If you’ve ever been pregnant or have gained or lost a lot of weight quickly, then you’ve probably noticed the development of tiger-like stripes on your skin that fade in color over time. Those stripes are called stretch marks.
Stretch marks form when the skin expands too quickly and does not have the elasticity to stretch smoothly. Although stretch marks aren’t harmful and don’t cause health issues, they can make people feel self-conscious.
There are some ways to hide stretch marks or make them less noticeable. If you’ve developed them after pregnancy or another major change in your body and are wondering if a tummy tuck could fix the problem, here’s what you need to know.
What Causes Stretch Marks?
Damage to collagen and elastin, two types of protein found in the skin, cause stretch marks to appear. When the skin stretches quickly, the proteins rupture, creating red, brownish, or purple streaks on the skin.
After they first appear, the marks can be somewhat itchy and might be raised above the skin. Over time, they start to sink into the skin and can become depressed later on. The color of the marks also fades as time goes on.
Although anyone can develop stretch marks, they are more common in women than in men. Women who become pregnant at a younger age are more likely to develop stretch marks than women who become pregnant later in life. Some women also develop stretch marks on their breasts after breast augmentation surgery.
Certain medications, such as corticosteroids, seem to increase the likelihood of stretch marks. There also seems to be a genetic component to stretch marks. Some people are more likely to get them than others due to their family history.
Can a Tummy Tuck Hide Stretch Marks?
Pregnancy changes the appearance of the abdominal area in many ways. After childbirth, some women note their formerly toned and flat tummy develops a little pooch, due to fatty deposits, stretched muscles, and loose skin. To restore the appearance of the tummy, some women choose to have a tummy tuck, either on its own or as part of a mommy makeover.
During a tummy tuck, a plastic surgeon trims away excess skin from the abdominal area, tightens the muscles in the area, and removes excess fat. The surgery can also help to cover up scars from a C-section.
Although stretch mark removal isn’t typically the goal of a tummy tuck and wouldn’t be the primary reason to choose the surgery, it is possible for a tummy tuck to offer some improvement in the appearance of stretch marks. If the stretch marks are on the skin that the surgeon cuts away during the procedure, then they will be gone for good afterward. It’s a nice side benefit, but nothing more.
Otherwise, a tummy tuck isn’t considered an option for removing stretch marks. It won’t eliminate marks that fall outside of the area that would be addressed during the surgery. Plus, tummy tuck surgery results in a large, but easily-hidden scar that makes it impractical to get a tummy tuck solely for treating stretch marks.
What Can You Do About Stretch Marks?
While a tummy tuck probably isn’t going to solve your stretch mark problems, there are other ways to treat them. Treating stretch marks might make them less visible or can temporarily cover them up but might not remove them from the skin entirely. It’s also worth noting that figuring out what works for your stretch marks might take a bit of trial and error.
For example, some people see an improvement in their stretch marks after using an over-the-counter cream. Usually, the greatest improvement is seen when the cream is applied to young stretch marks, rather than ones that have been on the skin for a while. To get the best results, it’s important to use the cream daily and to really massage it into the skin.
If an over-the-counter cream doesn’t help you, a prescription treatment might work. Hyaluronic acid and tretinoin have both shown some benefit when applied to early stretch marks. Tretinoin is a type of retinoid, a form of vitamin A.
Some non-surgical skin resurfacing treatments have been shown to help reduce the appearance of stretch marks, but not erase them completely. You might see an improvement in the appearance of your stretch marks after laser treatments, a chemical peel, or an Ultherapy treatment.
For some people, camouflaging the stretch marks is good enough. While you want to limit sun exposure and avoid time spent in tanning beds, applying a sunless tanner to the skin can help to cover up the stretch marks.
It’s also worth remembering that your stretch marks will become less visible as time goes on. They might look angry and red when they first appear, but after a few years, they will fade somewhat.
Can You Prevent Stretch Marks?
The best way to prevent stretch marks is to keep the skin from stretching rapidly or from shrinking quickly. Maintaining your weight can help you avoid the dramatic weight gain or loss that is often associated with stretch marks.
In the case of pregnancy, you can’t really control the size of your abdomen, but you can take steps to limit the amount of weight you gain. Additionally, keeping your skin hydrated by drinking enough water and applying a moisturizer can also help you to avoid collagen and elastin damage that causes stretch marks.
Although a tummy tuck might not remove all of your stretch marks, it can help you get your pre-baby body back and give you a boost of confidence. Dr. Paul Vitenas is a board-certified plastic surgeon in Houston, Texas who performs tummy tucks and other body surgeries as part of a mommy makeover. To learn more, call 281-484-0088 or schedule a virtual consultation today.