Stretch marks are streak-like scars that appear when your skin stretches or shrinks too rapidly, such as in rapid weight gain or loss.
Stretch marks manifest as grooves or lines indented into your skin that may develop on several parts of your body, including your stomach, thighs, hips, and butt. There are several causes of stretch marks that typically revolve around gaining extra body mass. 
While these thin, narrow striae are not life-threatening or harmful to our physical health, they can affect a person’s self-confidence and alter how they perceive themselves. For instance, some women may experience embarrassment when wearing crop tops, shorts, or bathing suits that do not cover their stretch marks.
If you’re shedding pounds to get your weight into the recommended range, then kudos to you! But while you’re embarking on this journey towards healthier living, you may be concerned about the development of stretch marks due to weight loss. Or perhaps, you’ve already noticed them appearing.
We don’t want this to stop your fitness journey dead in its tracks, so let’s explore possible treatment options to reduce or prevent the formation of stretch marks while you’re dropping those pounds!
Do You Get Stretch Marks When You Lose Weight?
Not everyone will get stretch marks when they lose weight, but some people may experience this during their weight loss journey. Stretch marks can be linked to mechanical traction and stretching of the skin. Hence, they are typically associated with weight gain during certain times such as pregnancy, rapid bodybuilding, obesity, or pubertal growth spurt. [1, 2]
Because of this, it is most commonly believed that stretch marks are due to rapid weight gain, not weight loss. Due to the pulling and traction on the skin during weight gain, they start to develop. And as you begin losing weight, these stretch marks become more visible and prominent.
However, other mechanisms have also been proposed. For example, the excess skin that results from the rapid or dramatic shedding of pounds can pull down on the other skin areas.
Hence, this occurrence leads to the damage and stretching of your skin and the development of these scars. Additionally, stretch marks may also form due to the skin shrinking too quickly during rapid weight loss. 
Why Am I Getting Stretch Marks When I’m Losing Weight?
Stretch marks are a form of dermatological (skin) scarring. The sudden changes to your skin lead to the rupture of collagen fibers and elastin, which originally support the skin. As a result of this damage, scarring occurs during the healing process, and the development of stretch marks commences. 
If you notice the appearance of stretch marks while losing weight, there may be a possibility you are dropping those pounds too quickly. While they may be a physically harmless side effect of your rapid weight loss, you may experience other unpleasant and detrimental adverse effects if you’re shedding weight too hastily. Some side effects of rapid weight loss include hair loss, menstrual irregularities, constipation, and muscle loss. 
Because the cause of these stretch marks may differ from person to person, it’s always best to seek the advice of your doctor or dermatologist to discover the cause and direct treatment accordingly. Furthermore, you may further discuss with your healthcare professional if you’re losing weight quicker than what’s safest and best for you.
Do White Or Red Stretch Marks Mean Weight Loss?
Stretch marks are not a definite sign of weight loss. In fact, quite the opposite, you may notice stretch marks resulting from rapid weight gain. As people gain weight, additional pressure is heaved onto the skin as it stretches, leading to the formation of scars. Therefore, stretch marks may result from weight loss or gain and are not definitive of either.
However, the color of the stretch marks indicates their age. As they begin to form, stretch marks are initially red, itchy, inflamed, and flat (occasionally slightly raised). Eventually, these start to fade into wrinkly, white, or silvery, slightly depressed scars. These older white or silvery stretch marks are often more challenging to treat than red-colored ones. 
Hence, white or red stretch marks do not give you a conclusive indication that you’re losing weight. Nevertheless, their color will roughly inform you of their age.
Do I Need Treatment For My Stretch Marks?
Because stretch marks are not detrimental to your physical health, treatment is optional. Often, people seek treatment due to cosmetic reasons. If you experience lowered self-esteem or reduced self-confidence, you may wish to consult your healthcare provider in determining which treatment option is most effective and safest for you.
White (mature) stretch marks are more difficult to treat compared to red early ones. The good news is that most can fade over time and become less noticeable, and treatment can help make them less visible quicker. 
If the cause of the stretch marks is accounted for, there is a chance that they will disappear, though more commonly, they are permanent and only fade to become less noticeable.
How Do You Get Rid Of Stretch Marks From Losing Weight?
There are a multitude of topical products in the market in the form of cream, lotions, and gels that promise to diminish stretch marks. Unfortunately, there is a lack of rigorous and high-evidence research studies that prove these topical products’ efficacy in reducing, eliminating, or preventing stretch marks. 
Though numerous brands have claimed that clinical studies back their formulation, few published trials support these claims.  Topical products seem to have a negligible effect on stretch marks, but there are some things you can do to heighten your chances of success.
