What exactly are Stretch Marks?
Ever had those stretchy streaks on your skin that don’t disappear, no matter how hard you try? These lines on your skin are nothing but stretch marks. It may not be harmful for your health but nonetheless don’t look so great! So, the first question that pops into your head is on how to remove stretch marks?
Stretch marks can appear anywhere from the thighs, arms, stomach, breasts and even the butt. Though it might not be possible to eliminate them 100%, their intensity can be reduced with right skin care regime. And they can be avoided from forming in the future.
So, let’s take a peek into what helps fade out these marks & leave your skin looking refreshed and supple again!
According to “Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology”, Over 50 percent of women experience stretch marks during pregnancy.
Stretch Mark Causes and Risk Factors
Before we sneak onto ways to deal with the existing stretch marks, lets understand what causes them. The human skin has a certain elasticity that it can maintain, as it stretches. When our body grows very fast, and the skin doesn’t have enough protein (collagen) to keep it elastic, it stretches out leaving behind long lines or stretch marks, to keep up with the sudden bodily growth.
Thus, any of the following factors can lead to the formation of stretch marks:
- Sudden weight gain can affect both men and women, especially during the transitioning twenties. It leads your skin to stretch and leave behind nasty marks.
- Breast implants and other forms of breast surgeries can leave behind stretch marks across the area surrounding the nipples.
- All children go through a growth spurt during their teen years & this can lead to the occurrence of stretch marks on their arms and knees. However, parents must ensure that their kids learn to normalize, most of them disappear, as they grow older & cross puberty.
- Pregnancy leads to easy stretching of skin & thus stretch marks, due to hormonal spike, leads to weakening of skin fibers. They tend to reduce once the mother begins to lose the extra weight after pregnancy. A study for the British Journal, studied 27 pregnant women and compared their stretched skins to find that a stretch mark disrupts the elastic fiber network of the skin during pregnancy and childbirth.
- Simple muscle bulge, caused by bodybuilding exercises can also lead to stretch marks.
- Steroids, if taken in large amounts can also lead to stretch marks on the body.
- Some diseases like Marfan Syndrome, Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome (EDS), etc. can also cause stretch marks. They result in the weakening of skin fibers causing unusual growth and lead to genetic changes in collagen, respectively. EDS, since a genetic makeover disease, runs over generations within families.
Types of Stretch Marks
Stretch marks are generally of two types:
- The pink-red stretch marks also known as “Striae Rubrae”: These stretch marks are the earliest indications of skin stretching. When pregnancy leads to stretching on the skin on the stomach, it appears as red lines under the skin. These are signs of the injured skin fiber and as the skin starts to heal, the marks change color. As they are young, they can be treated with oils, creams or laser treatments & can easily disappear with regular treatment. Sometimes, a technique is used to treat these pink lines & is known as micro-dermabrasion. This technique is also use to treat red stretch marks.
- The white stretch marks, also known as “Striae Albae”: They are nothing but the red or pink stretch marks that have changed color, due to aging. These marks fall under the category of being more mature and scar-like. They tend to be irregular in shape and lead to wrinkles developing on the skin around it. The red marks turn to white over a period of months and years, and thus it is best to stop the red marks from ageing, as the older white marks are more prominent and also cause the loss of elasticity, thus enhancing the process of aging.
- Sometimes the stretch marks can appear to be grey, dark blue, purplish or black on a darker complexion. While on a patient with Cushing’s disease the same stretch marks can lead to thin skin, as a result of prolonged corticosteroid usage or certain surgical procedures.
- Pregnancy Stretch marks are often categorized separately, as they form only as a result of changes of mother’s body, undergoes during pregnancy. These stretch marks generally start to show around the start of the third trimester, but in some cases can appear as early as the 6th month of pregnancy. They tend to appear on the abdomen, breast and thigh areas of a pregnant woman, and can extend on to her lower back area, upper arms, hips and buttocks. These pregnancy stretch marks mature within an year or two, leaving behind scars but for the most part, given the appropriate care, they fade away with time.
Stretch Mark Symptoms
Stretch marks start with a raised, itchy feeling on the skin. Then they change colors from red/pink to publish blue and white scars over time. They can be hard to notice in initial stages & can only appear as ripples, which materialize in appearance with time.
Stretch marks can form on various parts of the body:
Now that we know why and how they form, the next obvious discussion in the article talks about how to remove stretch marks?
How can we prevent stretch marks from forming at all?
Since stretch marks are caused by loss of skin elasticity, they can be prevented by keeping skin moisturized & thus elastic. Oils and creams can go a long way in keeping the skin moisturized, preventing the formation of stretch marks.
Since most of these methods are based on encounters & shared experiences, they might not have the same effects on everyone. It’s important that you consult your doctor, in case of any doubts or allergies.
Find below easily available things that can help in stretch mark removal process:
- Coconut Oil: Also known as the traditional skin moisturizer, virgin coconut oil must be massaged onto damp skin on a daily basis. It can be left overnight or washed away within 2 hours.
- Cocoa Butter: Though no studies have shown their effect on reducing stretch marks, cocoa butter can help prevent their formation by keeping the skin moisturized. Mix cocoa butter with Vitamin E, shea butter and virgin coconut oil. It produces a concoction that can bring even the roughest skin back to life.
- Baby Oil: Baby oil is made up of mineral oil that helps reduce the water loss from the skin, thus keeping it moisturized and healthy.
- Almond Oil: Due to Vitamin D and E, almond oil helps maintain the skin’s ’s elasticity and keeps it moisturized, thus helping prevent future stretch marks from forming.
