Understand Why You Get Stretch Marks and How You Can Minimize or Eliminate Them
Stretch marks, known medically as striae, are a type of scarring that occurs when the dermis layer of skin tears. They’re generally the result of rapid body growth that causes the skin to stretch faster than its elastic limits will allow without tearing. Stretch marks are most common during pregnancy, but they can also occur from other types of weight gain such as puberty and weight gain.
Stretch marks caused by pregnancy are known more specifically as striae gravidarum. They’re usually on the belly, but stretch marks can also develop on the breasts, hips, thighs and lower back. Their appearance depends on skin color, but they’re usually red at first before fading to pink and then white.
Minimizing the stretch marks from pregnancy consists of both prevention and treatment strategies. Prevention is preferable, since it’s more difficult to treat stretch marks after they’ve already occurred.
The dermis is a middle layer of skin that helps the skin to retain its shape, although it’s still resilient. The location of stretch marks and the direction in which they run depends primarily on how the skin is being stretched, but other factors such as genetics also play a role. A burning, itching sensation is often a sign that stretch marks are developing, although this isn’t always the case.
Stretch marks initially appear as red, purple or blue lesions due to ruptured blood vessels. The specific color depends on whether these blood vessels were arteries or veins, but skin color also plays a part in determining the initial color of stretch marks. They will gradually lose pigmentation over time, causing them to fade to pink and eventually to white. Stretch marks can virtually disappear or remain clearly visible, primarily depending on their size.
Stretch marks don’t pose any health risk by themselves, nor do they compromise the skin’s ability to function and repair itself. However, they’re usually considered cosmetically undesirable and are often emotionally distressing. Younger women are particularly motivated to prevent and minimize the stretch marks that occur during pregnancy.
Stretching of the skin is the immediate cause of stretch marks, but a variety of factors influence their development. These include pregnancy, medication and existing health conditions.
Pregnancy is one of the most significant causes of stretch marks, as it affects most pregnant women to some extent. Striae gravidarum is a specific type of stretch mark that occurs on the abdomen due to the rapid growth of the uterus, especially during the third trimester of pregnancy.
A 2006 study in British Journal of Dermatology examined 324 women who had just given birth to determine contributing factors for stretch marks. Researchers found that a high body mass index (BMI) and larger babies were both independent factors for the development of stretch marks, especially when the mother gained more than 33 pounds during pregnancy. A 2004 study in Journal of Obstetrics and Gynaecology studied 128 new mothers and found that young mothers were at greater risk for stretch marks, especially teenagers.
This study also estimated that up to 90 percent of all pregnant women get stretch marks, largely due to the combination of hormonal changes and stretching of the skin. Some researchers have suggested that the increased water retention that occurs during pregnancy increases the probability of stretch marks. Water retention occurs in pregnancy when increased levels of cortisol, estrogen and relaxin cause muocopolysaccharides to accumulate in connective tissue. This action causes the connective tissue to absorb more water, making it more vulnerable to tearing in response to mechanical stress.
The prevalence and severity of stretch marks during pregnancy varies considerably. A significant minority of women develop stretch marks before the 24th week, especially during their first pregnancy. However, many women who get stretch marks in their first pregnancy don’t additional stretch marks in later pregnancies. A 2007 study in American Family Physician also found that genetic factors such as race and family history also affect the likelihood of stretch marks.
Loose skin is another issue that affects almost all women after giving birth and is especially prevalent on the abdomen. While stretch marks are generally caused by rapid weight gain, loose skin is caused by rapid weight loss. Loose skin is especially common among women who begin a rigorous diet and exercise program to quickly regain their pre-pregnancy condition.
However, gradual weight loss allows the skin more time to regain its elasticity, allowing it to return to its previous shape without becoming loose. In addition to slow weight loss, women can also reduce their chances of developing loose skin by drinking plenty of water to keep the skin hydrated.
Other Contributing Factors
The Mayo Clinic reports that an increase in cortisone levels can increase the severity of stretch marks. Cortisone is a hormone produced during times of stress, including pregnancy. It can reduce the skin’s pliability by preventing fibroblasts in the dermis from forming the collagen and elastin needed to support the skin. This loss of support can lead to tearing when the skin is stretched, resulting in stretch marks. Cortisone is particularly likely to cause stretch marks during pregnancy, when the growth of new tissue interferes with the skin’s underlying support by displacing existing tissue.
Drugs and medical conditions can also increase the probability of stretch marks appearing. Topical applications such as creams and lotions that contain corticosteroids are a common contributing factor for stretch marks, as are pills and other oral forms of steroids. Medical conditions that may contribute to stretch marks include Cushing’s syndrome, Ehlers-Danlos syndrome and Marfan syndrome. Diseases of the adrenal gland can increase cortisone production, so they’re also contributing factors for stretch marks.
Strategies for preventing stretch marks primarily consist of skin-firming lotions.
Elasticity Belly Oil is specifically formulated to protect your belly from stretch marks during pregnancy by providing your skin with deep hydration. It contains a blend of pure plant extracts that have been scientifically researched to provide effective skin care and relaxing aromatherapy. Belly Elasticity Oil is also an ideal massage oil, especially during pregnancy.
