12 Nov 7 of The Best Treatments & Home Remedies for Stretch Marks
Worried about your stretch marks? You’re not alone. These pesky little skin imperfections can happen to almost anyone. The good news is that stretch marks are completely harmless and totally normal. More good news? There are plenty of effective treatments that can reduce the appearance of stretch marks. While stretch marks will never completely disappear, you can reduce their appearance and make yourself feel a whole lot better about your skin.
What Are Stretch Marks?
Stretch marks are red or purple lines that appear on the skin when the connective tissue of our skin is stretched beyond its elastic limit. As the skin stretches, collagen fibres in the middle layer of skin can tear, causing blood vessels to become visible. Over time, the blood vessels will heal but the overlying tear will remain. When this happens, stretch marks take on their distinctive silver or white appearance.
Why (And Where) Stretch Marks Exist
Stretch marks don’t just affect pregnant women: they can occur any time your body grows or changes shape for any reason. Your skin contains collagen, a protein that aids in its elasticity. If your body lacks collagen, or a part of your body is growing rapidly, your skin simply can’t keep up and tears occur in the connective tissues.
Stretch marks can appear on any part of the body that has grown rapidly. Commonly associated with pregnancy, stretch marks often plague women’s stomachs and breasts. But since they are just as likely to occur due to rapid weight gain, muscle gain, or a growth spurt, they can also appear on the hips, thighs, butt, arms – anywhere.
Who Can Get Stretch Marks?
Some of us are more prone to getting stretch marks than others, but almost everyone will notice stretch marks on some part of their body at some stage of their life. People who suffer from Marfan Syndrome – a hereditary condition that causes a weakening in the fibres of the skin – or Cushing’s Disease – a condition caused by abnormally high levels of cortisol in the body – can be more prone to having stretch marks appear on their body.
However, anyone who experiences a period of rapid growth – whether it is during pregnancy, puberty or rapid weight loss – can have stretch marks appear on their body.
Types Of Stretch Marks
Pregnancy Stretch Marks
If stretch marks appear during your pregnancy – you’re not alone! Stretch marks are very prevalent during pregnancy, not only because of you rapidly growing belly, but also because pregnancy hormones can weaken the fibres of the skin, making it more likely for stretch marks to occur.
In early pregnancy when the baby bump begins to show, small pink stretch marks can appear. These can sometimes feel itchy and cause the surrounding skin to look thin and flat. As the baby gets bigger and the skin keeps stretching, more blood vessels will be visible underneath causing the stretch marks to become purple or red. In the months following the birth, the skin will begin shrinking back to its original shape which can cause the stretch marks to pucker or take on an irregular shape. The blood vessels underneath will heal and the stretch marks will take on a silver or white appearance.
Dramatic Weight Changes
Both men and women who are overweight or obese can develop stretch marks on their body, particularly if their weight was gained in a relatively short period. The same is true for people who have breast implant surgery, or teenagers going through rapid growth spurts during adolescence.
Bodybuilders who focus on building muscle mass in a short period can notice stretch marks appearing as the muscles bulge out from under the skin. Common areas for stretch marks to occur are the biceps, shoulders and thighs.
People with high levels of steroids in their body can be more prone to having stretch marks, whether because of a condition like Cushing’s Disease or through deliberately using steroid creams or taking steroid medications.
How To Get Rid Of Stretch Marks
Stretch marks aren’t dangerous and are extremely common, with more men and women embracing their stretch marks. It’s not possible to completely repair the underlying tears that cause the appearance of stretch marks. However, there are a range of treatments available if you want to reduce the appearance of stretch marks.
Glycolic Acid isn’t as scary as it sounds, and is actually a natural treatment derived from plant-based materials including sugar-beet, pineapple, and sugar-cane. Acting as an exfoliator, Glycolic Acid works by removing dead skin cells and encouraging the production of healthy skin cells below. While Glycolic Acid can effectively treat stretch marks, it’s not for everyone. People with sensitive skin can notice peeling or redness and should consider an alternative treatment.
Laser treatments, including Pico Genesis and Clear and Brilliant, are some of the newest treatments for stretch marks. It works by delivering painless electrical pulses into the skin to trick your body into thinking that your skin has been injured, triggering the natural healing process. Some laser treatments are specifically designed for new stretch marks that are still in the angry red stage, calming the underlying blood vessels before further damage occurs.
In addition, some laser treatments prompt the body to produce more collagen, which can prevent future stretch marks from occurring. A laser treatment regime will be specifically designed for your body type and can have excellent outcomes in the treatment of stretch marks.
Pregnancy Safe Treatments
During pregnancy, the best thing you can do for your growing skin is to concentrate on proper nutrition and to keep your skin hydrated and nourished. A gentle skin exfoliation regime can work wonders on a growing baby bump, as can drinking plenty of water. Once your pregnancy is over, you can consider other types of treatments to combat any stretch marks that appear during pregnancy.
Creams And Oils
There are currently no prescription medications to treat stretch marks, but Retinol is a non-prescription cream that boasts excellent results. Retinol stimulates your body to produce collagen, causing thicker skin and reducing the chance of further stretch marks.
Some people can experience redness and inflammation from Retinol creams. If this occurs to you, you can choose a gentler cream or oil with vitamins A and E to treat your stretch marks over time, without the side effects.
Plenty of natural and organic rubs and creams can hydrate and exfoliate your skin, reducing the appearance of stretch marks over time. Cocoa Butter is a firm favourite as it is a powerhouse of beneficial antioxidants and melts at skin temperature. Shea Butter is thought to boost the production of collagen, while its concentrations of vitamins A and E can help treat the appearance of stretch marks. Lutein is a naturally occurring substance found in egg yolks and green vegetables, and can promote skin elasticity and hydration.
Pregnancy Safe Rubs
Retinol and Vitamin A should both be avoided during pregnancy. When choosing a rub, cream, or oil during pregnancy, stick to natural ingredients and save some of the more powerful treatments until after the baby has arrived.
While your diet can’t help to reduce existing stretch marks, proper nutrition can certainly lower the chance of developing stretch marks in the future. Vitamin E is an antioxidant that protects the all-important collagen fibres in your skin and can be taken as an oral supplement or found naturally in foods such as spinach, olives, sunflower seeds, avocados, and almonds.
The healthier your body, the healthier your skin. Regular exercise, good nutrition, and plenty of water can help you maintain a healthy weight and reduce the likelihood of stretch marks appearing in the future.
The key to treating stretch marks is to be flexible in your approach and realistic with your expected outcomes. While there is no way of completely removing or healing stretch marks, there are plenty of treatments that can dramatically reduce their appearance. Whether you choose a natural treatment like a body rub or opt for laser treatment from a skin clinic, there are steps you can take today to start reducing the appearance of your stretch marks.