Chances are, you probably have stretch marks or striae on at least one part of your body. Many of us consider these marks as effects of pregnancy, but they also affect non-pregnant women and men. Their thin, scar-like appearance can be somewhat distracting, leading to the number one question: do stretch marks go away?
First things first – the good news is that these striations are not symptoms of a serious condition. They are natural occurrences and develop in majority of the population. While that’s good news, the bad news is that you cannot completely erase them, no matter what kind of expensive stretch mark cream you use.
I’m Not Pregnant – Why Do I Have Stretch Marks?
A whopping ninety percent of all pregnant women get stretch marks, which explains why it is often associated with pregnancy. A lucky ten percent do not get as much as a hint of these marks on their bellies at all. What most of us don’t know is that seventy percent of all women who are not pregnant and forty percent of all men also develop these over time and bear these scars on their bodies. Ergo, you do not have to be pregnant to get them!
Stretch marks develop when the elastic middle layer of your skin known as the dermis is stretched continuously for a long period of time. The collagen in your skin allows it to stretch and return into shape, especially when you are young, but there are times when the skin is stretched beyond its limit, breaking down and forming scar tissues in the epidermis or the upper layer of the skin. During the process, the blood vessels become dilated, causing micro-bleeding of some sort, hence the dark purple and red color of fresh striae.
Stretch Marks and Hormones
Aside from understanding these marks from a “growth and skin expansion” point of view, it is also worthwhile to look at it from a hormonal point of view. Women who are pregnant, teenagers going through puberty, those who lift weights and go through rapid muscle gain or those suffering from Cushing’s disease are more prone to developing it. Why? What is common in these conditions is that the adrenal gland secretes an increased amount of glucocorticoids, which are known to slow down the formation of stretch marks and elastin fiber.
When Do Stretch Marks Go Away?
So, we come to the most important question: do stretch marks go away and can you really get rid of them?
To be honest – you can’t. You cannot completely erase the stretch marks and get your unmarked skin back. However, there are things that you can do to help diminish their appearance and improve the way they look, often to the point where they are completely indistinguishable.
Here are some methods for stretch marks reduction:
- Laser therapy – This makes use of intense lights to increase the growth of collagen, melanin and elastin in your skin. Laser stretch marks removal treatments have been shown to produce positive results, but are rather quite expensive and require several sessions before you start seeing results.
- Tretinoin cream – Also known as Retin-A, Avitaca and Renova, which can help rebuild collagen and make your striae look just like normal skin. This treatment is best recommended when you are treating them early on. It is important that you seek guidance and recommendation from your dermatologist before using any of these products.
- Microdermabrasion – This involves blasting tiny crystals on your skin, which polish the surface and help promote regrowth. This stretch marks removal treatment will be administered by a professional and will also require several sessions before you start seeing results.
- Stretch Mark Cream and Lotion – There are various stretch marks creams and lotions available in the market that contain ingredients that help exfoliate and promote skin cell renewal. Your best options are creams that have vitamin E, coca butter, sweet almond oil and olive oil as their base or main ingredients.
You cannot really prevent stretch marks (they can happen to you or anybody at all!). This does not mean, however, that you should not try because you can do some things to lessen the risk of having them on your skin. If you are pregnant, gaining weight or going through a growth spurt, you can try some of these helpful measures:
- Keep the skin healthy, moist and elastic by hydrating yourself. To stay hydrated from the inside, drink eight to ten glasses of water each day. Use a moisturizing lotion on striae-prone areas like the arms, stomach, buttocks, thigh and breasts.
- Get your daily fill of vitamin C and zinc and protein. Drink your vitamins and load up on food that are rich in these nutrients. This is also the perfect time to go on your detox or juice cleanse, because many fruits are rich in vitamin C, zinc and other antioxidants. On the plus side, you can use the pulp for home-made exfoliation.
- Get plenty of exercise to keep your weight in check. Whether you’re pregnant or not, you want to keep weight gain to a minimum to avoid rapid growth and stretching of the skin. Do not forget to do strengthening exercises to promote muscle tone.
What’s Wrong With Stretch Marks Anyway?
Even if you moisturize till your skin glistens and hydrate like a fish, you cannot really be 100% to avoid the occurrence of stretch marks. With the tips provided above, you can help avoid them or improve the way they look if you already have them. But what if you have a little bit of striae here and there?
Stretch marks are harmless and painless, and there’s really nothing wrong with them. Everybody has them – even models that you see in magazines have them. Unlike acne, stretch marks do not get infected and do not hurt. Before trying any stretch mark cream or treatment out, it is important that you keep your expectations in check, so you will know what you should expect. It’s fine to spend money, time and effort on stretch mark removal, but do not let it be the only thing you worry about that it ends up consuming you.