Stretch marks are very common and are also called striae distensae or striae gravidarum by medical professionals. They can be red, purple, or white streaks on the skin in appearance. The collagen and elastin of the skin break because of skin stretching resulting in stretch marks. They do not pose any serious health risks or complications. Being not aesthetically appealing can affect the quality of life and self-esteem of those affected.
They mostly appear on the chest, thighs, hips, and abdomen. They are pink, red, purple, reddish-brown, or dark brown depending on the skin color initially which eventually changes to faded color when they become mature.
The appearance of stretch marks can be due to various reasons including:
- Losing or gaining weight too quickly
- Having a family history of stretch marks
- Long term use of corticosteroids can lead to a reduction in collagen that provides firmness to the skin
- Medical conditions like Marfan syndrome and Cushing’s syndrome
It can appear to men or women of all ages, sizes, and skin types, although studies suggest it affects more women than men, major causes being puberty and pregnancy.
The diagnosis of stretchmarks is easy and based on appearance on skin examination. There are many treatments available currently but are not proven effective in most cases and can be costly as well. Creams, oils, gels, lotions, or even medical procedures like chemical peels and cosmetic surgery are to name a few. Stretchmarks may not be completely prevented, however, there are few ways to reduce the risk:
- Maintain a healthy weight: The best way to keep stretch marks away is to keep your weight under control. Sudden weight gain or weight loss, can cause stretch marks. Even if you are pregnant, it’s best to keep a healthy weight.
- Omega 3 fatty acids: They help keep your skin soft and supple. The rich sources of omega-3 fatty acids being fish, chia seeds, flax seeds, walnuts, and soybeans.
- Stay hydrated: When your skin is dry, it tends to stretch more in comparison with the skin that is soft and supple. Drink enough water and avoid caffeinated beverages.
- Moisturize your skin: Moisturizing the skin reduces the risk of stretch marks and decreases the itching caused by stretched skin.
- Exercise regularly: Exercising helps improving blood flow to the skin, helping it to rebuild itself.
- Vitamin C: Have foods rich in vitamin C as it helps the development of collagen.
- Vitamin D: Soak up some sun (do apply sunscreen) for Vitamin D that is necessary for good skin health.
- Avoid smoking: Smoking not only poses a threat to your skin by causing early aging but also to the healing process of your stretch marks. Smoking reduces the blood flow to the skin, reducing its ability to heal itself.
- Healthy diet: Nutrient-rich foods loaded with vitamins and minerals especially zinc and protein help the skin heal and reduce the risk of stretch marks.
- Earlier the better: If you pose the risk of developing stretch marks, say you are pregnant, it is best to start applying creams or oils as per your doctor’s advice in the early stages. Treating the mature stretchmarks may get difficult.
Cosmetically stretchmarks can be very disturbing and can affect day-to-day living. Makeup may help to hide these scars temporarily, but everyone does seek a long-term effective cure. With so many products available in the market, very few are actually effective as per the research. The medical procedures come with their own set of side effects and can dig a hole in your pocket. There are few home remedies for stretch marks that don’t pose any threat of side effects but need patience and regular application for results.
- Aloe vera is a succulent plant that stores water making it a good hydration ingredient. It has lots of antioxidants and vitamins making it anti-inflammatory in nature. This helps to heal stretch marks and making the skin soft.
- Cocoa butter derived from cocoa beans is used as the main ingredient in many stretchmarks creams available on market. This retains moisture and helps to fade the stretch marks.
- Coconut oil consists of fatty acids that encourage collagen production. Collagen helps to firm the skin and thus helps to heal the stretchmarks. One can mix equal parts of almond oil and coconut oil and massage over the affected area for good results.
- Potato and lemon juice is known for their lightning effect on the skin. They both can help reduce the visibility of stretch marks.
- Sugar is an excellent exfoliant for the skin. Mix it with olive oil to form a good scrub for stretch marks. Sugar exfoliation can help regulate the blood flow and improve the healing process. Olive oil consists of Vitamin E that aids the healing and moisturizing.
- Turmeric is known for its anti-inflammatory properties and also does wonders on pigmentation. Mixing turmeric with oils like coconut oil or argan oil can be effective on stretch marks when applied regularly. These oils help to make the skin supple and reduce inflammation.
The best way to deal with stretchmarks is its prevention. If they still appear, it is appropriate to start the treatment as early as possible. If they mature, it would take longer and would be more difficult to treat the same. It needs patience and a regular skin regime for stretch marks to heal and eventually they will fade over time. You can consult a dermatologist if home remedies don’t seem to be working for you.
To find top dermatologists who can help with your stretch mark issues, use Bajaj Finserv Health. Browse through all dermatologists listed in your city or nearest to you before you book an appointment for a consultation. You can also opt for teleconsultation online. By using Bajaj Finserv Health, you can avail great offers and discounts from network partners as well.