How to Get Rid of Stretch Marks
Stretch marks are a bodily phenomenon that more people have than you might assume. If you are someone with stretch marks, you are not alone. It is not a condition confined only to women who have given birth.
Put simply, stretch marks are often narrow streaks or lines that appear on the skin. Their coloration may vary, but they are usually purple, red, pink, or dark brown in color. They can appear on the torso in a number of places. Specifically, you can find them on the abdomen, the thighs, along or around the hips, on the breasts, on the upper arms, and on the lower back. Some teenagers whose bodies grow very fast because of certain training regimes, or simply through a spurt of growth in puberty, can also find stretch marks around the pectoral muscles or along the chest, especially where it meets the join with the arms.
As that last point clarifies, they tend to be caused by rapid weight gain or physical growth, as the skin stretches more quickly than it can keep up with. The four most likely causes of stretch marks are therefore pregnancy; puberty; rapid muscle gain, or weight fluctuations. They can affect people of all sizes, but the reality is they will more often strike someone whose physical shape has undergone some significant changes in scale or size, usually under a slightly intensified period of time.
Medically speaking, what is happening is that when the skin rapidly expands or contracts, it can cause microscopic tears in the epidermal layer of the skin – the outer layer. These tears form when the dermis layer is unable to keep up with the rate of change the body is forcing it to go through. In effect, these marks are lines where the skin is simply unable to respond in time to the shape of the body.
Other causes include certain hormonal changes, such as those during puberty or pregnancy, and in some rarer cases, stretch marks can be caused by genetic factors. It’s therefore important to maintain a healthy weight and nutrition habits in order to prevent stretch marks, and to ensure the body is not put through what, from its point of view, can be minor traumas.
Types of stretch mark vary
Stretch marks come in a variety of shapes and sizes, and you may be surprised to know that there are actually distinct genuses of stretch mark.
- White stretch marks, or striae alba, typically appear as thin, white or gray lines. They tend to show the most on lighter skins.
- Purple stretch marks, or striae rubra, occur when the underlying tissue is stretched too quickly. This is perhaps the most common way they are caused. These types of stretch marks are more frequently visible on darker skin tones. They may vary from bright red to purple in color.
- Tan stretch marks, or striae atrophia. These occur when the body’s collagen production diminishes, resulting in stretched skin with a tan hue. Tan stretch marks can happen to anyone, regardless of skin type, or even regardless of any particular trauma or change in the body. The critical factor is collagen production, or the lack of it.
How to Diagnose Stretch Marks
Identifying common signs and symptoms
The key identifier is the visual one. You will usually see a change in the skin tone, and the lines will often be highly visible. The red or purple marks are especially clear.
At first, they can be distressing. They will, however, over time, usually diminish in appearance, though this can take years if they are left to their own devices.
Some people also experience itchiness and tenderness in the affected areas as the stretch marks develop. You may experience the itching slightly before the lines are very clear.
Seeing a doctor for diagnosis and treatment options
Doctors will be able to determine the type of stretch mark you have and therefore assist you in determining the right way to treat them. Tan lines, for example, may require a collagen supplement.
Topical creams or treatments can often help, and they can assist the skin in remaining elastic as well as helping tone down the color of the skin.
Your doctor may, in rare circumstances, laser therapy, or even surgery, but this is a highly uncommon scenario. That said, partly it depends on how much you can live with the stretch marks, or on your skin’s overall susceptibility to the use of lasers or the effects of surgery.
How to Get Rid of Stretch Marks
Avoid rapid weight changes
One way is to minimize drastic differences in your weight or body shape. This means avoiding crash diets, excessive exercise or any other sudden body changers.
Though it may not seem a reason to avoid becoming pregnant – and it really isn’t – you need to accept that if you become pregnant there is only a limited amount you can do to prevent stretch marks. They can be unavoidable in some pregnancies.
Having said that, maintaining a healthy lifestyle when you are pregnant, and doing what you can to control your diet and exercise regimes, will certainly help limit the effects of any stretch marks.
Retinoids may not be well known to you. In fact they are of great help to those who suffer from stretch marks.
Retinoids are derivatives of Vitamin A that have been used to treat a variety of skin conditions such as acne, wrinkles, and stretch marks. They are powerful treatments. In effect, they help shed the outer layer of the skin and promote new skin cell growth in its place. This helps reduce the appearance of stretch marks by smoothing the surface of the skin.