Women who have used this oil report that it makes their skin look and feel healthier. They have also said that it provides deep hydration and makes the skin softer. Some women also report that Belly Elasticity Oil soothes in itching belly.
The formulas for Belli skincare products are carefully researched to ensure they’re safe to use during pregnancy and while nursing. Our products contain no gluten, parabens, artificial dyes and artificial fragrances. They’re also cruelty-free and tested for allergens.
Elasticity Belly Oil contains the following ingredients:
Treatments for stretch marks generally focus on minimizing their appearance rather than eliminating them entirely. These techniques may be classified into medical and non-medical methods.
A 2014 review in British Journal of Dermatology examined medical methods treating stretch marks, including glycolic acid, laser treatments and microdermabrasion. These methods were able to achieve significant improvements in the appearance of stretch marks, based on various imaging modalities and subjective visual scoring. However, this review also cited the need for more randomized controlled trials in evaluating stretch mark treatments.
Non-medical methods don’t require any type of healthcare professional, as anyone can do them based individual capabilities and product availability. These methods of treating stretch marks include the following:
Topical creams like Belli Stretchmark Minimizing Cream are formulated to help reduce the appearance of stretch marks for all skin types, including color and texture. Women who have used this minimizing cream report that their stretch marks have become noticeably smaller and less discolored after only three weeks. They have also stated that it minimized surgery scars.
The active ingredients in Belli Stretchmark Minimizing Cream include darutoside and regestril, both of which have been scientifically shown to be effective at minimizing stretch marks. Other active ingredients in this minimizing cream include the following:
The inactive ingredients in Belli Stretchmark Minimizing Cream primarily consist of deionized water, glycerine and cetearyl alcohol.
Following a healthy diet helps you maintain your body weight, which can help prevent stretch marks from happening in the first place. It also provides your body with the nutrition it needs to repair stretch marks that developed during pregnancy. A good diet should be high in whole grains, fruits, vegetables and lean protein, which will generally allow you to keep your skin healthy.
For example, proteins contain collagen, which is needed for skin repair. It helps the skin to maintain its elasticity and retain moisture needed to minimize stretch marks. Omega-3 fatty acids are also beneficial for the skin and are found in fatty fish like salmon and sardines. Zinc is another nutrient that’s good for the skin, which you can find in nuts, seeds, peanuts and oatmeal.
Vegetables that can help your body repair stretch marks include avocados, bell peppers, broccoli, cucumbers and tomatoes. Any type of leafy green vegetable is also a good choice for maintaining skin health. The best fruits for minimizing stretch marks include blueberries, melons and oranges. Legumes such as beans, lentils and peas should also be a regular part of your diet.
It’s essential to remain fully hydrated for good health in general, but it’s especially important for skin health. Water helps make skin more elastic, which can help it recover from pregnancy stretch marks more effectively. It also allows the body to burn fat more efficiently, leading to faster weight loss. You should drink about two quarts of water per day, even if you’re not physically active.
You should also avoid exposure to the sun, which can dehydrate your skin and make stretch marks more noticeable. It’s especially important to cover areas with stretch marks while you’re outside.
Exercise can help you maintain a healthy weight after giving birth, which is essential for preventing more stretch marks from developing. You should get at least 150 minutes of exercise per week, or about 30 minutes five days per week. Exercise also helps you heal more quickly and builds muscle, which can tighten loose abdominal skin. Walking and yoga are great ways to develop the muscles in your belly, hips and thighs.
Exfoliation is the process of removing dead skin cells from the surface of your skin. It helps promote healing of the deeper layers where stretch marks form. Use a skin scrub like Fresh Start Pre-Treatment Scrub at least once per week. Apply the scrub to a loofah, brush or your hand. Rub it onto your skin with a circular motion to exfoliate the skin and rinse it off.
The active ingredients in this scrub include the following:
The inactive ingredients in Fresh Start Pre-Treatment Scrub include deionized water and sodium laureth sulfate, which is a foaming agent. The scrubbing particles are made of polyethylene.
Stretch marks can swell and become inflamed while they’re healing, making them look worse than they normally do. Cold can help relieve this swelling and inflammation by applying a cold pack or ice to the affected area. Make your own cold pack by placing ice cubes in a zip lock bag and wrapping that in a thin dish towel to prevent the ice from directly touching your skin.
Hold the cold pack in one place with stretch marks for up to 10 minutes before moving it to another area. Repeat this process for all areas with swollen or inflamed stretch marks. Replace melted ice as needed.
Hormones like cortisol are released during times of stress, which slow the healing process. Relaxation is therefore an essential part of any regimen intended to reduce the appearance of stretch marks. The exact form of a relaxation routine is highly specific to each individual, but it might include listening to music, reading a book or simply meditating. The most important thing is to schedule time for yourself each day.
Stretch marks may be unavoidable due to the rapid growth of your body during pregnancy and genetics. You should expect prevention strategies to reduce the probability of stretch marks occurring rather than eliminate the possibility entirely. Similarly, stretch mark treatments typically minimize the appearance of existing stretch marks instead of making them disappear completely.