Stretch Marks - Cause and Prevention
Stretch marks, medically known as striae gravidarum, are caused by excessive stretching of the skin and by a loss of collagen and elastin in your skin.
As you grow older, your body begins to slow down and lose it's ability to produce connective tissue. Without collagen and elastin, your skin cannot 'stretch out of' and 'go back into' place as easily.
You wouldn't believe who this was, even if I told you! Ah, come on! Take a guess! Who can it be? Give up?
This is actually a picture of Cindy Crawford, Super Model, bearing the brunt of motherhood. Not exactly the Cindy we all know and see all the time! Still, you have to admire her for not being afraid to have her photo taken! Good on her!
(view close up below)
The Cause of Stretch Marks
Genetics, pregnancy, rapid weight gain, rapid weight loss, and puberty are the usual culprits of this condition. However, other things can cause them like growth spurts in adolescent boys and girls, changes in medications or the frequent use of steroids, lack of certain nutrients, depression or extreme unhappiness, and sudden changes in physical or environmental conditions.
Teenagers regularly complain about the condition, and almost half of all expectant mothers will end up having them. Pregnant women may start to develop marks on the abdomen during the second half of pregnancy as the skin stretches to accommodate the growing baby.
It is most prevalent however, during the last few weeks, for marks to simply just 'appear out of nowhere'. Striae can appear seemingly out of nowhere. However, besides the abdomen, stretch marks commonly occur on the hips, breasts, and buttocks. Other causes of stretch marks are excessive immobility, and for no particular reason.
Depending on your skin color, the marks start out as pink, reddish brown, or dark brown streaks. The reddish-brown pigmentation in the marks gradually fades, and the stretch marks or "striae" begin to look like glistening silvery/white lines of scar tissue.
One thing you can do right now is to help prevent them before they occur. If you are presently pregnant, start using oils (like coconut oil or Bio oil) before you need them. The extra moisture should help start to add more elasticity for your skin as the baby grows.
Also, avoid taking hot showers. Try warm water instead. If you are prone to getting them, try and take a shower every other day too. I know it sounds terrible but which is worse? Unsightly marks or feeling a bit dirty? The problem is that when you over-moisturize your skin, (via the shower), you are signaling your sebaceous glands that you have enough moisture. They will slow down production. To make your genes work for you, let the natural oils in your skin do their job.
Drinking plenty of water, eating healthy foods, and exercising can help with the elasticity of your skin and it's ability to bounce back from pregnancy. Genes do have a lot to do with a lot of things but I'm not convinced they're inherited. Many women that have stretch marks have children who never get them.
Stretch marks start from deep within your skin’s tissue and gradually lift to the surface. Although in many cases they seem to ‘just appear’ overnight, they actually happen gradually. Once they present on the skin’s surface, they become clearly visible.
Stretch marks happen to a variety of different people. Men and women, thin and fat, old and young all experience them. Stretch marks do not hurt or irritate the skin, but can look rather unsightly. The worst damage they do, is to hurt your self-esteem. People with striae may feel ‘different’ or ‘embarrassed’ and want to cover their skin. Loss of self-image is also a concern.
Most people think that they are not curable. Indeed, they are very difficult to get rid of, but it can be done. Different people will have different results using various methods. There is no one ‘cure all’ product. You must find the one product that works well for you, and stick with it! Fortunately, a lot of the products can be either made at home, or bought cheaply online.
Prevention of Stretch Marks
Vit. C Supplement (1000 mg daily internally) - Increases collagen levels.
Other vitamin supplements like zinc and vitamins A, D, E, and B-complex help support skin and should be taken as a preventative measure.
Take Omega 3 Fatty Acids. Borage oils, fish oil supplements, flax oil, and olive oil provide some of the best Omega 3 fatty acids. Omega 3 fatty acids help a lot! You can include more of them by simply increasing your consumption of nuts and seeds. They are very high in Omega 3's, which are important building blocks of our cell membranes.
Drink at least 2 liters of water daily to keep skin hydrated and moisturized.
Despite other people’s opinions, massaging your stretched skin does help. Massage increases circulation to the affected area and stimulates new cell growth. Any cream or massage oil if fine to use, but creams containing oils with healing properties such as vitamin E oil are best. These oils may prevent scarring and limit more damage.
Subcision (needling) Needling is done with the use of a commercial tattoo machine. The machine punctures the skin creating perforations in the skin. This stimulates production of collagen, liposomes, and elastin. When the new skin is visible, it will be smoother and tighter. Collagen is the substance that gives skin its vitality, healthy glow and helps it keep renewing itself. The result is smoother, firmer, younger looking skin.
Because it does not burn the skin as lasers and dermabrasion do, the risk of scarring or hyper-pigmentation is lower. It is also not as invasive, so the skin needs less time to recover. Right after the treatment the skin will be red, swollen, and irritated. After a few days, the symptoms will subside and makeup can cover the remaining irritation. The swelling should go away in a week or two. Some people with dark skin may not be good candidates for needling because of the risk of hyper-pigmentation. People with diabetes and other conditions need to consult with their doctors before treatment.
Use Retinol A after you get them to diminish their appearance. These are only available by prescription at your doctor's office. If you can't afford Retin A, a viable option is to use retinol creams.
One of the biggest obstacles to stretch marks is that you can't change what you do not acknowledge! Many women (and men) choose to overlook their unsightly marks and simply chalk them up to getting older. That's all fine and dandy if they really, really don't bother you. However, the problem is that they can (and will) get worse over time.
Prevention is truly the key, however, there are many things you can do to treat them if you just have the desire to change and the knowledge to get you there. These puppies aren't going away on their own. It's up to you to make some changes and put some good old effort into your skin care!
If you've already got them, learn how to treat them here: Stretch Mark Treatments for Clear Skin
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