What Causes Stretch Marks After Losing Weight?

Striae, more commonly referred to as stretch marks, are scars that form in the middle layer of skin when brittle skin stretches and tears. While stretch marks are most commonly associated with pregnancy and weight gain, losing weight is also a common cause. This surprises most people because skin isn’t stretching when you lose weight—it’s shrinking. However, there are a few reasons why stretch marks form as a result of weight loss:

Weight Loss Causes Stretch Marks to Appear

In some cases, it’s not losing weight that causes stretch marks—they were caused by gaining weight and just didn’t become visible until after you lost that weight. If you have preexisting stretch marks caused by weight gain, you won’t be able to prevent stretch marks when losing weight because they’re already there.

Excess Skin

If you’ve lost a significant amount of weight and have excess skin because of your weight loss, that excess skin can cause stretch marks because it weighs down other areas of skin. The excess skin pulls on healthy skin and can cause stretching, tearing, and scarring. If you plan to lose a lot of weight, using a stretch mark prevention cream daily can help prevent stretch marks from developing due to the weight of excess skin.

Muscle Gain

If you engage in strength training to lose weight, quick muscle development may cause stretch marks to form. Rapid muscle development can stretch skin to accommodate larger muscles, so strength training and bodybuilding are common causes of stretch marks. To help prevent stretch mark development, try to gain muscle as a sustained pace rather than very quickly, and avoid using steroids or other supplements that encourage rapid muscle development.

Rapid Weight Loss

Any rapid changes in the shape of skin can result in stretch marks, even the shrinking of skin caused by losing weight quickly. To prevent stretch marks from forming due to weight loss, try to lose weight at a consistent pace rather than all at once or very quickly. Dramatic diet changes and sudden intense workouts can cause rapid weight loss and stretch mark development, and these weight loss methods are also harder to maintain. You’ll have more success making gradual changes to your diet and exercise routines, and you’ll be less likely to develop stretch marks.

Treatment Options

If you are already suffering from stretch marks, there are many treatment options available for fading or eliminating stretch mark scars. Laser treatment, chemical peels, and microneedling are all procedures that a doctor can perform to minimize stretch marks scarring. A tummy tuck can also be performed in cases where you have both stretch marks and excess skin, though a tummy tuck is a highly invasive procedure that carries many risks.

An economical first step for stretch mark removal is to use a stretch mark removal cream. Available over the counter, a stretch mark cream may reduce the appearance of stretch marks and doesn’t require a doctor to perform a high-cost treatment.