Stretch Marks After Weight Loss: Facts vs Myths

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Aug 04, 2015 06:41 AM EDT

Faint streaks of pink, red, purple, or white on the skin found in the buttocks, breasts, upper arms, and abdomen are commonly called stretch marks. These are often caused by pregnancy, weight gain, medication use, and adrenal gland diseases, according to the Mayo Clinic.

Today, those who show off stretch marks are met with a lot of criticism, especially women who have lost weight or have given birth. Many see this as battle scars, but for those who want to maintain smooth, flawless skin, here are some things to keep in mind when it comes to stretch marks.

According to Health Digezt, 90% of pregnant women are most likely to develop stretch marks during and after pregnancy. This is due to the hormones that prepare the pelvic region for birth, as these hormones also make collagen in the skin softer and more prone to breakage. Contrary to popular belief, stretch marks in fact do not develop from merely scratching your skin.

Men are also prone to stretch marks, to the disbelief of many. Athletes and body builders and those who have gained and lost a significant amount of weight are also prone to having these marks on their skin. According to the Consumer Health Digest, men develop stretch marks less often than women because biologically, men have more muscles than women, who tend to store more fat.

Another common misconception of stretch marks is that it will eventually disappear after losing weight. This is unfortunately false. Your skin cannot magically undo the expansion it made to accommodate the fat when you gained weight. Skinny people are also not completely safe from developing stretch marks, as genetics and hormones play a big role in the skin's growth over time.

In fact, the Huffington Post reported in 2013 that a study proved stretch marks may have a genetic basis. The research studied 33,930 individuals of European descent, 12,390 of which had stretch marks. Research authors studied the gene variants in almost 5,000 of these women and found 4 genetic regions linked to stretch marks.

According to the study authors, the elastin gene is "the major component of elastic fibers, which provide reversible extensibility to connective tissue", and is located closely to a DNA sequence variation associated with pregnancy-related stretch marks.

While several cosmetic and health care products claim to successfully diminish stretch marks, no particular cure has been scientifically proven yet. However, Mayo Clinic suggests using Tretinoin cream, which helps rebuild collagen in the skin. Cocoa butter is another common go-to for women who want to battle stretch marks.

However, dermatologist Dr. John Anthony told the Cleveland Clinic: "Some of these products are not well studied for use during pregnancy. Be cautious about using botanical creams without talking to your doctor first."

He added that "stretch marks have a life of their own. time goes on, stretch marks become less prominent. They start out red or purple, but fade on their own over time."

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