Many believe that stretch marks are only seen in voluptuous or pregnant women but that is far away for the truth. A large number of tall and slender women, that never gained or lost a lot of weight quickly, have stretch marks. Yes, believe it because it is true.
Stretch marks are a common skin condition that appear initially as red lines on the skin and that gradually turn white. These lines are nothing more than scars of the dermis caused by the breakage of the elastic fibers located just under the surface of the skin.
When they appear
They appear when the skin is stretched extensively over a short period of time:
- During pregnancy – as the body grows more rapidly than the skin can keep up with, up to 80-90% of pregnant women will get stretch marks. The secretion of specific hormones necessary to make a woman’s body more flexible and hence give birth more easily, soften the fibres on the skin making it more prone to stretch marks.
- After rapid weight gain – putting on a lot of weight over a short period of time can really put a strain on your skin. The same will happen if you diet regularly. If you want to lose weight, it is best to do it slowly, aim realistically, adopt healthy eating habits and lose weight with no-diet. It can be done.
- Bodybuilding and intense exercise – mistakenly, many often believe that stretch marks are a sign of unhealthy body weight or pregnancy. Athletes and bodybuilders have stretch marks too, though, and they are due to their muscles growing.
- During puberty – during puberty, getting taller very quickly is very common. This results in boys getting stretch marks on their shoulders and back, and girls on their hips, thighs and breasts.
- After prolonged use of corticosteroids – corticosteroids can decrease the amount of collagen in your skin. And as collagen is a protein that helps keep your skin stretchy, the less collagen there is in your skin, the more likely you are to develop stretch marks.
- Due to certain health conditions – there are conditions, like Marfan syndrome, that affect the elasticity of the skin causing widespread stretch marks.
- Genetics – a recent study published in the Journal of Investigative Dermatology showed that genetics are responsible for your tendency or not to get stretch marks. More specifically, researchers found that mutations in specific genes increased the risk of getting stretch marks by 40%.
- Being a woman – unfortunately, likewise cellulite, women are more prone on getting stretch marks than men.
The major concern after the first appearance of stretch marks is whether they can disappear. Unfortunately, they can’t. Yes, there are treatments available that can really improve their appearance making them almost invisible but they cannot fully disappear.
The best approach is prevention and treatment hand in hand.
- Keep your skin hydrated – massage your skin daily with a rich moisturiser to help improve circulation and encourage new tissue growth. No cream is guaranteed to prevent stretch marks but a moisturiser rich in vitamin E or alpha-hydroxy acids (AHA) can reduce the possibility.
- Eat a balanced healthy diet – a diet rich in vitamins and minerals, especially vitamin E and C and the mineral zinc can help keep your skin healthy
Whatever preventative measure you take, there is great possibility that you will get a few stretch marks sometime in your life, especially during pregnancy.
The sooner you treat stretch marks the better. But remember, treatment can make stretch marks fade, but it won’t completely remove them.
- Laser therapy. It is the most costly approach to make stretch marks fade away. It has been shown that intense light boosts collagen and elastin production and thus reducing significantly the appearance of stretch marks. Several sessions, however, might be necessary in order to see satisfactory results.
- Microdermabrasion. It gently removes the skin’s topmost layer with the use of crystals, enhancing the growth of new, more elastic skin. It is a good option for older stretch marks.
- Creams rich in retinoids, which your dermatologist can prescribe. They can significantly improve the appearance of stretch marks. It is important to know however, that you cannot use such creams while pregnant or while breast-feeding.
So, knowing there is really no magic spell to vanish them, keep your chin high and embrace your new body.