Ah, yes, stretch marks. The disagreeable “tiger stripes: practically every mom has and wishes they didn’t. You can bet that even celeb moms had them at some point. Many moms know that stretch marks are as much a part of having a baby as changing diapers and middle-of-the-night feedings. When your baby comes, you become a marked woman – literally. So, what causes stretch marks? And what can you really do about them?
What Causes Stretch Marks
You know what they look like. Stretch marks are those reddish-purplish or white-grey lines you might find on your hips, thighs, breasts, arms, and lower back. The general doctor’s description is that when your body grows faster than your skin can keep up your skin gets stretched beyond its elastic limit. The fibers keeping your skin supple then break, resulting in stretch marks.
Stretch marks during pregnancy are common. When you think about it, you gain around 30 pounds throughout those 9 months, and that’s a moderate estimate. As your baby bump grows, the skin stretches with it until breaking point, as what often happens.
Some skin experts also say that weight gain alone is not responsible for the marks, but the hormonal changes that come with it. The hormones produced wear away at the skin fibers, causing them to fray and tear.
Who Can Get Stretch Marks
If you have them, you’re definitely not alone. About 90% of soon-to-be moms will get them by the time their baby comes. Genetics also plays a role in getting stretchmarks. Chances are, if your mom has them, you will (or do), too. Another thing, the color of stretch marks tends to vary with skin color. Light-skinned women tend to have pinkish stretch marks. If you are darker-skinned, your stretch marks will contrast at a lighter shade than your skin tone. In either case, your marks will definitely be plain to see.
Not Just for Moms
Despite what most people think, stretch marks are not entirely the territory of moms and pregnant women. While you typically get stretch marks during pregnancy, you could also get them if you are a post-pubescent teen, a weightlifter, or if you gained weight quickly. Basically, if you have skin covering your body, you can get stretch marks.
That means even males can and in fact do get them. It doesn’t even matter if you’re skinny or not. Anyone who has skin can develop stretch marks – there are no exceptions. You may now give a big sigh of relief.
Prevention, a Tricky Trade
Then again, if you think you can avoid what causes stretch marks entirely, you might be in for a cold splash of truth. Although preventing stretch marks is still a subject of debate, the facts simply seem to point to a solid ‘No.’ Skin elasticity has a limit, and once that limit is reached, the skin is stretched beyond mending.
Still, some doctors will maintain that you can take steps to keep your skin in shape. On the other hand, the naysayers will tell you that the best you can do is to minimize the appearance of stretch marks.
Keep a Balanced Diet
According to the optimists, eating a balanced diet is important to keeping the skin elastic. Your diet should include a good amount of carbohydrates, proteins, lipids, vitamins, and minerals. Maintaining a balanced diet can also help you control your weight, or weight gain, if you’re an expecting mother.
Water is another important element to maintaining good skin. Experts generally recommend drinking up to 3 liters of water a day. That would certainly mean more trips to the toilet, but hey, if that means no stretch marks and zero toxins in the body, you go drink to that!
Practice a Healthy Lifestyle
To keep your skin supple, you need to make a habit out of keeping yourself healthy. Chief among healthy habits is exercising regularly. Doing your favorite workout increases the blood supply to the skin and keeps it firm. Getting a full 8 hours or so of sleep is another good habit to keep. Sleep allows the body – and the skin – to repair itself and recover from the day’s damage. This is something most people do not get enough of but should. In addition, junk foods, tobacco, and alcohol do take their toll on the skin. You are better off indulging in them sparingly, if at all.
Creams and Lotions
The skeptics will all say that no cream, lotion, or ‘mommy’ balm can help you in foiling what causes stretch marks in the first place. All the same, you can explore them all in the spirit of research. Many products found on the market will claim to prevent stretch marks when applied regularly to the skin. Such creams and lotions often include components like cocoa butter, olive oil, almond oil, and aloe vera, among many others. Milk baths are also said to keep skin soft and elastic.
Minimizing Stretch Marks
In the likely event that you get stretch marks, you do have a handful of options for making them less visible. Some stretch marks do become faint with time, but like everything else, they are not all made equal. Experts agree that the best time to treat stretch marks is during their early, reddish stage. The marks turn silvery white when they mature, at which point, nothing much can be done.
One recommended topical treatment is a gel made from onion extract and hyaluronic acid. Some users swear by it, reporting fading after 12 weeks of steady use. Your dermatologist can also prescribe a retinoid or some type of vitamin A oil to promote fading. However, you should avoid using retinoids during pregnancy and breastfeeding.
Other cosmetic treatments are more costly. Doctors often use laser treatments on stretch marks to promote collagen growth and reduce blood flow to them.
Note that these treatments are meant to reduce the appearance of stretch marks, not erase them. The degree of success in fading will also depend on your skin tone, age, as well as the degree of sun damage your skin has sustained over the years.
Knowing that there is no magic lotion or miracle treatment for stretch marks, you can choose to view them as part of your transformation as a mother and embrace your tiger stripes. Today, more and more women are regarding their marks as proud symbols of motherhood. Knowing further that anyone of any shape or size can get them, too, you can finally loosen up about them and start loving the skin you’re in.