Why Do I Have Stretch Marks?

Nobody enjoys seeing stretch marks on their bodies. In fact, most people are willing to do anything just to see that those awful looking lines disappear. They would like to flaunt their body parts with confidence at the beach, swimming pool and wear the kind of fashion clothing they love without the fear of being awkwardly jeered at as they walk by.

Perhaps you feel the same way to about your stretch marks. This article talks about what they are, why you got them in the first place and what you can do to remedy the problem.

Stretch marks appear as linear streaks on the skin that has been overstretched, and they run perpendicular to maximum lines of tension in the skin. Usually they begin as flat red lines, and then appear as slightly depressed white streaks over time. They tend to occur near the armpits, on the thighs, abdomen, chest, buttocks, and groin.

Some Stretch Mark Facts

  • The medical name is striae distensae.
  • They are very common.
  • Women are affected by it more than men.
  • They rarely are a sign of a significant medical problem.
  • Stretch marks are generally painless.
  • They commonly develop in obese individuals and during pregnancy.
  • Stretch marks may also occur as a side effect of certain medications and because of certain diseases.
  •  They commonly appear on arms, back, breasts, buttocks, hips, shoulders, stomach or torso.

Who is at Risk?

A stretch mark is a type of scar that develops when your skin stretches or shrinks quickly. This abrupt change causes the collagen and elastin, which support your skin, to rupture and as the skin heals, stretch marks may appear. However, it is not everyone that will develop these narrow bands on their skin.

Fluctuating hormone levels in the body seem to be a major role player in the development of these marks. You may also have a higher risk of developing them if other people in your family have stretch marks.

You are most at risk to develop these marks on your skin during these times:

  • Lifting weights that give you rapid muscle growth.

Why Do I Have These Marks?

There is some controversy over the precise mechanism by which stretch marks occur. They are said to be as a result of damage to the elastic fibers of the dermis (the deeper layer of the skin) accompanied by inflammation. This eventually results in atrophic scar-like changes. Excessive physical stretching of the skin appears to induce these changes.

There are a number of clinical situations that will predispose the skin to the formation of these marks. These include

  • rapid and excessive increase in body mass (weight gain),
  • the excessive use of topical or systemic glucocorticoid drugs (steroids),
  • Cushing’s disease (overproduction of glucocorticoids by the adrenal gland),
  • puberty,
  • Marfan syndrome and syndrome,
  • excessively large breasts or breast implants, and
  • pregnancy

How Many Types Are There?

They can be classified into two based on their formation and appearance :

  1. Red / Pink Stretch Marks : Also known as striae rubra. They are fresh and appear reddish or purplish at the initial stage. They are formed when the dermal layer of the skin is stretched, letting the blood vessels show. At this stage, you may experience a lot of itching around these stretch marks. It is easier to get rid of this type faster because they are new.
  2. White stretch marks : This is also known as striae alba. These are the most stubborn types and appear white or silverish in colour. The tiny tears on the skin occur when the blood vessels reduce in size, thus making the fat under the skin visible. Since the white stretch marks are mature, it might take longer to treat it.

Other classifications when it comes to types of stretch marks include:

  • Striae gravidarum : These are marks which occur mainly on the stomach as a result of pregnancy.
  • Striae nigrae : They are dark grey or black stretch marks (usually applicable to darker complexion skin types).
  • Striae caerulea : Dark blue / purplish marks (also applicable to those with darker complexions).
  • Striae atrophicans : This may develop in those with Cushing’s syndrome, due to the prolonged use of corticosteroids or after a surgical procedure.

Can I Get Rid Of Them?

Yes, you can get rid of them. If you are concerned about your stretch marks, the safest thing you can do is to book an appointment with a dermatologist. He will recommend treatment options you can use. Avoid buying and using just about any cream or oil out there without consulting your dermatologist or a prescription. Some of these creams and oils can actually worsen your current state.

Here are some home remedy options you can explore to get rid of your stretch marks. Sometimes it can be very difficult to completely get rid of everything on your body, but at least, you can use these to reduce their visibility.

  1. Argan oil : Vitamin E enriched Argan oil increases the elasticity of skin and rubbing it on the stretch marks might heal the broken tissues gradually making the marks fade.
  2. Lemon juice : Lemon juice is known for its natural bleaching properties, so it helps reduce the visibility effectively. Use fresh lemon juice daily or simply rub a sliced lemon wedge on your marks to see results.
  3. Egg white : High in proteins and amino acids, egg white is a super food for the skin. When applied, egg white will help lighten the marks while also tightening the skin.
  4. Potato juice : Potatoes contain starch and other skin lighting enzymes which is why they are often used to lighten dark circles, spots and blemishes from the skin. It naturally bleaches the skin and effectively reduces the visibility of your marks when applied regularly.
  5. Olive oil : Rich in moisturising properties, olive oil is full of antioxidants and other nutrients that are exceptionally good for repairing skin damage. Application of cold pressed olive oil on stretch marks will help them fade over time.
  6. Sugar Mix : Mix sugar, olive oil, and lemon juice and to form a scrub. Apply it to the marks and rub it in for 10 minutes. Rinse with lukewarm water.
  7. Castor oil : Apply castor oil directly on the stretch marks and massage it in a circular motion for 15-20 minutes. After massaging, cover the area with thin cotton cloth and apply some heat using a heating pad. For best results, do this as often as you can for a month.
  8. Aloe vera gel : Remove the outer layer of the aloe vera leaf and take out the sticky gel from the inside of the leaf. Use this aloe vera gel on stretch marks and wash off with water after 2-3 hours.

How You Can Prevent Them

Prevention is always better than cure. Do the following if you want to protect your skin against stretch marks.

  1. Control your weight : One of the most helpful things you can do to prevent these marks, whether you’re pregnant or not, is to maintain a healthy weight. They occur when your skin pulls apart quickly due to rapid weight gain or weight loss. Eat a healthy diet and do exercise to help you manage your weight.
  2. Stay hydrated : Drinking enough water may help keep your skin hydrated and soft. Soft skin doesn’t tend to develop stretch marks as much as dry skin does. The Institute of Medicine’s current recommendations for daily water intake are 104 ounces for men and 72 ounces for women. Drinking caffeinated beverages, like coffee, may actually increase your risk of developing stretch marks. If you drink coffee, make sure you’re balancing out your fluid intake with plenty of water, herbal tea, and other caffeine-free fluids.
  3. Eat a nutrient-rich diet : These marks may also occur if you lack nutrition in certain areas. Eating foods that boost skin health may help. Make sure your diet includes foods rich in vitamin C, vitamin D & E, zinc, and protein.
  4. Treat fresh stretch marks : If you can’t totally prevent stretch marks on your skin, you can work to minimize their appearance so they aren’t as noticeable in the long run. Make an appointment with your doctor or a dermatologist to discuss your options when they freshly develop. Your doctor can help determine what is causing your marks, and they may be able to suggest treatment options that work best.

 

 

Reference

  • US National Library of Medicine National Institutes of Health – Striae gravidarum: Risk factors, prevention, and management:
  • Hague A and Bayat A. “Therapeutic targets in the management of striae distensae: A systematic review.” J Am Acad Dermatol. 2017;77(3):559-68.
  • Stier MF and Hirsch RJ. “Rejuvenation of scars and striae.” In: Hirsch RJ, et al. Aesthetic rejuvenation. McGraw Hill Medical, China, 2009:224-9.
  • Ud‐Din S, McGeorge D, et al. “Topical management of striae distensae (stretch marks): prevention and therapy of striae rubrae and albae. J Eur Acad Dermatol Venereol. 2016; 30(2): 211–22.

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