Stretch marks as it is popularly known or striae as called by Medical Doctors are very common and though can occur in anyone but affect more women than men. They are scars that are thin or narrow, long lines, streaks, bands or stripes that occur on the skin when the skin is suddenly stretched or period of intense growth/shrinkage. Such growth is seen during rapid weight gain, during puberty or at pregnancy. In certain medical conditions whereby the skin elasticity is decreased as seen in Marfan syndrome or conditions in which there is rapid weight gain and skin fragility like occurs in Cushing’s syndrome; stretchmarks may also be commonly seen. Also, in situations where the skin collagen level decreases as seen with prolonged use of steroids creams and lotions, the risk for stretch marks is also increased.
The skin is majorly made of three layers. The connecting fibers of the dermis layer of the skin gradually grows to accommodate slow or normal growth of the body. However, sudden and rapid growth leads to stretching that causes rupture which allows the deeper layers to show through the dermis. It is the healing of these tears and rupture that leads to stretchmarks and contribute to the way they look.
The most commonly affected areas are the breasts, abdomen, hips, buttocks and thighs.
Stretch marks do not pose any danger or increase risk for any health condition. For some people, they are significant cosmetic embarrassment while for some others it is disfiguring enough to cause anxiety and problems with self esteem that can affect optimal daily living.
Overtime, they may fade without treatment. No single treatment has been identified to work for everyone. Treatment however may be costly and not always effective. Topical solutions have been proposed but no high quality research exist to confirm any claim of such topical applications. Alot of skincare experts however propose that the use of highly active, topical preparations with high antioxidants levels and collagen boosting properties may be beneficial in fading it. Certain natural ingredients used in skincare are known to minimize the appearance of stretch marks. Example of such ingredients are; bitter almond oil, lavender oil, argan oil, pomegranate, coffee and rosehip oil.
Certain lifestyle habits may be able to decrease the risk of developing stretch marks and these are;
- Avoiding fad diets.
- Maintaining adequate hydration daily.
- Maintaining an ideal and healthy weight.
- Eating a diet that is balanced in all nutrients including vitamins and minerals especially vitamins with high antioxidant properties such as vitamins A, C and E.
- Gradual weight gain in pregnancy.
Stretchmarks may be unsightly and can fade over time. However, treatment should be aimed at improving self esteem as they pose no long-term health risks. Natural ingredients exist to make stretchmarks less noticeable or to minimize the appearance of stretchmarks but like any other scar, stretchmarks are permanent.