The Scars of Weight Loss
By Rocio Ortiz, RN BSN
The initial rapid weight loss after bariatric surgery can be very exciting but is often followed with body image distress. Undesired changes in skin appearance such as stretch marks and loose skin can become a source of stress for some.
Striae distensae (stretch marks) are considered a common side effect of bariatric surgery due to rapid weight loss. The cause of striae is poorly understood but is believed to be the result of damage to collagen bundles and elastin fibers caused by skin distention.
On a positive note, skin is an active organ, constantly changing and adapting. The life cycle of a stretch mark is similar to the life cycle of a scar. It can diminish or fade with time. Just as scars have improved response with early treatment the same is true for stretch marks.
There is no solution available to eliminate stretch marks, but there are many treatment modalities to help diminish the appearance.
Good Nutrition. A healthy body equals healthy skin. Some of the foods recommended to incorporate into your diet provide vitamins and minerals that aid in the overall appearance of skin. Avocados provide essential oils and B-complex vitamins; mangoes are high in vitamin A; almonds are high in vitamin E; cottage cheese provides a good source of selenium; and citrus fruits are high in vitamin C.
Hydration is also essential to maintain healthy skin. Staying well hydrated is just as important as eating healthy. There are many supplements on the market to improve the appearance of skin. Consult your physician before adding any supplements to your diet.
Topical. Topical creams are a noninvasive and affordable method of keeping skin moisturized to help diminish the visibility of stretch marks. Oils such as vitamin E and cocoa are best if applied after showering to increase absorption. Several stretch mark treatments are available at retail stores and do not require prescriptions. Retinoids such as tretinoin, adapalene and tazorotene are options available by prescription.
Chemical Peels. Chemical peels may show significant improvement of early active stretch marks. Improvement of appearance, texture, firmness and color has been noted with monthly treatments.
Laser Treatment. Laser treatment initiates healing events that result in a smoother appearance of skin. Most improvement is noted if treatment is done early. The number of sessions needed for desired results vary due to the stage of the stretch mark and laser treatment. Once stretch marks become white, treatment becomes difficult.
Available treatment options for stretch marks are numerous, but the best treatment is prevention. We can help diminish the risk of stretch marks with good nutrition and hydration. If you decide to seek treatment; remember, it will take time to notice results and improvements vary.