Vitamin A, however, has a maximum recommended dose, so you need to apply retinol creams carefully and under medical guidance. Do check them out, though, as they really can be effective in reducing the impact of stretch marks.
Vitamin C, like Vitamin A, is one of the most important components in the body’s collagen production. By taking Vitamin C supplements, or adding foods rich in Vitamin C to your diet, such as citrus fruits or tomatoes, you can help increase collagen production and improve the appearance of stretch marks. The vitamin works by strengthening collagen fibers in the skin, which in turn strengthens and thickens dermal structures, which then can reduce the appearance of stretch marks. Additionally, Vitamin C acts as an antioxidant, protecting the skin from free radicals, which can further help reduce the visibility of stretch marks.
This acid is not as well known as it should be. Hyaluronic acid is an acid that naturally occurs in the body. It helps keep your skin hydrated and maintains natural collagen production. It is available in many upper end skin creams that are commercially available. Local pharmacies or supermarkets will stock some good products high in hyaluronic ingredients.
These treatments won’t be necessary or advisable for everyone, but in serious cases of stretch marks you may wish to look into this approach.
The lasers are used to target the pigment in the skin that is left behind by stretch marks, thus reducing their appearance. Additionally, the laser energy stimulates collagen production, helping the skin to become firmer and smoother. As far as safety and pain go, most people who have laser treatment are fine, reporting only very minimal discomfort during the treatments and few side effects afterwards. But do discuss this form of treatment with your doctor in advance. Be sure it is right for you.
The risk with surgery is that you leave other scars behind. Scarring is not always predictable in advance, and you need to be clear that you will not suffer from keloid scarring, which can be highly unsightly and far worse than most stretch marks ever are. Do check out keloiding if you are unaware of it. It may help you decide not to take the risk of surgery and to treat your skin in other ways.
Home Remedies for Stretch Marks
Coconut has a large number of uses in skin care. It is rich in vitamin E and also in saturated fats that can help nourish skin and lessen any dryness around marks that can sometimes make them look redder.
It is widely available in many forms, so you can either use a cream or the oil itself.
Aloe Vera gel
Aloe vera gel is another excellent emollient. It will also help to reduce the effects of scarring or marking from stretch marks. It can improve the elasticity of your skin markedly over time and will assist in improving the natural look of your skin.
Aloe Vera gel is known for its natural healing and moisturizing properties. If you apply it morning and night, over time you will see your marks diminish. It is also an oil or gel that you can mix with other skin-soothing ingredients, such as vaseline.
This may sound a bit extreme or odd, but egg whites can actually be a helpful aid to stretch marks. This is because they are packed full of protein and essential vitamins that all work to enhance the health of the skin. Mix a few egg whites into a paste and apply it to your skin. You may need to make sure that you are not doing this prior to getting dressed for work, but if you are at home and resting then this might be an option to explore. Ideally, at nighttime, perhaps an hour or so before a shower, would be the best time.
Lemon juice has also been reported to work to change the skin tone, usually by lightening it, so depending on your skin you may find this useful. However, be aware that lemon juice can make the skin more sensitive to sunlight, so it’s best to use it at night and to always wear sunscreen during the day afterwards. Furthermore, people with sensitive skin should be cautious when using this particular natural remedy, as it can cause irritation.
Sugar scrubs with complementary oils
Sugar scrubs are a great natural way to exfoliate your skin, which can help in reducing the appearance of stretch marks. The texture of the sugar gently scrubs away dead skin cells, leaving your skin smooth and soft and the exfoliation also helps the skin regenerate as it produces fresh skin.
First, mix equal parts of white or brown sugar with a skin-safe oil like coconut or almond oil. Then, add in a few drops of essential oils for scent, if desired. You can even add a few drops of food coloring for visual effect if you’d like, though be sure that it will wash off easily.
Use a circular motion to gently massage the mixture into your skin for about 5 minutes. Leave it to do its work, and then rinse off with warm water and pat your skin dry. You should start noticing the effects after the first few uses.
Don’t despair if you have stretch marks. They can be treated in many ways and most people see them diminish over time.
In addition to the remedies above, always remember that there are a number of highly effective oils available in pharmacies to reduce scarring of all types. These are often very effective and they tend to have a mixture of ingredients that work to reduce inflammation, discoloration, drying, or roughness. Your pharmacist can advise you what one may be best, but do be reassured that good products are out there. You will, of course, need to apply them over time and be patient, but if you keep up a good habit of twice daily application, you will see your stretch marks diminish in intensity and the discoloration will fade.