Understanding stretch marks and can we really avoid them?

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Stretch marks: Temporary or companion for life?

What are stretch marks and can we really avoid them? These are small silvery streaks in the skin that develop when the skin is stretched beyond its capacity. The elastic fibres just under the surface of the skin breakdown because of excessive stretching resulting in stretch marks.

Stretch marks develop during pregnancy as the skin over the abdomen stretches rapidly to accommodate the growing uterus. They are also commonly found on the belly and breasts. They may occur on the thighs, buttocks, and upper arms as well. Almost 70 to 90 percent of women will develop stretch marks during pregnancy.

The marks start out as reddish or pink, purple, brown or dark brown depending upon the original skin colour. Gradually these fade to a silvery white, or grey, becoming less noticeable with time.

Are stretch marks genetic?

Some women may be more genetically prone to developing stretch marks. Younger pregnant women are more likely to develop stretch marks than their older counterparts. Also women who are carrying twins or multiple foetuses, or those who gain sudden and excessive weight in those nine months are also more likely to develop them.

Whatever may be the cause in the development of the marks most women find these marks ugly and look for ways to get rid of them.

So when do you start treating stretch marks?

The best time to start treating stretch marks is during pregnancy itself when they begin to develop. The marks are most amenable to reducing if they are tackled head on while they are still in the reddish phase.

To tackle stretch marks during pregnancy it is essential to maintain a healthy lifestyle, stay well hydrated and take vitamins A, C and E. Using natural moisturisers like shea butter, cocoa butter, wheat germ oil, coconut oil on the skin will help keep the skin supple and elastic so that its fibres do not tear while stretching.

What are my options to fix stretch marks?

  • Other natural moisturisers that may be used on the affected areas are petroleum jelly, almond oil, argan oil, jojoba oil, mustard oil,  castor oil, lavender oils and rose hip oil.
  • Some of these oils are are rich sources of unsaturated and saturated fatty acids. They are easily absorbed through the skin, so they hydrate and nourish the skin cells. Some of the oils contain vitamins A and E as well, which improve the elasticity of the skin and  thus work well for the marks.
  • Massage the affected area with the oil for a few minutes, twice daily. Leave the oil on for as long as possible. You may wrap the area in plastic sheets and place a hot water bottle over it for a couple of minutes to enhance the effect of the oil.
  • Other liquids recommended for application on stretch marks are raw potato juice, glycolic acids, lemon juice, honey, cucumber juice, egg white and natural aloe vera gel.
  • Gentle dry brushing with a body brush made of soft and natural bristles can help by improving the lymphatic and blood flow into the area. This increases the nutrients reaching the area while also carrying away the waste products. Dry brushing also stimulates the natural oil production of the skin. Use circular upward movements and brush for around 5 to 6 minutes. Apply moisturiser later after taking a warm shower.
  • Prescription creams containing Olive oil, or a Retin-A and glycolic acid combo are also useful. However, Retin-A use is not recommended during pregnancy or while breast-feeding.
  • Another drastic and way more expensive option is to take pulse-dyed laser and fractional nonablative laser treatments. These treatments may fade the stretch marks and improve the appearance of the skin but can be potentially painful as well as harmful in other ways.

So go ahead and take care while there is still time.

To ask a gynecologist online, visit DOC N ME.

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