Stretch marks are the marks, lines or streaks that are observed on the body.
Stretch marks are generally, caused by the stretching of the skin.
These marks can be seen as more extreme when there is an increased level of cortisone hormone produced by the adrenal gland, this is because cortisone hormone weakens elastic fibres in the skin.
Other causes for getting stretch marks include pregnancy, sudden excess weight loss, cushing’s disease, and certain genetic disorders.
Being a female, having a family history of stretch marks, being overweight, using corticosteroid medication and getting pregnant, especially in younger age are some of the risk factors associated with getting stretch marks.
All stretch marks do not look similar, they vary in texture and appearance depending on the skin type, complexion and for how long they have been.
So the common variations often observed among different stretch marks are-
- Multiple red, pink or purple streaks.
- Bright streaks fade to either light pink, grey or off-white color.
- Indented lines in the skin.
- Different texture of stretch marks.
How does pregnancy cause stretch marks?
Stretch marks during pregnancy, usually during last trimester, usually on belly, breasts, thighs, hips and upper arms, is medically known as striae gravidarum.
Stretch marks, in general, can occur because when the body grows faster than the skin can keep the pace of growth. This leads to breaking up of elastic fibres, present just under the surface of the skin, which leads to stretch marks.
Belly and breast, are the two areas that grow most during the pregnancy and growing fast can lead to stretch marks.
Other areas affected by stretch marks include thighs, buttocks and upper arms.
During pregnancy, how quickly one gains weight is equally as important as how much weight is being gained for the formation of stretch marks.
Generally, women get pregnancy stretch marks during their sixth to the seventh month of pregnancy.
Research suggests that, if your mother or sister had got stretch marks during their pregnancy, then you are most likely to get stretch marks.
Also, it is known that those women who become pregnant at a younger age, are likely to get stretch marks.
There are certain risk factors during pregnancy, which might increase the risk of the skin getting prone to stretch marks-
- Rapid gain of weight
- If mother carries multiple babies
- If you are carrying a big, overweight baby
- If you have excess amniotic fluid
It’s not certain, whether which women during pregnancy would get stretch marks and who would not. But it is seen that at least half women do get stretch marks during pregnancy.
Top 15 Ways to Get Rid of Pregnancy Stretch Marks
Some of the most popular and effective methods of getting rid of pregnancy stretch marks include taking healthy diet, exercising, massage and moisturizing the skin at regular intervals. Professional in-clinic treatments such as laser treatments are also available.
1. Eat a skin- nourishing diet
taking in a healthy, balanced meals not only makes sure that you have a healthy and nourishing baby but also is one of the best-known methods for the prevention of stretch marks.
Foods that are rich in omega-3 and 6- fatty acids like fish, eggs, and walnuts prevent stretch marks by keeping cell membrane healthy.
Foods rich in vitamin A like carrot, mango, squash, sweet potatoes helps repair skin tissues and prevents stretch marks.
Foods rich in Vitamin E like nuts, seeds, broccoli, and avocado can help protect skin cell membranes, and thus stretch marks.
Anti-oxidant rich foods like strawberries, blueberries, spinach, other fruits, and vegetables help nourish skin and protect the skin.
2. Regular exercise during pregnancy
Exercising regularly not only maintains the elasticity of the skin, but also helps to keep weight gain in control during pregnancy.
It also helps improve circulation. Yoga and certain light stretching exercises can help prevent stretch marks during pregnancy and keeps your body in comfort.
3. Keep yourself hydrated
Water not only keeps hydrated and detoxifies the toxins, makes the skin plump and glowing and healthier.
Drinking at least 8 glasses of water daily, having fresh and juicy fruits and vegetables, drinking herbal tea and avoiding caffeine can help keep the body hydrated and helps bounce back from getting stretch marks.
4. Gaining or losing weight gradually
One of the most important causes of stretch marks is rapid gaining or losing weight.
When one gains weight gradually during pregnancy, it is seen that chances of developing stretch marks turn out to be minimal.
5. Moisturizing the skin with creams and lotions
Moisturizing the skin is just like keeping it hydrated.
Thus, it becomes important for pregnant women to keep those areas highly moisturized which are at high risk of developing stretch marks such as belly, legs, thighs, lower back.
The skin should be moisturized twice daily, that is once in the morning and other at night before going to sleep.
Cocoa oil, Shea butter, and almond oil are known to be the most effective moisturizers for preventing stretch marks.
Avoiding use of harsh chemicals- may chemical products available in the market are known to be harsh to the skin, which leaves the skin dry and loses its elasticity with time.
Thus, it becomes important to choose such products which moisturize your skin, making it supple and help in the prevention of stretch marks.
It is better to use a product with natural oils and ingredients rather than with chemicals.
6. Regular use of sunscreen
It is important to use sunscreen and shield your skin during pregnancy, especially in the areas where stretch marks can occur.
7. Using glycolic acid
Glycolic acid when used on stretch marks, helps skin be more elastic and increases collagen production.
The best part is that the glycolic acid can even be used during pregnancy. But what is important is that, to take extra care when out in sun and using glycolic acid.
8. Vascular laser treatment
The pulsed dye laser is known to reduce laser marks, but the only drawback it has is, it is not effective for women with a darker complexion.
The process is similar to that of laser hair removal but works best for red stretch marks.
It is also known as a tummy tuck in layman’s language. It is common in the United States, but needs a longer time to recover from 2 to 4 weeks.
10. Vitamin E oils
Vitamin E is known to be one of the most important ingredients present in stretch marks creams and lotions.
Thus, vitamin E oil combined with suitable moisturizer can be an effective stretch marks removal treatment.
11. Essential oil massage
A lot of essential oils such as lavender, rose and germanium when combined with coconut or almond oil, and massaged on the stretch marks affected area is one of the best-used home remedies for removal of stretch marks.
12. Vitamin C supplements
Vitamin C is known to help remove early stretch marks and stimulate collagen production.
For best results, it is better to combine glycolic acid with vitamin C supplements.
13. Aloe Vera Gel
It is one of the best the best natural methods to reduce the appearance of stretch marks.
The fresh aloe vera can be applied to the affected area daily, which shows visible result soon.
It works better on early red stretch marks.
There are no such known side effects associated with it, except that some redness occurs for an hour or two. It is a powerful exfoliant treatment.
Stretch marks are observed during pregnancy, due to the increasing or expanding of the body more than the skin can handle it.
Taking a balanced diet, keeping body hydrated, regular exercise, gradually losing weight and massaging with essential oils are some of the natural ways of treating and also preventing stretch marks.
Other methods also include using moisturizers, vitamin E oils, vitamin C supplements, aloe vera gel and regular use of sunscreen are some of the most effective methods for treating stretch marks.
There are some surgical methods like microdermabrasion, vascular laser treatment and abdominoplasty which are becoming favourable these days for treatment of stretch marks.