By Michael Connor, MD
Stretch marks appear when your body grows faster than your skin can keep up with. This rapid growth causes tiny fibers in your skin's epidermis to break.
They do not discriminate and can develop on both men and women on any body part that experiences growth.
According to the American Academy of Dermatology, roughly 90% of women get stretch marks. However, this phenomenon does affect men as well.
Stretch marks can be on the abdomen and breasts but are also common on the inside of the upper arm area, outer thighs, back of knees, hips and buttocks.
However, the area that most women are concentrated on tends to be abdomen, especially in summer time and bathing suit season.
Stretch marks can appear after excessive weight gain or weight loss and are especially visible for some women during and after pregnancy.
It Doesn't Have to Be This Way
In both cases, whether it's during weight loss or pregnancy, preventative care is critical in trying reducing the likelihood of stretch marks.
Some patients I speak to are not bothered by their stretch
marks. They accept these marks as a part of life and as a part of getting older.
But it doesn't have to be that way.
Stretch marks don't have to be your cross to bear. And even better, if they do appear on your skin, there are simple things that you can do at home to try to reduce their appearance.
Preventative Skin Care
While you are pregnant or in the process of losing weight, there are some natural remedies that you can try to help minimize stretch marks.
Some believe that the protein in egg whites may help rejuvenate the skin. Massaging egg whites onto the affected areas may help fade stretch marks.
For years, people have been rubbing lemons onto their skin to naturally fade freckles. The natural acids in lemons have also been known to fade stretch marks. A mix of lemons and raw sugar is a homemade scrub that you can create to help exfoliate the skin and fade stretch marks.
Lotions, Oils, Balms and Serums
Many women swear by aloe vera, almond oil, avocado oil, jojoba oil, shea butter (which also has vitamin A), cocoa butter, and vitamin E.
Aloe vera helps skin cells regeneration and acts as moisturizer, which in turn helps your skin appear to look younger and smoother. This skin regeneration also helps stretch marks less apparent. In addition, since aloe has natural anti-bacterial properties it soothes the scan and may help with healing.
Massaging various oils, such as almond, jojoba and vitamin E oil, into the skin also help with skin elasticity and stretch mark reduction - particularly newer stretch marks that are pink or purple in color. For older stretch marks, soaking warm compresses in a mixture of ½ cup almond and jojoba oil, 2 tablespoons of Vitamin E, and about ¼ cup of sugar (to act as an exfoliant) may do the trick.
Shea butter and coco butter are more commonly used as a preventative measure. For instance, women will often rub either shea butter or coco butter balms or creams on their abdomen from the beginning of the pregnancy to help prevent stretch marks from occurring in the first place.
Each of these products are known to soothe the skin and help with moisturization, tone and texture. For optimal results, daily application is suggested.
Good 'Ole H2O
It's equally important to make sure you drink enough water to stay hydrated (which also improves skin's elasticity), about 8 glasses per day, as well as eat a well balanced diet and make sure to get enough Vitamin C (which also helps improve the appearance of stretch marks).
The key is keeping the elasticity in your abdominal skin so it can be more flexible with your body growth or reduction. Skin that is nourished and hydrated with the proper emollients tends to bounce back quicker and be more pliable.
Many of the aforementioned items are inexpensive and readily available. Some might be in your kitchen cabinets already. However, you must be diligent with your application regimen and apply daily for optimal results.
As in most cases, being proactive is crucial to maximizing results.
In addition to topical remedies, taking daily multivitamins, keeping your overall body hydrated (8 glasses of water daily), plus moisturizing your skin with products that are rich in proteins and vitamins, may help your skin adapt to its changing condition so you can look and feel great sooner… rather than later.
About the Author
Michael Connor, MD - After graduating with honors from the University of Miami, Dr. Michael Connor graduated at the top of his medical school class at the University of Florida. At the University of Florida, he was named resident of the year. He completed a prestigious two year fellowship in ophthalmic plastic and reconstructive surgery with the largest ophthalmic plastic surgery practice in the country, Texas Oculoplastic Consultants. While there, he performed over 1,200 surgeries and trained at MD Anderson Cancer Center in Houston, TX focusing on periocular cancers and reconstructive surgery following cancer removal. His professional interests include cosmetic eyelid, forehead and midface surgery as well as reconstructive surgery following cancer, trauma and previous cosmetic surgery. He is the creator of Scarology(R), a special treatment to help fade stretch marks and scars.