Stretch Marks

Once you have them, stretch marks cannot be undone. They are actually scars in the dermis layer of your skin – tears caused by stretching that the skin does during times of rapid growth like in puberty or weight gain like during pregnancy or when bodybuilding. Men, women and children can experience stretch marks.

Stretch marks occur in the dermis layer of our skin, which is the middle layer. This is the layer that manufactures collagen and fiber. The collagen and fiber is what makes our skin look smooth. When stretching occurs these fibers are stretched and when they break, the result is a stretch mark.

Causes

You can get stretch marks on your undersides of your arms, on your abdominal area, your inner thighs, hips, breasts and lower back.

Some medications can give you stretch marks such as hormones and steroids.

Once you have stretch marks the best thing to do is to be in the care of a surgeon or a dermatologist who can take a complete medical history including all medications you have taken to determine what the best course of action is for you to take to minimize the appearance of your stretch marks. They can also instruct you on ways to lessen the chance of future stretch marks.

Understanding Stretch Marks

There are 3 layers of skin, the epidermis (outer layer), the dermis (middle layer), and the subcutaneous stratum (innermost layer). Stretch marks happen in the middle layer, the dermis. It is the middle layer, the dermis that helps the skin retain its shape. When the dermis loses support it can be prone to stretch marks because it is less elastic.

Stretch marks can appear more often in areas of the body where deposits of fat are stored. These areas can include the abdomen, especially near the belly button, breasts, your upper arms, underarms, the inner and outer thigh, hips and your buttocks. Stretch marks do not cause any risk to you or to your health and they do not compromise in any way your body’s ability to function or for the skin to repair itself.

Pregnancy is a common time for women to develop stretch marks. In fact 75% – 90% of all pregnant women will develop stretch marks during their pregnancy. Usually they appear during the sixth or seventh month of pregnancy.

When stretch marks first appear they are reddish to purple in color. They will gradually fade over time to a lighter color, silver or white. Stretch marks are soft to the touch. They can run in any different direction and be of different lengths. If you have stretch marks during a pregnancy and then in a later pregnancy the same stretch mark can become longer.

Stretch marks can happen at times other than during pregnancy. They can happen to men and women. Stretch marks can occur when there is a sudden weight gain or sudden weight loss. You can also get stretch marks if you put on an excessive amount of weight.

Buyer Beware

There are a lot of creams, lotions and oils being promoted locally and on the Internet that state they can help reduce or even prevent stretch marks. Be wary of any claim that sounds too good to be true. Always search for information about ingredients, and studies that may have been done to back up the claims made regarding such products.

One study found that a daily application of Gotu Kola extract, vitamin E, and collagen hydrolysates did significantly reduce the occurrence of stretch marks in women who were deemed to be susceptible to developing stretch marks during pregnancy. This was a double blind trial that was reported in the International Journal of Cosmetic Science (13, 51-57). Various medical and surgical treatments are available for stretch marks.

These treatments are seen as cosmetic and are usually not covered by insurance. These treatments may include laser treatments, dermabrasion or prescription retinoids. Cocoa butter is a popular ingredient in stretch mark creams and lotions. One surgical procedure is called the tummy tuck and is performed on the lower abdominal area where it is common to see stretch marks.

There is something called laser resurfacing, which is a relatively new approach to treating stretch marks. Dermatologic Surgery involves using radiofrequency combined with 585-nm pulsed dye laser treatment for a 89.2% improvement rate out of 37 patients as reported in the Dermatol Surg 33 (1): 29 – 34.

Options for Dealing with Them

Your diet and exercise habits will be discussed and any improvements will be suggested. Your age, skin tone and lifestyle will all factor in to your ability to minimize the appearance of the stretch marks. There are several options that may be discussed: surgical methods, lotions, creams and oils and also diet and exercise. A combination of these methods may be what is recommended for you to follow.

You are sure to be told to drink plenty of water and to stay away from caffeinated beverages like soda, tea or coffee. Make sure your diet includes nuts, fish, carrots, citrus fruits and milk as well as protein rich foods such as eggs.