Stretch marks, otherwise known as striae, are pink, reddish-brown, purple or brown marks or lines that appear on the body after any sudden weight or size changes. They are usually the result of rapid stretching or thinning of the skin. Due to this trauma, the structurally supporting elastic layer of the skin known as the dermis tears instead of stretching to accommodate the change.
There are many reasons as to why striae shows up on your body. As mentioned above, it can be caused by extreme weight changes or it may be influenced by hormonal changes associated with puberty, pregnancy, bodybuilding or hormone replacement therapy. Women are not the only ones susceptible to stretch marks as men get them too. The most common areas where they appear are the abdominal area, thighs, hips, breasts, upper arms or lower back.
When they first develop, they are usually pink or red but over time they can become shiny and white. They typically appear on the abdomen or thighs, but can happen anywhere on the body and to anybody but certain people seem to be more susceptible to developing them.
There are a few ways to help you minimize your chances of getting stretch marks but if you're reading this, then it's highly likely you're looking for a way to get rid of them!
One of the keys is of course diet. The only thing you can do to somewhat prevent them is to try to minimize fluctuations in your weight. Keeping the body hydrated with water helps provide elasticity to the epidermis, helping you reduce your risk of striae. Eating plenty of fruits and vegetables to ensure you get all the vitamins is how you can give optimum elasticity to your skin and at the same time provide nutrients for improving your health. So eating plenty of fresh fruit, vegetables, almonds, fish and eggs which are vitamin-rich food items will help keep the skin subtle and nurture its elasticity.
Many studies have shown that consistent moisturising helps prevent stretch marks. This topical hydration will help improve the elasticity of your skin while helping promote the production of collagen and elastin, the stretching and supportive fibers in the dermis.
Ideal ingredients such as Gotu kola (Centella asiatica), aloe vera, vitamin E (Tocopheryl Acetate) can help. Gotu kola is an Ayurvedic herb with exceptional healing qualities for scars and stretch marks. Additionally, studies have shown that creams containing Vitamin E and hyaluronic acid can also help prevent the formation of striae while Retinyl Palmitate, Retinol or Tretinoin, all derivatives of vitamin A, helps to reduce the appearance of stretch marks. These actives are most effective on new stretch marks that are under 2 months old. Tretinoin works by increasing collagen synthesis to rebuild the dermis and by exfoliating older skin, which causes the colour of stretch marks to fade into the surrounding skin.
If you want to step it up and go a little harder, then Alpha-hydroxy acids are also quite effective. AHA's are natural ingredients derived from sugar or milk and are commonly used for treating discoloration of the skin and also very effective used in higher concentrations in chemical or fruit acid peels. Alpha-hydroxy acids cause exfoliation, which can help fade stretch marks.
Stepping it up again microdermabrasion and laser treatments would be the next more direct way to combat striae.
Microdermabrasion exfoliates the top layer of the skin removing the epidermis, causing the stretch marks to appear lighter. This is a treatment that responds well when used with a stretch mark cream as they are better able to penetrate into the dermis, allowing better collagen synthesis. Just keep in mind this can be costly as numerous treatment sessions are needed to get great results.
Laser seems to be quite an effective treatment as it acts by creating microscopic wounds in the skin, forcing it to repair itself and synthesize new collagen. The laser energy can be seen as "kick-starting" a natural healing process that helps to stimulate fresh, healthy tissue, resulting in smoother skin. Again, this is an expensive way to go and not everyone gets the results they're hoping for.
As I said before, the less invasive way to tackle stretch marks is through a healthy diet, staying hydrated and using natural creams. But if you do choose a much more intense treatment, these things should still be incorporated in your plan. They really are your insurance policy to getting rid of stretch marks for good!
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