Stretch Marks

What are Stretch Marks? Stretch marks are medically termed striae. In order to understand what stretch marks are, you need to first understand what the skin is made of. Normal skin is made up of 4% elastin and 80% collagen, both of which are elastic and soft tissue. While collagen is the soft portion of the skin, it is elastin that makes the skin soft, supple, and stretchable. When a person puts on a lot of weight, the excess fat below the surface of the skin causes the skin to stretch. When the skin is stretched beyond its elasticity and lacks support within the dermis, this layer of the skin tears. This damage causes prominent stretch marks that appear as raised and darkened lines on the surface of the skin. Pregnancy, an intense weightlifting regimen, and hormone replacement therapy are some of the causes of stretch marks.

Stretch marks affect about 90% of all women, and once they have passed the initial stage, where they are deep purple, red or pink in color, they cannot be treated. So, the best cure for them is prevention.

For most people, stretch marks may be regarded as a grave skin problem. This is because skin that is riddled with stretch marks is does lose a lot of its aesthetic appeal. These marks can destroy the beauty of the natural skin, making it look abnormal. It is also important to note that the elastin fibers are the most difficult of skin cells to repair, and once damaged, it is almost impossible for them to be repaired or regrown. Consequently, there is no remedy or treatment to remove stretch marks permanently, albeit they can be made lighter through the use of topical ointments and medications.

Symptoms of Stretch Marks

Stretch marks appear as discolored streaks along normal skin. They may have indentions and the lines may be slightly irregular. There may be multiple streaks on the skin that appear light pink or purple in color. As time passes, the pink or purple colored streaks begin to fade and become white or silver in color.

Although stretch marks can occur on any part of the body, they are most commonly seen on the larger areas of the body. They are usually noticed on the upper arms, back, breasts, buttocks, and abdomen. It is a good idea to consult a doctor if you notice any large and peculiar looking stretch marks on your body.

Causes of Stretch Marks

If you’ve ever been on a weight loss plan and had success with it you would probably be familiar with the problem. Stretch marks may typically appear following sudden weight changes in a person. Both rapid weight gain and weight loss are responsible for the formation of stretch marks on the skin. They are more common in women, especially after pregnancy or during the teen years when the body is developing sexually. When stretch marks are caused due to pregnancy, they are known as striae gravidarum.

The primary cause of stretch marks is the damage sustained by the skin tissue known as elastin. The structure of the skin is such that the elastin is intermeshed with collagen cells, forming a fishnet-like layer right below the collagen cells. It is this cellular structure that gives the skin its elasticity and makes it stretchable, supple, and soft. With time, or due to certain physical conditions such as rapid weight gain or weight loss, the elastin fibers may get damaged by being overstretched. When this happens, the surface of the skin gets a tear-like mark. It is these marks that are known as stretch marks.

Although these appear to be rather prominent on the superficial surface of the skin, they are actually formed beneath the surface of the skin. These marks may also appear to be structurally different, but they are the same when you see them under a microscope. However, the texture of the skin where the stretch marks appear is different from the other areas of skin.

Apart from pregnancy, the second most common cause of appearance of stretch marks is growth spurts. Certain medications and supplements that contain steroids may also cause the appearance of stretch marks. This is because the steroid hormones cause a lot of changes throughout the body, and many of these changes are structural in nature.

Other common causes of stretch marks include obesity and weight lifting. Apart from these, there are genetic factors that contribute to the formation of stretch marks. If there is a genetic defect of connective tissues, the skin becomes more prone to stretching and the elastin fibers are more easily damaged. The genetic nature of such tissue anomalies cause those, who have family members with stretch marks, to be more prone to developing them.

Remedies for Stretch Marks

Although stretch marks cannot be completely removed, there are some home remedies that can be used to lighten them and hide their appearance. Here is a list of some such remedies that one can use.

  • It is very important to control both weight gain as well as weight loss. Keeping yourself in shape and toning your muscles is one of the easiest ways of preventing stretch marks. If your skin is firm and weight changes are controlled, you are far less likely to develop stretch marks.
  • Vitamin E helps build both elastin and collagen fibers. Massaging your skin with oils containing vitamin E can help you keep it looking younger and healthier. You can use olive oil or almond oil for massaging your skin.
  • A homemade recipe using essential oils can also be used to keep the skin soft, supple, healthy, and free of stretch marks. Mix together seven drops of lavender oil with five drops of chamomile oil and an ounce of carrier oil. Apply this on the area where you have stretch marks to make them lighter.
  • There are some elastin creams that are available commercially. These can be topically applied on the stretch marks to improve skin texture and fade the marks. Cocoa butter is another alternative to such medicinal preparations.
  • Another great homemade recipe for removing stretch marks can be made by mixing together half a cup each of extra virgin olive oil and fresh aloe vera gel with the liquid from six capsules each of vitamin E and vitamin A supplements. Once you have mixed all these ingredients, store them in a dark jar and put this in the refrigerator. This oil can be applied all over the skin where you have stretch marks.
  • You can make your own homemade remedy for stretch marks by mixing together half a cup of cocoa butter with one part each of wheat germ oil, apricot kernel oil, and vitamin E oil with two teaspoons of grated beeswax. Mix these together till you have an ointment like consistency. If you are allergic to bee venom and bee products, avoid using this remedy.
  • Apricot scrub or a natural scrub made from oats can be used to slough off dead cells. Removing the dead skin cells can help you clear the skin, thereby lightening the stretch marks.

Diet for Stretch Marks

A diet for stretch marks is the easiest and most efficient way of lightening stretch marks on your skin. Moreover, since it is important to control your weight loss and your weight gain to prevent stretch marks, eating a healthy diet is a good preventive measure against stretch marks as well. If you already have stretch marks, you should consume a diet that is low in carbohydrates and rich in proteins. A high protein diet that is rich in both vitamins C and E, helps repair skin tissues in a more efficient and speedy manner, thus not only reducing the chances of getting stretch marks but also helping repair them.

Foods that are high in zinc, such as fish and nuts, are also great for your health as well as your skin. Other foods that are considered beneficial for the treatment of stretch marks include milk, carrots, and citrus fruits that are rich in vitamins A, C, and D. Lastly, keeping your skin hydrated is also beneficial for your skin. Therefore, drinking a lot of water and other fluids can be helpful if you have stretch marks or want to avoid getting them. Foods that are rich in silica can help your skin become more elastic. Also, avoiding alcohol and caffeine helps in the prevention of stretch marks, as both are known to have a negative effect on the elasticity of the skin.

Keeping some of these pointers in mind will not only help you treat the stretch marks but it will also help you prevent them.

Suggestion for Stretch Marks

Recent studies have shown that stress could be a cause of stretch marks and an effective way of treating this is to keep your stress levels low. Exercising regularly can help you make your muscles firm and also prevent you from putting on excessive weight. Yoga is considered to be one of the best exercises for stretch marks. Yoga not only stretches your entire body, but it also helps you keep your muscles toned. When coupled with a healthy diet, complete with fruits and vegetables, yoga can really help you keep your skin looking younger and more beautiful.

If you are not too keen on yoga, you can begin with an everyday exercise routine. Begin with some light stretching and follow it up with a few abdominal crunches, lunges, leg lifts, planks, and scissor leg lifts. A daily exercise routine and a good well-balanced diet are good for both your skin and your overall health.

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