Are you worried about those narrow, rippled streaks on your skin? Want to know why these occur, and how can you get rid of them?
Those bands that appear on your skin in the form of irregular stripes are called stretch marks. As the name suggests, these appear when our skin stretches and then shrinks rapidly. These are also called Striae Distensae or simply Striae. Despite all your efforts, it seems as if it is almost impossible to get rid of stretch marks… right?
Contrary to popular belief, stretch marks can be treated ad gotten rid of if you are aware of the most suitable methods of treatment. Here’s all you need to know about stretch marks and how you can quickly get rid of them.
Why you get Stretch Marks?
Stretch marks are a unique form of skin scarring. Usually, scars have some kind of color, but stretch marks have an off-color hue. It is said that they can diminish over time but cannot completely disappear. However, now there are many different treatment options available that can fade them more quickly. The main reason behind the appearance of stretch marks is the tearing of a layer of skin called the Dermis. This layer tears when our skin stretches or grows rapidly, such as during pregnancy or puberty.
What Causes Stretch Marks on your Skin?
When our skin rapidly stretches and shrinks, this sudden change causes the elastin and collagen to rupture. Elastin and collagen are the biggest support system of our skin and are responsible for skin health and youthfulness. Collagen is a protein that, along with elastin, ensures that the skin remains elastic. While the skin heals from this rupturing, it is possible that the tear leaves a mark or scar, which leads to the development of stretch marks.
Does Everyone Get Stretch Marks?
It is worth noting that not everyone is likely to develop stretch marks due to abrupt stretching/shrinking of the skin. It is a combination of genes, fluctuating hormones, and the rapidness of shrinkage that the skin undergoes. Apart from the role of hormones, if a majority of people in your family developed stretch marks, you could be at risk of getting them.
When do we get Stretch Marks?
There are certain situations, phases, or circumstances during which our skin goes through the process of rapid stretching and shrinking. During these stages we are most likely to get stretch marks. There are four such situations that are the leading cause behind the development of stretch marks. Click to the next slide to know which situations can cause stretch marks to appear.
Most Common Reasons Behind Stretch Marks:
Puberty: Growth spurts and hormonal fluctuations are an integral part of puberty. During this stage, our skin undergoes rapid changes, and the chances of developing stretch marks will be high.
Pregnancy: During pregnancy, the skin around our abdominal area undergoes extreme stretching, and after giving birth, it shrinks back to its original size. This entire process can leave stretch marks on the skin.
Weight Training: Due to intense muscle growth that occurs when we undergo weight training, it is possible to get stretch marks.
When you Rapidly Lose or Gain Weight: Any kind of rapid changes in the skin can lead to the development of stretch marks. If you lose a lot of weight within much less time, your skin will undergo rapid shrinking, and this can create stretch marks. The same thing happens after you put on a lot of weight quickly, as your skin stretches too much too quickly, which causes stretch marks to appear.
Can Steroids Cause Stretch Marks to Appear?
Corticosteroid creams, pills, and lotions are one of the causes behind stretch marks. If you apply corticosteroid on your skin in any form, it can create stretch marks. Moreover, certain disorders during Cushing’s Syndrome, Ehlers-Danlos syndrome, Marfan’s Syndrome, and any other adrenal gland disorder can increase the amount of cortisone in our body. Marfan’s syndrome is a genetic disorder that weakens our skin fibers and forces unusual growth of skin. Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome or EDS is a group of different skin conditions resulting from genetic changes in the all-important skin protein called collagen.
How Do Stretch Marks Look Like?
Stretch marks appear as ripples or streak set in the skin. These are most likely to appear in your breasts, especially when someone undergoes breast implant surgery, hips, butts, stomach, and thighs. Initially, the stretch marks will be red, pink, purple, dark brown, or reddish-brown in color. The color of stretch marks mainly depends upon your skin tone. These will appear as long, narrow stripes. However, when these first appear, you will notice that these are slightly raised. You may also feel itchiness around that area. With the passage of time, the marks mature, and their color fades. The narrow bands will gradually sink beneath the skin and would no longer be raised. If you run a finger, you will only feel a depression.
Can Stretch Marks Disappear?
It is not possible to treat stretch marks and make them disappear. Just like it happens with any other scar on your skin, stretch marks will also be permanently there. However, don’t lose hope because there are various treatment options and remedies available to make them less noticeable. Also, if you frequently feel itching around the area, there are treatments available to alleviate the itchiness.
