Over the years, as you age, your body accumulates marks from important periods in your life. One such mark is the stretch marks, your stretch marks can be a testimony of sudden weight gain and loss, growth spurts, pregnancies, or muscle gain.
As the years have passed, your stretch marks might have faded slightly, but they are still visible. While you might have given up on the idea of reducing them, it is still possible to fade them to some extent.
Many people ask – how do stretch marks evolve? It totally depends on your skin type and color. New stretch marks are often pink or red lines known as Striae rubrae. In darker-skinned people, fresh stretch marks may appear darker than the surrounding skin.
In most cases, they are flat or slightly raised, and are the consequences of sudden stretching of your skin. As the years pass, they gradually fade away and become white in color.
What are Stretch Marks, and How are They Formed?
Stretch marks often appear as bands of parallel lines on your skin surface. These lines have a different color and texture compared to your normal skin. Anyone can develop stretch marks, although it is seen to affect more women than men.
They range from bright pink to purple to light gray. When you touch them with your fingers, you feel a slight indentation or ridge on your skin. At times it could also feel itchy or sore.
These lines often appear during or after your pregnancy or when your body undergoes a sudden weight change. More than 50 percent of women experience stretch marks during the time they are pregnant.
Stretch marks are generally not dangerous, and they slowly disappear with time. They also tend to occur in teens who are rapidly growing.
You can have stretch marks anywhere in the body, but they are most common on your breasts, stomach, upper arms, thighs, and buttocks.
It is generally observed that excessive skin growth or shrinkage of your skin might result in stretch marks. Your skin consists of three essential layers. These marks form in the dermis, or middle layer.
The middle layer consists of the connective tissue, which is stretched beyond the limits of its elasticity. This normally happens due to rapid expansion or contraction of your skin.
As your body grows with age, the connecting fibers in the dermis stretch slowly to accommodate slow growth. However, when there is rapid growth, it leads to sudden stretching. This causes your dermis to tear, allowing deeper layers of skin to show through.
Your marks will eventually fade to a white, silvery, or glossy appearance due to the fat beneath the skin becoming visible instead of the usual blood vessels.
What Causes Stretch Marks?
Stretch marks occur when your skin undergoes stretching and when there is an increase of cortisone in your system. Cortisone is a naturally occurring hormone produced by your adrenal glands. However, when there is too much of this hormone, it can make your skin lose its elasticity.
Stretch marks are common in certain circumstances:
- During pregnancy, women generally experience stretch marks as their skin stretches in several ways to make room for their newborn baby. This continual tugging and stretching can cause stretch marks.
- Stretch marks also occur when you rapidly lose or gain weight. Teenagers and adults can also notice these marks after a sudden growth spurt.
- Corticosteroid creams, pills, and lotions can cause stretch marks to decrease your skin’s ability to stretch.
- Severe conditions like Cushing’s syndrome, Marfan’s syndrome, Ehlers-Danlos syndrome, and other adrenal gland disorders might cause stretch marks as they increase the amount of cortisone in your body.
These marks are more likely to develop and become more visible when you have high circulating cortisone levels or when cortisone is applied to your skin. Cortisol is the stress hormone produced by your adrenal glands and is converted into cortisone. This hormone weakens the elastic fibers in your skin.
How to Get Rid of Stretch Marks
Whether it is stretch marks and scars – the rule of thumb is “sooner is better” which means that results will always be better when treatment is started early soon after the appearance of the marks.
In general, treatment results will not be as impressive on older marks as it would be on new ones. But in the case of stretch marks, the good news is that; they can be visibly reduced with a bit of hard work.
Topical treatments. Topical over-the-counter products are considered to be the first line of attack as these are simple, non-invasive, and most affordable methods. Although the product compositions might vary, they are primarily moisturizing creams formulated with special ingredients such as hyaluronic acid.
You might not require the other treatments. If topical treatments fail to deliver your desired results, you might discuss the other more invasive options with your dermatologist. These include:
1 Chemical Peels
Applying glycolic acid on your skin generates a peeling of the superficial layer, forcing it to regenerate. A recent study showed this method could decrease stretch mark width and improve color by increasing melanin.
You should have at least two weeks between each peel, as it might be aggressive for the skin. You might need several chemical peel session to obtain satisfying results.
Trying home-use chemical peels can also work, but your dermatologist can obtain better results as your doctor will be able to apply the right chemical concentrations to your skin type.
As you know, microdermabrasion is a mechanical peeling technique. Aluminum oxide or sodium chloride crystals are propelled onto your skin surface at a programmable pressure. Then the substance is immediately vacuumed back up along with skin debris.
The complete process removes the superficial layer of your skin, thus stimulating skin regeneration and collagen production. You might generally need five weekly sessions to notice any significant results.
3 Fractional microneedling radiofrequency (FMR)
Microneedles apply radiofrequency energy by penetrating into the skin. The process induces collagen and elastin production. Depending on the width of your scar, at least four monthly sessions might be required to see noticeable changes.
Laser beams stimulate collagen and elastin production after heating your skin. This results in the improved structure, elasticity, and color of the skin. You might need several sessions to obtain good results, and your dermatologist must supervise the treatment. One of the limitations of laser treatment is that it is not quite suitable for dark skin types.
5 Cosmetic surgery
As a last resort, you can consider surgery as an option. It primarily involves excising the skin containing the stretch marks and is only performed when there is excess skin, especially after weight loss. It might be an expensive surgery that requires extensive post-operative care and a few weeks of downtime.
The above skin treatments are aggressive for your skin, and hence it is vital to apply a good skin barrier to improve your skin comfort and facilitate the healing process.
Home Remedies for Stretch Marks
Getting rid of your stretch marks in a completely natural way is not likely. They are a type of scarring that rarely fades enough to become invisible. However, home remedies can help minimize the appearance of those marks and help them fade more quickly.
Bitter almond oil: One recent study showed that women who used almond oil to massage their skin around their bellies during pregnancy had fewer stretch marks. This oil is extracted from a different type of almond than the one we eat.
The oil is highly healing in nature and is easily absorbed by our skin. So you can also use it as a moisturizer and apply it on the areas where you have stretch marks.
Cocoa butter, shea butter, vitamin E oil, olive oil, and other moisturizers: These naturally occurring creams can make your skin feel softer and are also helpful in fading or preventing stretch marks.
Coconut Oil: Coconut oil is known for its healing properties and was found to take reduced time to heal skin wounds. Applying coconut oil to your stretch marks regularly might take away some of their red appearances. It is also a safe option, provided you are not allergic to it.
If you decide to try lotion, cream, or gel to fade your marks, be sure to use it regularly for several weeks. Take time to massage it into your skin gently for maximum benefit. These products work better on newer scars.
Stretch marks can be ugly, but they are a commonly occurring temporary problem. Though they pose no long-term health risks, treatment is normally intended to improve your self-image as they are easily noticeable on your skin.
Hence the best option is stretch mark prevention. It is possible to prevent it but there is no guarantee. The best option is to lower your chances by staying at a healthy weight, even when you are pregnant.
Talk to your doctor about exercise plans and how to eat a healthy, balanced diet. You can try products with the ingredients Centella and hyaluronic acid that might work to prevent stretch marks.