No matter how old you are, stretch marks often appear as bands of lines on the skin. These lines are a different color and texture than your normal skin, and can range from purple to bright pink or light gray.
Finger touch feels like a slight ridge or indentation on the skin. Sometimes stretch marks itch or hurt. They are very common during or after pregnancy or after a sudden weight change. They can also occur in rapidly growing teens.
However, these skin features are not dangerous and tend to disappear over time. And while they can be almost anywhere on the body, they are most common on the belly, breasts, upper arms, thighs, and buttocks.
Why do stretch marks appear on the skin?
Stretch marks are the result of stretching of the skin and an increase in cortisone in the body. Cortisone is a hormone that is naturally produced by the adrenal glands. However, having too much of it can cause the skin to lose its elasticity.
Stretch marks are common in certain circumstances:
- Many women experiment during pregnancy, as the skin is stretched in many ways to make room for the developing baby. This continuous pulling and stretching can cause stretch marks.
- Sometimes they appear when you gain or lose weight quickly. Teens may also notice stretch marks after a growth spurt.
- Corticosteroid creams, lotions, and pills can cause stretch marks by decreasing the skin’s ability to stretch.
- Cushing syndrome, Marfan syndrome, Ehlers-Danlos syndrome, and other adrenal gland disorders can cause stretch marks by increasing the amount of cortisone in your body.
There is a sector of the population that has a greater probability of developing them. These are usually women, white people, pregnant women, people who are overweight or taking corticosteroids, or those who have sudden weight loss. This is not to say that men do not have them. There are also cases due to hypertrophy training, in which the skin is stretched too much by increasing muscle volume.
A doctor can tell if you have stretch marks simply by looking at your skin. If they suspect that these bumps on the skin may be due to a serious illness, they may request blood, urine, or imaging tests. However, in most cases it is usually caused by something, so it would be interesting to know the origin to know if it is something common (such as pregnancy) or if health is in danger (radical weight gain or loss).
How to prevent its appearance?
There really is no way to prevent stretch marks completely, even if you regularly use lotions and creams. However, keeping your weight at a healthy level by eating right and exercising regularly can help prevent stretch marks caused by sudden weight gain or loss.
Other tips to reduce your risk include:
- Keep a healthy weight.
- Avoid the rebound effect of diets.
- Eat a balanced diet rich in vitamins and minerals. Consuming an adequate amount of vitamins A and C can help maintain skin, as well as the minerals zinc and silicon.
- Try to gain weight slowly and gradually during pregnancy.
- Drink between 2 and 3 liters of water every day.
Some studies looked at the use of bitter almond oil massaged into the abdomen during pregnancy, but they had to cancel it because it could cause premature labor. So neither rosehip nor cocoa butter seems to prevent stretch marks, although many defend its benefits on the skin.
There are also dermatologists who recommend continuous hydration of the skin to reduce the intensity with which they will appear. However, having nourished skin will not be enough to avoid them. There are women more prone than others, since this depends on the elasticity of the skin. Remember that it is also an organ, so we cannot demand that it act as we want.
Are there treatments for stretch marks?
Although there are many products and treatments that promise to eliminate them, there are none that have proven their full effectiveness so far. Moisturizing the skin can help relieve itching. Even applying a self-tanning lotion is a temporary way to minimize the color difference between normal skin and stretch marks.
Some stretch marks tend to disappear over time. If you don’t want to wait, there are treatments that can improve your appearance. However, no treatment can make them go away completely. Some of the most demanded treatments are:
- Tretinoin cream (Retin-A, Renova) works by restoring collagen and is a fibrous protein that helps give skin elasticity. It is best to use this cream on recent stretch marks that are red or pink. However, if you are pregnant, you should not use it.
- Pulsed laser therapy that stimulates the growth of collagen and elastin. It is best to use this therapy on newer stretch marks. Darker-skinned people may experience skin discoloration.
- Fractional photothermolysis is similar to pulsed laser therapy in that it also uses a laser. However, it works by targeting smaller areas of the skin, causing less skin damage.
- Microdermabrasion that consists of polishing the skin with small crystals to reveal the new skin that is under the most elastic stretch marks. Microdermabrasion can improve the appearance of older stretch marks.
- Excimer laser stimulates the production of skin color (melanin) to make it more closely resemble the surrounding skin.
However, experts do not recommend tanning stretch marks. Some people try to make them less visible with tanning, but this is not recommended. Treating them with an ultraviolet laser doesn’t seem to totally help either. With normal scars, you run the risk of pigmentation problems if exposed to the sun. So this could also happen with stretch marks as it is compromised skin. Its exposure to the sun is always recommended with sun protection.