What Are Stretch Marks?
Stretch marks are formed as a result of the separation of the upper layers of skin from the lower layers of skin, caused by the rapid overstretching of the underlying layers of skin.
Stretch marks occur as a result of genetic predisposition, rapid stretching of the skin (due to pregnancy, rapid weight gain or rapid growth) as well as a result of hormonal changes.
Stretch marks are a part of life. Though most of us strive to hide our stretch marks, the fact of the matter is that everyone has stretch marks.
Beside pregnant women, stretch marks are also seen on the bodies of obese children, adolescents who have a sudden growth spurt and body builders who see a sudden growth of muscle mass.
Why Pregnancy Causes Stretch Marks
In pregnancy, heredity plays an important role in determining who will have stretch marks. Basically, if your mother has stretch marks chances are that you will have them as well.
However, recent research is suggesting that the causes of stretch marks in pregnancy go further than simply skin expansion and genetics.
This research is highlighting the role of hormonal changes in pregnancy in relation to why women are more likely to get stretch marks during pregnancy then during periods of rapid weight gain.
According to this research, pregnancy hormones work to prepare the skin for the rapid growth of the fetus by attracting more water into the skin, which relaxes the bonds between collagen fibers. This makes it easier for the skin to tear when it is stretched, as a result of the fetus growing, and for stretch marks to form.
How To Prevent Stretch Marks
The only way to avoid stretch marks is to prevent them!
- Drink plenty of water! Water helps hydrate your skin from within and keep it elastic which may help prevent stretch marks.
- Always wear sunscreen and avoid excessive sun exposure. Excessive sun exposure dehydrates you and your skin which in turn can lead to the formation of stretch marks.
- Resist the urge to scratch! Never scratch your expanding belly. Itching of expanding skin is a sign of dehydration as well as impending skin damage. Scratching of expanding skin can lead to the formation of deep stretch marks by helping further the separation of the upper layers of skin from the lower layers of skin.
- To help prevent stretch marks while pregnant, massage vitamin E rich oils, such as shea butter, cocoa butter, and coconut oil, on your belly from the start of your pregnancy.
- If stretch marks begin to form on your baby-bump, continue to massage vitamin E rich oils liberally over the stretch marks to minimize their number and appearance.
- Exercise! Regular exercise helps you manage your weight gain during pregnancy. Exercise also helps tone your muscles and keeps your skin firm while sweat helps keep your skin clean and moist.
- Maintain a healthy diet. Your pregnancy diet should include plenty of proteins as well as vitamin C & vitamin E rich foods.
- Eat citrus! Citrus fruit contain high amounts of vitamin C which is proven to help increase your skin’s collagen production and minimize the appearance of early-stage stretch marks.
- Make DIY massage oils for your belly. One ounce of sweet almond or jojoba oil with 7-8 drops of lavender and chamomile oil is a good example of a DIY recipe for stretch marks.
- Massage can help improve blood circulation and improve your skin’s elasticity. So massage your skin with vitamin E rich massage oils to increase circulation.
- Manage your pregnancy weight gain as well as your pregnancy water weight gain. Stay away from foods such as salty potato chips and caffeinated drinks that dehydrate you and can lead to swelling (water-weight gain).
- To avoid stretch marks around breasts, wear a supportive maternity bra and moisturize the skin of your breasts with vitamin E rich oils such as coconut oil which also poses no digestive health hazards to your baby, if you are breastfeeding.
- When all else fails consider laser treatments for your stretch marks. Laser treatments for stretch marks work by promoting synthesis of healthy, new collagen, which has been damaged when stretch marks appear. These laser treatments are fairly new and can cost as much as $450 per session and most people see results after 3 treatments.
Photo courtesy of: meagan