Best Treatments to Diminish Stretch Marks:
There are many possible treatment options that can help in diminishing or fading the stretch marks much sooner than it naturally happens. However, you must understand that not every treatment is suitable for everyone; therefore, before deciding about the treatment, do consult your doctor. Also, if you are pregnant or breastfeed your baby, it is not a good idea to start the treatment for stretch marks without your doctor’s advice. That’s because some ingredients used in the products created to treat stretch marks, for instance, retinol, can harm the baby or get mixed in the breastmilk.
Treating Stretch Marks with Creams, Gels, and Lotions:
A majority of the studies on the effectiveness of skin lightening lotions, creams, and gels to diminish stretch marks concluded that these could not help at all. It is possible to address the issue using a combination of several creams or lotions, but no single product has proven to be effective in fading them.
Home Remedies to Lighten Stretch Marks:
You may be surprised to know that some of the commonly used home remedies cannot work on the stretch mark at all. However, recently conducted researches revealed that certain ingredients could help in diminishing stretch marks. Such as olive oil, almond oil, vitamin E, and cocoa butter can help to some extent and have no side effects if massaged daily onto the stretch marks. It may take some time, but you will see the desired results.
Can Tanning Help in Fading Stretch Marks?
No, it cannot. It is highly unlikely that sunbathing can help in diminishing any scar on your skin, including stretch marks. In fact, tanning can make them even more noticeable than before. That’s because the stretch marks will have a lighter skin tone and will not tan. So, their lighter shade against the tanned skin will make them more prominent.
Using Self-tanner to Camouflage Stretch Marks:
A suntan cannot lighten the stretch marks, but self-tanning can wonderfully camouflage them. Self-tanning, spray tanning, UV filled tanning, and fake tanning all refer to the same process of sunless tanning. Through self-tanning, not only can you get the same effect of a suntan without sunbathing but can lighten the stretch marks. Self-tanner works on both new and mature marks equally well.
Treating Stretch Marks with Medication:
Two ingredients found in prescription medications have proven to be effective in lightening stretch marks- Hyaluronic acid and a retinoid called Tretinoin. Two large-scale studies to examine the effectiveness of hyaluronic acid concluded that it could make stress marks less visible. In another study, people applied Tretinoin in the cream form daily for 24 weeks and noticed a considerable difference in the color of stretch marks. Retinol is also a type of retinoid and is effective on newer stretch marks.
Skin-resurfacing Procedures for Treating Stretch Marks
Most of the skin resurfacing procedures can help in diminishing stretch marks. These are procedures that dermatologists perform to change the appearance of your skin. Treatments like Chemical Peel, Microdermabrasion, Laser therapy, Radiofrequency, and Ultrasound have proven to be effective on stretch marks. For better results, your dermatologist may suggest a combination of different procedures. For instance, your dermatologist can use radiofrequency along with a pulse dye laser. Remember that none of these procedures can help you get rid of stretch marks permanently.
Are There Any Side Effects of Skin-resurfacing Treatments?
As it happens with every such procedure, skin-resurfacing treatments have their fair share of side effects too. However, if you consult a board-certified dermatologist, you’ll be in safe hands for sure, and the side effects would be minor and temporary. Some commonly noticed issues after undergoing such surgeries include swelling and redness. The good news is that these will disappear within a few hours or a few days. The occurrence of side effects depends on several other factors, such as your age, health, and how old are the stretch marks.
Is it possible to Prevent Stretch Marks?
To be honest, it is quite difficult but not impossible!
Recent researches have shown that remedies that we have traditionally believed to prevent stretch marks don’t work at all. Such as almond oil, olive oil, cocoa butter, or vitamin E, none of these can help in preventing stretch marks. However, researchers have discovered that products that contain hyaluronic acid or Centella can help in preventing stretch marks. Our skin contains hyaluronic acid naturally, and Centella is an herb that has proven to be effective in preventing stretch marks.
When to seek Professional Help?
Over-the-counter treatment options for stretch marks are quite expensive. You may end up spending a lot on products that don’t even work. Therefore, before trying anything on your skin, do consult a board-certified dermatologist. Skin resurfacing procedures can be a lot more helpful and effective in fading stretch marks than those expensive creams, gels, and lotions. Or else, a dermatologist will prescribe the best possible product after examining the condition of stretch marks.
Source: National Library of Medicine / www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK436005/