Wide fluctuations in weight over a short period of time can cause both women and men to get stretch marks. Although not everyone gets stretch marks when losing weight, genetics can play a role. Skin type is another factor, as some people have more elastic skin than others. Stretch marks generally affect the stomach and thighs, but they may also appear on the breasts, arms and buttocks. While there are no health risks associated with having stretch marks, there are some things you can do to help prevent them from developing as you lose weight.
Lose weight gradually. As the skin shrinks it loses its elasticity, especially in cases of rapid weight loss. You do not want to strain your skin as you take off excess pounds. Loss of collagen fibers in the dermis is what causes stretch marks to show through the top layer of skin.
Include foods rich in protein, vitamins C and E and zinc in your diet. These nutrients stimulate collagen production, which can help prevent stretch marks. The American Academy of Dermatology reports that individuals in their 40s and 50s are less likely to develop stretch marks. The reason is that by midlife a person's skin begins to thin and lose its elasticity as collagen in the outer and middle layers of the skin breaks down.
Keep your skin well hydrated. Drink plenty of water to keep skin soft and supple so that stretch marks are less likely to form. Dry skin has less elasticity.
Use an over-the-counter topical moisturizing cream or lotion specially formulated to prevent stretch marks. Apply to the skin twice each day. If you are really worried about stretch marks forming, talk to your doctor or dermatologist about prescription retinoid creams. These vitamin A derivatives work by making the outer layer of the skin thinner. This allows the cream to get through to the dermis, where it increases collagen production.
Exercise. Do light stretching exercises as part of your daily workout routine. This improves circulation and skin elasticity. Exercise also tightens and tones muscles. In addition to stretching, resistance and strength training exercises build lean muscle mass as you lose body fat. Muscle helps hold the skin in place.
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About this Author
Amber Keefer has more than 25 years' experience working in the fields of human services and health care administration. Writing professionally since 1997, she has written articles covering health, fitness and women's issues published in Family Digest Magazine, Chicago Parent and Woman's Touch. Keefer holds a B.A. from Bloomsburg University of Pennsylvania and an M.B.A. in health care management from Baker College