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How to prevent stretch marks when losing weight

Updated January 12, 2021

Man and woman working out

6 ways to avoid stretch marks while losing weight

Prevention of stretch marks is easier to achieve than treating them after they’ve appeared. Here are some easy ways to

1. Hydrate, hydrate, hydrate

Drink plenty of water. Staying hydrated is one of the best things you can do for your skin to keep it healthy and soft. Soft skin doesn’t develop stretch marks as easily as dry, brittle skin. It’s recommended that you drink an average of 64oz per day. Need help tracking your water intake? Grab a water bottle with measurements along the side so you never have to guess how many ounces you’ve had throughout the day.

2. Lose weight gradually

As the skin shrinks rapidly from weight loss, it loses its elasticity and is strained. Losing these collagen and elastin fibers is what causes stretch marks to appear, so try to shed excess weight gradually. Walk before you run, build up your body’s limits before jumping into too much too soon. When in doubt, get help from a fitness coach who can tailor a program to your needs.

3. Moisturize your body

Dry skin is much more prone to stretch marks, so keep your skin moisturized. Moisture softens your skin, keeps it elastic, and helps prevent stretch marks from developing. Find a moisturizer that has super hydrating ingredients, like cocoa or shea butter and vitamin E. Why these ingredients, you might ask? Vitamin E is a powerful antioxidant that supports your immune system, cell function, and overall skin health. Both shea and cocoa butter have high concentrations of fatty acids to help soften skin. They also form a protective barrier over your skin to hold in moisture.

4. Include nutrient-rich foods in your diet

Eat foods rich in vitamins and nutrients that are known to promote collagen production and help prevent stretch marks, such as vitamins E, A, C, zinc, and omega-3 fatty acids. A few foods that can help with your skin health include:

  • Fatty fish, such as salmon, mackerel, and herring, are high in fatty acids, vitamin E, and zinc
  • Avocados are rich in vitamin E and vitamin C
  • Walnuts are surprisingly high in fatty acids and zinc
  • Sweet potatoes are a great source of vitamin A
  • Red and yellow bell peppers are another good source for both vitamin A and vitamin C
  • Broccoli is full of zinc, vitamin A, and vitamin C

5. Include stretching in your workout routine

Stretching improves circulation and your skin’s elasticity, keeping it softer and less likely to have stretch marks form. Stretch before and after a workout, focusing on all parts of your body that are more prone to stretch marks. Some examples of stretches to include in your routine include:

Crescent moon stretch: Reach your arms over your head, gently bending your body into the shape of a C (or a crescent moon) by stretching to the left and then to the right. You’ll feel the tension in your sides and through your shoulders. Stay in the stretch on each side for 10 to 15 seconds.

Chest opener: In a seated or standing position, clasp your hands together behind your back and reach your chest upward. You’ll feel the front of your chest open and stretch. Hold for 5 to 10 seconds.

Hip and inner thigh stretch: In a seated position, bring the soles of your feet together in front of your body so that your legs form a diamond shape. Keep your spine long and tilt forward from your hips, bringing your chest closer to the floor. You’ll feel the stretch through your thighs and hips, and it’s normal if you can’t bend very far forward to begin. Hold the stretch for 15 to 30 seconds.

Note – make sure you are breathing during your stretching and never try to push farther than your body allows! Your flexibility will come gradually, just like your weight loss.

6. Train gradually

Don’t be in a hurry to build muscles. Growing muscle too fast will cause your skin to stretch too quickly, leading to stretch marks. Steady progression should be your main focus when you begin working out. Increase weights slowly and in small increments as you get stronger. It’s also important to learn and keep proper form to get the most from your workouts and avoid injury. When in doubt, get a personal trainer who can tailor a workout regimen to you and your desired results.

Where do stretch marks from weight loss typically appear?

One of the most common causes of stretch marks is rapid weight loss or rapid weight gain. They can appear anywhere where fat is stored and leave streaks on your body, including on:

  • Shoulders & upper arms
  • Hips & abdomen
  • Chest & breasts
  • Back
  • Buttocks
  • Thighs

How can weight-loss stretch marks be treated?

Chemical peels and creams

Stretch mark creams are the simplest treatment to help lessen the appearance of stretch marks. Moisturizing skin can help support delicate skin, especially when the creams contain highly hydrating ingredients like vitamin E and cocoa butter. Both of these are proven to be helpful in skin health and adding a protective barrier to keep moisture locked in. This is the simplest way to help prevent stretch marks.

Chemical peels are also an option to help diminish stretch marks. These treatments remove dead skin cells from the top layer of skin using an exfoliating procedure, revealing fresh and smooth skin underneath. The cost of a chemical peel ranges from $100 to $5000 or more, depending on the level of procedure you want. There is also a long recovery time, leaving treated skin looking red and scabbed over until fully healed after a few weeks.

Abdominoplasty

Medically referred to as abdominoplasty, “tummy tuck” surgery is designed to remove loose, excess skin and tighten muscles in the abdominal region for a slimmer, more toned look. Areas of excess skin are removed where the stretch marks are located and remaining skin is stretched to reduce the appearance of stretch marks that are leftover. This is a potentially costly surgery, upwards of $3,000 to $8,500, and requires general anesthesia.

Laser therapy

Laser removal is a non-invasive cosmetic procedure that is a popular treatment for stretch marks.  During this procedure, fractional laser light is used to smooth out your skin and diminish stretch marks. While you might feel some slight discomfort, there shouldn’t be any serious pain during or after the treatment. These laser therapies range anywhere from $500 to $8,000 per treatment and it generally takes a few treatments to see the desired results on stretch marks.

Microdermabrasion

Microdermabrasion treatments use exfoliation to treat the top layer of your skin and remove dead skin. This allows newer, healthier skin to show up in its place, thus lessening the look of your stretch marks. There might be some slight discomfort during the procedure, but it shouldn’t be too painful during or after. These treatments generally cost between $50 and $150 each and it may take multiple treatments to get your desired results.