They’re red, they’re angry and many folks have them. But perhaps the worst thing about stretch marks is they often develop on the sexier parts of the human anatomy and they reveal where you’ve been.
For the record, striae, or stretch marks, are a form of scarring, characterized by an off-color hue. They develop from some of life’s most defining moments, including pregnancy, with some estimates suggesting that up to 90% of mothers develop stretch marks, particularly in the latter half of the birthing process.
Stretch marks can cause itching, but they’re not dangerous. The bigger issue may be the effect they can have on your confidence – stretch marks stand out, characterized by discoloration that prompts many patients to seek treatment with lasers and dermabrasion. Intrusive ways to less angry complexion.
There’s good news for people with stretch marks though. You can often prevent, or at least minimize stretch marks with a little planning, a good stretch mark cream and even some natural skin care tips to keep your skin hydrated. Let’s roll up are sleeves look closer at stretch marks, and how to manage your risk of this common complaint.
Want the abbreviated version? Stretch marks are skin that’s stretched from the inside out. Typically starting out as pink, red or purple striations, sometimes indented, they eventually settle into silver or white marks that remain on the skin.
Stretch marks are most common on the:
Yes, the sexy areas
Stretch marks form in the dermis, or middle layer of skin, when skin is stretched beyond its capacity. It’s also an interplay between hormones and some events, including pregnancy and weight fluctuations, during which the body produces more cortisone and glucocorticoids, which prevent the skin from forming the collagen fibroblasts required to allow it to bounce back from trauma.
Remember too that stretch marks are unique to each individual. They’re highly genetic, meaning if your mother had purple stretch marks, it’s a good bet that you might as well.
You get stretch marks during some changes in body shape, from several medications and diseases and conditions. These include:
Pregnancy – Perhaps the best known cause of stretch marks, most women develop stretch marks during this biological milestone. Teenage mothers appear to be at higher risk, though they’re also more likely to see them fade with time.
Changing body shape – What do adolescents and weight-lifters have in common? They both undergo radical changes to body shape – teenagers with growth spurts and weight-lifters with muscle development. Both cause stretch marks. A simple increase in body mass index (BMI) can do this too.
Medications – Some medications, including corticosteroid creams and pills and ongoing use of oral and synthetic steroids can lead to stretch marks.
Some conditions – Cushing’s syndrome, Marfan syndrome, Ehlers-Danlos syndrome and some adrenal gland diseases can all trigger stretch marks.
Obesity is another risk factor for stretch marks. And though they affect both men and women, it’s the latter who are at higher risk of developing stretch marks over time.
What color are your stretch marks? Are they purple or pink? That’s good. Are they silver or white? Then it’s more of a challenge.
Your best shot at getting rid of stretch marks is to get them early. Moisturize – keep your skin hydrated during this stage, with shea butter and cocoa butter. Apply three to four times a day to the breasts, stomach, hips and buttocks.
Now that you’re moisturized and (ideally) treating your stretch marks before they settle in, it’s time to consider your options.
You can reduce stretch marks with laser treatment. This isn’t natural, obviously, and the costs can spiral quickly, between $400 and $1000 per session, but many dermatologists offer this service and claim it can improve stretch marks by 30% or more.
Lasers are designed to stimulate new collagen. For new stretch marks, a vascular laser targets inflamed blood vessels and would be a suitable option for patients looking to reduce redness. You’ll need between three and six sessions, and pay an average $450 each time.
True to its name, a fractionated laser targets tiny fractions of the skin, typically in a grid-like pattern. This method may help older stretch marks, as it ‘smudges’ white and silver discoloration, making it less noticeable.
Some work, others are a waste of money. A stretch mark cream can reduce stretch marks if you buy the right product. That can be tricky as many products claim to reduce stretch marks but do little more than grease up your skin.
Look for a stretch mark cream with clinical studies to verify that it works. The Skinception Intensive Stretch Mark Therapy formula, for example, has shown in clinical studies to reduce the appearance of stretch marks by up to 72.5%. A firm, money-back guarantee of at least 90 days is another feature to look for.
And live customer service, 24/7 – another sign there’s a company that stands behind the product.
Not into lasers? You can also try the following natural remedies for stretch marks. The pros of this approach: no synthetic ingredients. Cons: you might get better results with a stronger formulation, like Skinception Intensive Stretch Mark Therapy.
Coconut Oil – With medium chain fatty acids that may prevent free radical damage, some women swear that coconut oil can reduce stretch marks too. You can buy coconut oil as an oral supplement or topical application.
Vitamin E – It’s a natural remedy for scarring and may work for stretch marks as well. Vitamin E is an antioxidant, believed to protect against free radical damage, stimulate natural collagen and improve skin texture and strength – all good things during formation of stretch marks.
Aloe vera – The gel that you rub on your sunburn has more applications than you may realize. Aloe vera fights inflammation, moisturizing skin and many believe reduces stretch marks in the process.
Gotu Kola – Studies suggest this ancient herb contains chemicals that fight inflammation and reduce blood pressure in the veins. Gotu Kola may also stimulate natural collagen and many women use it to prevent stretch marks in childbirth. Note however that pregnant women should not take gotu kola by mouth.
Tea Tree Oil – Antibacterial, antifungal and natural moisturizer, tea tree oil is an excellent skin healer and may also reduce stretch marks when applied topically. Just be sure not to drink tea tree oil – as it may cause a severe reaction when taken orally.