What to Do With Stretch Marks

Stretch marks are unsightly. They are lines that appear on the skin and never go away.

What Causes Stretch Marks?
There are six common causes of stretch marks.

1. Pregnancy
Some women develop stretch marks on the sixth month of pregnancy. The ligaments around the pelvic area as well as the fibers in the skin stretch because of hormones.

2. Puberty
Puberty sometimes comes with growth spurts. Hormonal imbalances might also be a culprit. Girls often get stretch marks on the thighs, hips and breasts while boys might have some on their back and shoulders.

3. Weight Changes
Gaining or even losing weight within a short period of time can affect the fibers which need time to stretch. Marks appear when these fibers are broken or over-stretched and thin. Weightlifters are also prone to stretch marks.

4. Family History
Family history also plays a role. You will likely develop stretch marks if family members also have them. Women are more likely to have them than men.

5. Medications
Medications like corticosteroids decrease the amount of collagen in the skin. Collagen, the protein in the skin fibers, affects the elasticity of the skin.

6. Health Conditions
Cushing disease is the term for the condition in which the body produces excessive amounts of cortisol. Cortisol decreases the amount of collagen in the skin. Marfan Syndrome causes the connective tissues in the body to weaken, including the skin which affects its elasticity.

Where Do They Appear?
Stretch marks usually appear on the abdomen, upper arms, buttocks, thighs, shoulders, and breasts. These appear as lines or streaks on the skin. They show up first as pinkish, purplish or blue lines then fade to a lighter silvery color. Called striae by doctors, they are technically considered scars on the skin. They form because the collagen and elastin that support the dermis and epidermis are broken.

What Happens?
Normally, the dermis should be able to stretch but sudden changes will cause fibers to become too thin and break. The broken dermis show up as stretch marks. They first appear as reddish because the blood vessels can be seen through the skin. When these vessels contract, the fat becomes visible and the color gradually fades. They should not cause alarm because they are not life-threatening, but they appear ugly on the skin. Sudden appearance of stretch marks might also be symptoms of Cushing’s disease or Marfan’s Syndrome.

Can They be Treated?
Unfortunately, there is no proven method to get rid of stretch marks completely. However, they can be reduced and managed with some treatments if the marks are light. Some also fade over time. The earlier they are treated, the more effective the treatment is.

You can apply creams and lotions such as retinoids to help them fade. At home, you can apply lotions and creams that contain vitamin E, aloe vera, and cocoa butter. Diet, water intake and exercise will also help. Some people also hide stretch marks using cosmetics.

Medical treatments involve laser stretch mark removal, surgical stretch mark removal, chemical peels, blue light therapy and microdermabrasion.

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