An Overview Of Stretch Marks

Editor's Note: This article has been recently updated with latest information and research studies.
 

Stretch marks are streaks on the skin that appear linear. At first, they look like angry purplish red lines then as time goes the lines turn silvery white or brown, depending on the natural coloring of the affected person.

Structure of the skin

The skin is composed of three layers. The outermost layer of the skin is called the epidermis, and it is responsible for protecting us from the harm such as extreme temperature, harsh environments and foreign matters. The middle layer, also known as dermis, is an intricate web of nerve endings, blood vessels, oil glands, hair follicles, elastin and collagen. The last two are dermal proteins which are responsible for supporting the skin’s elasticity. Dermis is responsible for wrinkles, fine lines, and stretch marks. The last and the deepest layer of the skin is called hypodermis. Since hypodermis contains lots and lots of adipose tissues, this section is responsible for maintaining the warmth of the core temperature. Sections in the body like breasts, thighs, abdomen and hips contain greater amounts of fat tissues and are generally thicker in women compared to men.

Why Do Stretch Marks Occur?

Contrary to popular belief, the appearance of stretch marks has little to do with the actual stretching of the skin. In cases of pregnancy, excessive muscle building and growth spurt, stretch marks occur because the elastin fibers and the collagen beneath the overstretched skin are damaged and inflamed. Initial appearance of stretch marks is red and purplish since the inflammation is relatively new. However, as time gradually ticks, stretch marks turn to brown or silvery white.

Who Gets Stretch Marks?

Stretch Marks

Adolescent girls and boys get stretch marks because of growth spurt. Body parts increase* in size as young boys and girls undergo puberty, hence the explanation of stretch marks in breast, hips, and near the armpit areas. Pregnant women are susceptible to stretch marks because of their expanding belly and widening hips and legs, although some are lucky to breeze all throughout their pregnancy stretch mark-free. Body builders are at risk of getting stretch marks because of the dramatic increase* of the muscle sizes.

Most Affected Areas

The most common areas of stretch marks are where skin overstretching occurs the most, notably in the abdomen, near the armpits, groin, buttocks, thighs, lower back and chest area.

Changes and Problems Associated With Stretch Marks

Stretch marks are neither itchy nor painful. The appearance of purplish red streaks on the skin is not associated with any troublesome symptoms. Perhaps the biggest and only dilemma linked to stretch marks is the ugly, unappealing appearance of stretch marks. As much as possible, men and women do not want to deal with stretch marks because of embarrassment and discomfort it bring.

Stretch Marks Treatments

  • Microdermabrasion:

    Fine crystals are used as an exfoliant to be applied on the skin with the intention of removing* the outermost layer. Once the epidermis- where stretch marks are present- is removed, collagen production is induced, hence revealing a fresh, rejuvenated layer.

  • Laser Stretch Mark Removal:

    There are two types of laser removal intended for stretch marks. For freshly formed stretch marks, a pulse dye laser is recommended to reduce* the redness. For old stretch markers, a different type of laser therapy called laser resurfacing to smooth out the indention.

  • Chemical Peels:

    In chemical peels, the solutions used are rich in alpha-hydroxy acid (AHA) that is designed to damage the skin purposefully to trigger the healing process. As a result, a new layer of the skin minus the stretch marks is revealed.

  • Tummy Tucks:

    Tummy tucks is a surgical operation with the intention of cutting out the part of the abdomen where stretch marks are present. Also known as abdominoplasty, this is a very costly method of removing* stretch marks.

  • Tretinoin Cream:

    Tretinoin creams contain high contents of Vitamin A which boosts* collagen production. An increased collagen production results to increased elasticity of the skin.

  • Micro-needling:

    The newest treatment for reducing* stretch marks, micro-needling stimulates the body’s ability to generate collagen and elastin without damage. As fine needles are introduced in the skin, the dermis is pushed to produce new collagen.

Home Remedies for Stretch Marks

  • Potato Juice:

    The vegetable potato has rich contents of minerals and vitamins that induce growth and refurbishment of dermal cells. You can rub the potato directly over the stretch marks, or make a potation juice and drink it on a regular basis.

  • Sugar:

    The fine granules of sugar is one of the most commonly used natural exfoliants. Mix it with your favorite essential oil or honey, and gently rub it all over your body to remove* the dead skin cells.

  • Olive Oil:

    This essential oil is very rich and moisturizing so when applied, skin gets deeply hydrated. Olive oil also contains high contents of Vitamins A, E and D that improve* skin’s elasticity, which is your best weapon against stretch marks.

  • Cocoa Butter:

    A popular ingredient in stretch mark lotions, cocoa butter does a great job in leaving the skin smooth, supple and moisturized, especially in the stretch marks zone area.

  • Alfalfa:

    The leaves of Alfalfa are rich in essential amino acids, which lend an extra hand in keeping the overall state of the skin in great condition. Vitamins K and E are also part of this plant, the latter which fight off free radicals.

Ways To Prevent Stretch Marks

Stretch marks can be prevented in a number of ways. First, you have to keep your weight on a healthy scale. When you gain weight, stretching of the skin is inevitable due to chunkier and heavier body parts. You do not need to be a size 0 to keep stretch marks at bay. As long as you manage your weight within the normal range, you do not have to worry for the appearance of stretch marks yet. Exercise and healthy diet are your tools to maintaining the desired weight. Indulge in a diet rich in fruits and vegetables as they keep your skin supple.

Hydration is your number one all natural weapon against stretch marks. If your body is compensated with an adequate amount of fluids, it will show in your lips, hair and skin. If your kidneys are working just fine and there is no contraindication in consuming more than 8 glasses of water every day, then by all means do so. Swap carbonated drinks for fruit juices and include soups in your daily meals.

Exfoliation is another popular and easy method of keeping stretch marks away. When you exfoliate, you are getting rid of the dead skin cells away, revealing a fresh layer of your skin. The lifespan of dermal skin cells are short; therefore it is natural for our skin to shed off a layer after a few weeks. Exfoliation is your way of making sure the impurities and dead skin cells do not load up on your skin. You can use a homemade scrub made of sugar and honey, or you can use a loofah sponge load up with your favorite shower gel during baths. Both methods work just fine in removing* dirt and dead dermal cells. If you want to splurge, you can invest on commercially made body scrubs. Remember to exfoliate one to two times a week as overdoing so might cause your skin harm and abrasions.

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Author

Expert Author : Kelly Everson (Consumer Health Digest)

Kelly Everson is an independent editor, an award-winning writer and an editorial consultant in the health and fitness industries. Currently, she is a contributing editor at Consumer Health Digest.