Stretch Marks: What Are They and What Causes Them?
These scars appear in clusters as thin, parallel channels or grooves in the skin. And unfortunately, stretch marks can appear anywhere that fat is stored, such as the abdomen, back, breasts, buttocks, hips, near the navel, on inner and outer thighs, as well as under arms, and upper arms. They cause no health risks and have no effect on normal body functions.
Now that we have briefly covered what are stretch marks, let's talk about what causes stretch marks.
What Causes Stretch Marks
Stretch marks are caused by rapid stretching that occurs during periods of growth spurts, rapid weight gain, or possibly rapid increases in muscle mass. The development of these striations are also significantly influenced by hormonal fluctuations that occur during hormone replacement therapy, pregnancy, puberty, etc. Stretch marks first appear as reddish or purple in color, but tend to fade gradually to a paler hue.
Stretch marks develop beneath the surface in the stretchy middle layer of skin responsible for retaining skin's shape. Inadequate support within the dermis allows the development of these stripes, which resemble soft grooves or channels. Where the marks appear and what direction they run are determined by where and how stretching occurs.
Many physicians believe hormones known as glucocorticoids damage the elastin and collagen fibers. These deeply interlacing strings are knit together to form new skin, and normally keep skin tight. However, when these protein strands become damaged, they are no longer capable of retaining skin's shape.
The result is the development of thinner skin appearing as colorful furrows and channels at the skin's surface. The dark pigmentation of new stretch marks is caused by bleeding within the lower layers skin. Meanwhile, the splintering collagen causes small blood vessels within the dermis to dilate, further accentuating discoloration. This process has left the top layer of skin significantly thinner, and these discolorations even more apparent.
As mentioned, stretch marks do fade, but at a far slower rate than bruises and they never go away entirely with some form of treatment. The breakdown and scarring of the skin is the only real skin damage that occurs. As discoloration fades, the damaged skin texture remains visible as pale, silvery stripes. Up to 90% of all pregnant women, 70% of adolescent girls and 40% of adolescent boys will develop stretch marks. Over half of serious weight-lifters and virtually all obese individuals are also affected.
Can I Prevent Stretch Marks?
The best way to handle stretch marks is to prevent them from developing in the first place. Following a healthy, low fat diet to prevent or control weight gains, along with the use of a high quality stretch mark cream are the best methods of prevention.
A stretch mark prevention plan for a pubescent or obese individual is, as you can guess, a bit impractical. A pubescent child will probably not take time to apply stretch mark cream to potential problem areas. An obese person has already demonstrated a lack of discipline in eating habits, and would probably not focus on treating fatty areas which are already being ignored. For these individuals, the dietary option is the best protocol to begin with.
Is It Possible To Get Rid of Stretch Marks?
Many people will have you believe that the only way to get rid of stretch marks is to surgically remove them. While that is true to some extent, that doesn't mean you can't hide them completely from the naked eye.
There are plenty of remedies and home treatments which can conceal and hide stretch marks without insanely costly beauty procedures. If such costly treatments are appealing to you, and you've got the money to burn, then by all means, give one of them a try; micro-dermabrasion, laser treatments, tummy tucks, etc. Personally, I think opting for such beauty procedures is wasteful and, dare I say, idiotic when other, cheaper, and more effective options are available.
Can I Minimize the Appearance of Stretch Marks?
When stretch marks first begin to appear, they are most responsive to treatment. Genetics play a role in how well they respond to treatment. Pregnant women and weight-lifters can regularly massage effective moisturizing stretch mark creams into affected skin.
The most effective stretch mark creams, gels, lotions and oils are easily absorbed by the skin. Vitamins A, C and E, as well as retinoids and natural substances like aloe vera gel and essential plant oils are typical ingredients found in stretch mark creams. These ingredients increase stretchability as well as stimulate the production of collagen, elastin and new skin cells deep within the dermis.