Along with cellulite, stretch marks are one of those things that many women feel super self conscious about. If you have ever wondered how stretch marks happen, or how to get rid of them, then you need to keep reading.
Firstly, what are stretch marks?
Stretch marks (stria distensae) are stripes or streaks that appear on the skin, which are usually red, pink, grey or white in colour. Stretch marks are actually scars that occur when the skin is stretched beyond its elastic limit. When this happens, it means the skin cannot bounce back and it remains permanently scarred. They are particularly common during teenage years as the skin is generally firmer and has a lower elastic limit. The most common areas they appear are the lower abdomen, lower back, thighs, knees and breasts.
Newer stretch marks tend to be red, bright pink or purple in colour to begin with. This colouring occurs because of the broken fibres and blood vessels in the skin’s deeper layers. These marks generally fade into a grey or white shade as the blood vessels contract.
The most important thing to note is that stretch marks form in the deeper layers of your skin due to the overstretching of the connective tissues, such as collagen and elastin. So essentially, stretch marks mean that your skin is scarring from the inside out, which is a little different to your typical scar that usually occurs as a result of an external wound.
What causes stretch marks?
Your skin has three layers - these being the hypodermis (deepest layer), the dermis (the middle layer) and the epidermis (outer layer). Stretch marks are formed in the middle layer - the dermis. As your body grows naturally, the connective fibres in the dermis slowly stretch. However when there is rapid growth, these fibres can be stretched beyond their elastic limit and may become damaged or even break. As I said before, these are basically scars formed from the inside out, which is why they can be difficult to treat.
Of course, stretch marks are also very common in pregnant women because their bellies grow quite quickly to allow for the growth of their baby. We all know that pregnancy causes a lot of hormonal changes, some of which may increase the likelihood of stretch marks appearing. So if you are pregnant and have noticed the appearance of stretch marks, then don’t be concerned as this is normal. The appearance of stretch marks can also be hereditary, so that may be why certain women get them during pregnancy and others don’t.
Another major cause of stretch marks for both men and women is rapid weight gain. If you have gained a large amount of weight in a short period of time, then your skin may develop stretch marks.. While weight gain can be reversible, it does not mean that stretch marks will also disappear. However, it may be possible for them to look smaller as your weight decreases.
So what are the treatments for stretch marks?
This is the bit you have been waiting for… I have to be honest, girls, and say there really aren’t that many effective treatments for stretch marks that can completely remove them. As they are formed in the middle layer of your skin, they aren’t a simple skin surface issue that can be easily treated. So the next time you see a cream or oil that claims to “cure stretch marks”, keep these things in mind. Yes, there are a few products that may help the appearance of stretch marks, but it is unlikely that these will remove them entirely.
Rosehip oil, for example, is a great oil for your skin in general. It is particularly effective at improving the appearance of scars and may reduce the appearance of the stretch marks. Vitamin E oil is another favourite for many pregnant women for similar reasons. Other forms of treatment include laser therapies and retinoic acid, but once again these cannot guarantee their complete removal.
Whilst stretch marks can’t always be prevented, there are a few steps that you can do to prevent those that might appear as a result of poor lifestyle choices. Some of these include maintaining a healthy weight, avoiding “yo-yo” dieting, eating a balanced diet rich in vitamins and minerals and drinking plenty of water.
BUT, the most important thing is…..
If you are feeling self conscious about your stretch marks, remember that nobody is perfect. What even is perfection anyway? Just remember that stretch marks are sometimes unavoidable and just because you have them, does not make you any less beautiful than the next person. I think it is so easy to compare ourselves to other people, especially ones we see on social media. I want you to remember most people won’t show you their ‘flaws’, they will only show your their best parts.
As I said, stretch marks are completely normal, and should be used as a reminder of where you have come from. Just how a tiger earns their stripes we as women should be proud of where we have come from, whether that be a pregnancy, a weight loss journey or even puberty! They all have a story to tell. Don’t be ashamed of them and don’t allow them to define who you are as a person!
I understand how hard it can be to deal with what we see as ‘imperfections’ on our bodies. Just remember that feeling fit, happy and healthy is the most important thing. Learn to embrace your imperfections, and life suddenly won’t seem so bad - trust me!
Love, Kayla xx