- Shea Butter: Shea butter in itself is a natural emollient and can be used individually, before bed, to keep the skin moisturized, thus reducing the changes of the occurrence of stretch marks or helping improve the appearance of the already existing ones, stretch marks over time.
- Olive Oil: Though found to be ineffective against stretch marks, olive oil in combination with Vitamin E keeps the skin hydrated and may help prevent the occurrence of stretch marks, if used regularly. Alongside olive oil, Vitamin E stabilizes skin barrier & leaves it soft. It also has an anti-inflammatory effect.
Home Remedies on How to Remove Stretch Marks
- Castor Oil: Known for its skin-conditioning properties, Castor oil consists of Ricinoleic acid and other ingredients that can help improve the appearance of stretch marks. You can massage directly on affected area, before going to bed, every night.
- Aloe Vera: Its amalgamation of moisturizing and collagen development properties makes it a savior for the harsh stretch marks. 2 tablespoons of fresh Aloe Vera gel, mixed with Vitamin E oil (anti-inflammatory effects), When applied to affected area(washed-off in an hour) on daily basis, can help reduce the effects of stretch marks drastically.
- Vicks Vaporub: Beauty bloggers swear by this remedy to lighten the scars caused by stretch marks. Though no scientific evidence has come about, applying Vicks Vaporub, wrapping it with cling wrap, leaving it overnight, is said to create visible reduction effects of old materialized stretch marks.
- Apple Cider Vinegar: ACV is a popular home remedy, and use to treat a lot of skin and hair problems, over the past decade. To use it for stretch marks, grab half a cup of diluted apple cider vinegar, store it in a spray bottle and spray it on the affected area before bed.
- Lemon Juice: For those without any specific skin sensitivities, can use lemon, to try out the bleaching effects of lemon on the stretch marks. Though not scientifically proven, anecdotes through generations have spoken about lemon rubbing, as an effective method to treat stretch marks. If you do give this method a try, be sure to wash off the lemon after it dries up. Apply moisturizer to avoid further formation of these marks.
- Witch Hazel: Astringent or witch hazel contains soothing properties and reduce the prominence of post-pregnancy marks.
- Vaseline: Massaging petroleum jelly to the affected area each night prevents the loss of moisturization by acting as an occlusive.
- Coffee Scrub: Scrubbing once or twice a week is an old technique in the book, for keeping skin smooth. However, exfoliation with coffee and shea butter is also known to reduce scars over time.
- Sugar Scrub: Scrubs leave the skin feeling smooth by shedding off the dead skin and leaving space for the growth of new cells. Thus, scrubbing can over time, help remove the dead stretch marked skin and replenish the affected area. Mix granulated sugar and almond or coconut oil to make sugar scrub and use it daily.
- Argan Oil: It has properties to fade away stretch marks, 1-2 tablespoons of cold pressed Argan oil, apply it overnight to maintain skin elasticity and keep the skin healthy.
- Jojoba Oil: Jojoba oil, though popularly known as an oil, is actually a wax ester that deeply moisturizes skin. By using it overnight on a regular basis, the scar moisturizes and eventually reduce in appearance.
- Rosehip Seed Oil: The rose hip seed oil has anti-inflammatory properties that reduce oxidative stress in skin, allowing it to heal with time.
- Emu Oil: Proven to show collagen growth in rats, Emu oil has anti-inflammatory properties. Emu oil can penetrate the top layer of skin to deep moisturize it & reduce the appearance of stretch marks. Since emu oil causes skin irritation, so a patch test is recommended before use. Also, if left overnight, you should washed off oil in the morning with soap water.
- Potato Juice: A widely used home remedy, grate a potato and squeeze for juice, then apply to the affected area for lightening skin tone and reducing the appearance of stretch marks.
Find this column for other Pregnancy Topics.
Treatment for Stretch Marks
Though harmless and in no need for treatment, many individuals like to reduce their appearance with certain clinical treatments. Note that any treatment for stretch marks can definitely fade their appearance, but no treatment can make them disappear completely.
Here are some treatment methods, to fade the marks and improve their texture:
- Retinoid cream: For stretch marks that are recent and only a few months old, regular application of retinoid cream can help improve their appearance. Retinol consists of Vitamin A and Tretinoin, which helps rebuild the skin protein(Collagen), thus bettering the texture of stretch marks. The only precaution one might need to consider while using Retinol based creams is that Tretinoin can irritate skin. So beware if you are pregnant or nursing, refer to a doctor before using cream to avoid any possible side effects on baby.
- Micro-needling: Micro-needling is a method of treatment that uses tiny-needles to stimulate collagen growth. In order to avoid pigmentation changes, micro-needling could be better over laser treatment.
- Laser therapy: To increase collagen growth and promote elasticity, there are various kinds of laser and light therapies available in the market. Pigmentation changes might occur with this therapy and thus it’s best to consult your doctor, for the best possible course of treatment action.
We are positive that after reading this article you are feeling pretty confident about dealing with the stretch marks. And you have the answers you need on how to remove stretch marks from your skin. Even if you aren’t feeling so sure, remember that stretch marks are a common occurrence, and affect a hefty population.
As per the data quoted by Derma Net, “Stretch marks are very common, affecting 70% of adolescent girls and 40% of boys”.
If permanent stretch marks refuse to fade, even after trying various remedies, then you should take treatment from a dermatologist. Various products are available in the market for the treatment of stretch marks. But most of these products don’t work and are a waste of money.
An assistant professor and dermatologist at Michigan, Frank Wang states that most of the products in the markets have no scientific evidence backing them and thus rarely work. There is no fixed “cure” for the marks, but with proper precautions you can prevent them from forming.
Watch out for this space for more information or health tips on a safe and healthy pregnancy journey.
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