Stretch marks are scars over the skin which diminishes over the time but do not totally disappear. Whenever the skin is over stretched, the collagen and elastin in the middle layer of the skin becomes much thinner and breaks. At first the marks on the skin are quite red as the blood vessels can be seen. With time the blood vessels contracts, leaving behind silvery marks.
Stretch marks are more common in women than in men. It occurs in about 85% of pregnant women due to the excessive stretching in the stomach dermis tissues.
How Stretch Marks Develop
To better understand how to manage stretch marks, let’s take a quick look at how it develops in the first place.
There are three (3) layers of the skin namely
• Epidermis (surface layer)
• Hypodermis (innermost layer)
Stretch marks occur in the middle layer which is the dermis. When there is a sudden stretching due to pregnancy or weight gain, the dermis at first tries to accommodate these changes. However as the stretch increases, the tissues start to tear apart in order to absolve the pressure. When this dermis starts to repairs, it does not get back to that smooth surface appearance, and therefore result in the stretch marks. Stretch marks can affect almost every part of the body but are common in the stomach, back, shoulders arms, thigh, breast, hips, chest and neck.
The causes of stretch marks are many, but here are some of the commonest
Pregnancy is one of the most common causes of stretch marks in women, especially at the late stages of pregnancy. It is believed that hormones that are produced by the body to help soften ligaments ready for birth also soften fibres in the skin increasing the risk of developing Stretch Marks.
2. Rapid Weight Gain
When weight is gain over a very short period of time, it predisposes the skin to stretch marks. This is because of the rapid breaking of the tissues in the dermis. This is worst if the individual rapidly gain weight and then quickly lose such weight in a continual circle.
Young people grow very quickly at puberty which causes a lot of strains to the dermis layer. Males often get Stretch marks on their shoulders, chest and back, whereas females tend to get them on their hips, thighs and breasts.
4. Family History
Like most medical conditions, a family history of stretch marks can predispose one to having same, especially if there is an associated obesity or over-weight.
5. Some health conditions
Certain diseases such are Cushing’s syndrome and Marfan’s syndrome are also been associated with the development of stretch marks.
6. Steroids misuse
Although this not common, prolong use of corticosteroid can also compromise the skin structure, resulting in stretch marks.
Prevention of Stretch Marks
Although it is hard to totally prevent stretch marks especially in pregnancy, there are some health tips that can help to minimize its occurrence.
I. Ensure a steady weight gain especially during pregnancy
II. Eat plenty of fresh fruits and vegetables to keep your skin healthy
III. Keep your skin hydrated, regularly drink plenty of fresh clean water
IV. Food rich in vitamin C, zinc and vitamin E are very helpful
V. Resist the temptation of over eating due to increased appetite during pregnancy.
How to Treat Stretch Marks
Today, there are thousands of Over-The-Counter (OTC) drugs and creams with various success claims of treating stretch marks. The best treatment will be provided by the dermatologist. Below are some of the various options in the treatments and managements of stretch marks.
1. Body creams and lotions
These are mostly skin moisturizers which have been relatively effective at the developing stages of stretch marks. These creams are applied topically (on the skin) over a long period of time.
Laser treatment is another great option. But you must note that lasers do not completely remove these marks, instead they make them look faint so that they are barely visible. You might need to do more than one laser treatment if the stretch marks are already well formed. I honestly do not recommend laser option for pregnant women.
3. Cosmetic surgery
This is very expensive and I don't recommend it, considering some complications that might arise. It is known as abdominoplasty if it’s done on the stomach skin. It involves the removal of fatty tissues from the stomach dermis tissues.
4. Use of aloe vera
Aloe Vera is one cheap home based treatment option for stretch marks. You can rub Aloe Vera directly on the affected skin portion, leave for an hour and then rinse with warm water. It is known to be effective. Olive oil is also a very good alternative to Aloe Vera.
Having a smooth skin is the desire of everybody, and it’s a dream that can be easily achieved. As long as you monitor your weight gain, eat food rich in essential vitamins and keep your skin hydrated, you can easily keep stretch marks off.