So you’ve got stretch marks?
It might be a little comforting to know that up to 80% of women will get stretch marks at some stage in their life and it bumps up to 90% of pregnant women. So you’re not alone..
What are Stretch Marks Exactly?
Stretch Marks are small tears in the dermis (middle layer of skin) that result from rapid growth of muscle or fat tissue (when the muscle or fat beneath the skin grows at a faster rate than the skin itself); the scarring Is a result of the healing. They normally appear on/around the thighs, hips, butt, back, abdomen and breast area (but are not localized to these specific areas), and are seen as a semi-thick coloured and sometimes textured mark on the skin.
Stretch marks range in size as well as colour. Some people find their stretch marks are line like and others feel they are better described as thick waves. They are often red, pink, purple, white or a silvery colour, which transition from darker to lighter with time.
Since they are due to rapid growth, if your weight is steady you are significantly less likely to develop stretch marks, but there is no definite guarantee. Studies have found stretch marks are also genetic (so ask your mum and grandma (nicely!) is they have them too if you’re curious).
Are There Treatments/Cures to stretch marks? Can I get rid of them?
Regardless of the age and colour of your stretch marks, experts say they are permanent. The only way to completely remove them is with surgery and a heavy payment to correspond (up to $20,000) However, there are many theories about ways of reducing their appearance. "Theory" goes that the earlier you treat them (the darker in colour they are) the better your chances of reducing them as they are more responsive as they contain more pigment unlike the lighter white/silver ones.
So... “WHAT ARE THESE TREATMENTS?!”
For asistance with prevention, use a moisturiser. Some studies show significant improvement in skin appearance and elasticity when people lather on some moisturiser daily. (Think of it this way: if your skin has a lot of stretching to do, it’s less likely to tear and create stretch marks if it’s hydrated). So if you think it's worth a try, moisturiser is most rapidly absorbed when applied directly after a shower when skin is still moist (but dry). If no other benefit, enjoy the calming feeling of rubbing the cream in. NB: I have never tried this, and can't vouch for its effectiveness, but there are some reports that a home-made moisturiser of wheat germ oil, olive oil and aloe vera (in equal quantities) can be helpful.
A few studies in America have found “Retin-A” (etinoic acid cream) to show significant improvements on the appearance of stretch marks. It has been proven to increase the production of collagen, improving elasticity – helping skin to remain flexible, stretch out and avoid tears. Again, this won’t be as effective on older stretch marks. And you may need a prescription. Note: Products containing retinoic acid if you are pregnant or breast feeding (it can potentially cause birth defects).
Similarly, Glycolic acid also increases collagen production. However, this is allegedly safe to use when pregnant or breastfeeding and can be bought over the counter. Stronger treatments can be prescribed by a dermatologist. Note: EXTREME precautions against sun exposure should be taken. Reduce sun exposure and ensure proper protection is used if you do spend time in the sun. Note: You can use retin-A and glycolic acid at the same time
Vitamin E oil. Some claim this to be the “miracle cure” for stretch marks. Some studies find it is only beneficial for women who have been pregnant before.. But other studies disagree. There’s no harm in trying :) I have always used Vitamin E cream or Bio-Oil for scars etc so that is what I would normally give a try. As far as I can find, nothing easily available has been scientifically proven to reduce stretch marks: be wary of marketing schemes that claim otherwise. Some other oils anecdotally reported to improve stretch marks (mix with coconut oil for easier application) are Rose, Helichrysum and Myrrh
Take your Vitamin C! Some Dermatologists suggest 500mg of vitamin C daily can help reduce stretch marks.
More serious options include laser treatment options and surgical options. These do have risks associated however, and are very costly (between $1000 and $20,000 usually).
But really, don't worry about or obsess over them. Remember, we all seem to be our own harshest critics, so in reality no one really notices other people's stretch marks at all. When it comes down to it, stretch marks are actually something very individual and beautiful in their own way. They signify growth and development of you as a person and act as a visual map traced lightly on your body to symbolise the change you have gone through and seen.
Love and light,