic acid and Vitamin E and Vitamin C. In addition to the application of topical creams and treatments regular exfoliation may also help reduce the visibility of older stretch marks.

Should I Get Laser Treatments?

​Although treatment options are easily available there is little evidence suggesting the effectiveness of laser treatments for stretch marks, It is always best to consult a board-certified dermatologist to discuss the potential benefits and risks of these treatments. It is Most optimal to try and maintain a healthy weight before jumping into a big weight cut or weight gain if stretch marks do concern you.

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