Firstly, it’s best to use these products on newly-formed or early stretch marks whenever possible as they seem to have little effect on mature ones. Secondly, don’t expect overnight success. Using the product for a more extended period consistently may boost its effects, though improvement is still not guaranteed.  Unfortunately, home remedies such as cocoa butter or olive oil do not seem to have much effect in diminishing stretch marks. [7, 8]
There are topical prescription medications available for stretch marks, including tretinoin (retinoic acid) cream. The use of tretinoin has been investigated in several clinical trials. These studies show that topical tretinoin can successfully treat early stretch marks and scarring but have limited efficacy in treating mature ones. [7, 9]
However, tretinoin cream can lead to side effects such as inflammation, redness, and peeling of the skin in the first few months, as reported by study participants. [7, 9]
Additionally, your dermatologist can perform specific procedures to make stretch marks less prominent and noticeable, but these procedures cannot entirely eliminate them. These procedures include microdermabrasion, laser therapy, radiofrequency, chemical peels, and UV therapy. 
In short, there is no surefire way to get rid of stretch marks from weight loss. Nevertheless, you may wish to consult your dermatologist to discuss a suitable treatment plan.
Some natural treatment options you may try out for stretch marks include the following:-
- Vitamin A
- Hyaluronic acid
- Coconut oil
- Aloe vera
- Cocoa butter
- Lemon juice
Nonetheless, there isn’t any research that confirms their efficacy in removing stretch marks. Some anecdotal reports do support their use, but it will take some trial-and-error to find a natural treatment that works for your skin.
How Do You Prevent Stretch Marks From Losing Weight?
Unfortunately, many remedies and topical products do not seem to be effective in preventing stretch marks. Cocoa butter, olive oil, and topical hyaluronic acid failed to demonstrate significant efficacy in preventing the formation of stretch marks.
Despite various brand claims, most of them are not backed by concrete evidence. Nevertheless, using these topical products as early on as possible may help to minimize the appearance and visibility of stretch marks as you lose weight. 
Additionally, you may wish to seek advice from a board-certified dermatologist if you plan on dropping those pounds. And try to seek treatment as early on as possible when you notice fresh ones.
However, losing weight too rapidly may compromise both sustainability and your health. In fact, research has revealed that those who lose weight too quickly end up gaining it back. Therefore, it is recommended that you lose weight at a rate of 1-2 lbs per week. Deciding to go over that limit could lead to adverse effects. 
Bottomline: Stretch Marks From Weight Loss
Stretch marks may be caused by rapid weight loss or weight gain. Understandably, you may be concerned about the appearance of stretch marks during your weight loss journey. If you are worried or anxious about that, you may wish to seek the help and advice of a board-certified dermatologist to discuss possible treatment options.
Disclaimer: This article is only a guide. It does not substitute the advice given by your own healthcare professional. Before making any health-related decision, consult your healthcare professional
Editorial References And Fact-Checking
- Oakley, A. M., & Patel, B. C. (2022). Stretch Marks. In StatPearls. StatPearls Publishing.
- Schuck, D. C., de Carvalho, C. M., Sousa, M., Fávero, P. P., Martin, A. A., Lorencini, M., & Brohem, C. A. (2020). Unraveling the molecular and cellular mechanisms of stretch marks. Journal of cosmetic dermatology, 19(1), 190–198. https://doi.org/10.1111/jocd.12974
- What Causes Stretch Marks After Losing Weight? (2016, October 29). StretchMarks.Org. Retrieved August 19, 2022, from https://www.stretchmarks.org/blog/2016/10/causes-stretch-marks-losing-weight/
- Stretch marks: Why they appear and how to get rid of them. (2022). American Academy Of Dermatology Association. Retrieved August 19, 2022, from https://www.aad.org/public/cosmetic/scars-stretch-marks/stretch-marks-why-appear
- Rapid Weight Loss. (2008, January 31). WebMD. Retrieved August 19, 2022, from https://www.webmd.com/diet/guide/rapid-weight-loss#2
- Ud-Din, S., McGeorge, D., & Bayat, A. (2016). Topical management of striae distensae (stretch marks): prevention and therapy of striae rubrae and albae. Journal of the European Academy of Dermatology and Venereology : JEADV, 30(2), 211–222. https://doi.org/10.1111/jdv.13223
- Moore, J., Kelsberg, G., & Safranek, S. (2012). Clinical Inquiry: Do any topical agents help prevent or reduce stretch marks?. The Journal of family practice, 61(12), 757–758.
- Kang, S., Kim, K. J., Griffiths, C. E., Wong, T. Y., Talwar, H. S., Fisher, G. J., Gordon, D., Hamilton, T. A., Ellis, C. N., & Voorhees, J. J. (1996). Topical tretinoin (retinoic acid) improves early stretch marks. Archives of dermatology, 132(5), 519–526.
- Elsaie, M. L., Baumann, L. S., & Elsaaiee, L. T. (2009). Striae distensae (stretch marks) and different modalities of therapy: an update. Dermatologic surgery : official publication for American Society for Dermatologic Surgery [et al.], 35(4), 563–573. https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1524-4725.2009.01094.x
- Wollina, U., & Goldman, A. (2017). Management of stretch marks (with a focus on striae rubrae). Journal of cutaneous and aesthetic surgery, 10(3), 124–129. https://doi.org/10.4103/JCAS.JCAS_118_17
- NHS website. (2021, November 25). Healthy weight. Nhs.Uk. Retrieved August 19, 2022, from https://www.nhs.uk/live-well/healthy-weight/