Stretch Marks and Pregnancy
What are Stretch Marks?
Stretch marks happen when a person’s skin is stretched to a point past its flexibility and “tears” from the inside, leaving scarring we call stretch marks. The purple, pink or dark red color that shows during the initial phases of stretch marks are due to rupturing of the small blood vessels in the outer layers of your skin. The official medical term for stretch marks is “erythrocyanosis”. Approximately 80% of all pregnant women experience some degree of stretch marks during their pregnancy (usually during the last trimester).
Stretch mark scarring isn’t just limited to the pregnant tummy. Stretch marks can appear on a person’s belly, breasts, upper arms, thighs, calves and buttocks. In other words, any area where the expecting mom (or anyone else, for that matter) gains weight is subject to stretch marks.
Some stretch marks are very noticeable, turning almost bright red, and then fading. Some people experience stretch marks that are very faint, and virtually disappear over time, and other people have stretch marks that are somewhere inbetween. The stretch marks may not be red (or fade to a purple) but if you look closely at the skin you can see small scars where the underlying skin tore as it was stretched.
What Causes Stretch Marks?
1. Weight Gain
Stretch marks are most commonly thought of in relation to pregnancy, but quick and excessive weight gain, body building, and growth spurts in adolesnece can all cause stretch marks.
2. Collagen and Elastin
It’s also believed that a change in the amount of collagen and elastin the body produces could contribute to stretch marks. Aging, hormonal changes (as those that occur during pregnancy or adolence) or sudden weight gain can cause an imbalance in the collagen and elastin which might contribute to stretch marks.
What is Collagen?
Beneath the thin layer of skin (called the epidermis) lies a much thicker skin layer, the dermis. The dermis contains blood vessels, nerves, hair roots and sweat glands. The dermis is, for the most part, made up of the protein collagen which is organized in bundles held together by elastin. Collagen accounts for up to 75% of the weight of the dermis, and is responsible for the resilience and elasticity of the skin.
What is Elastin?
Elastin is a protein that holds together bundles of collagen bundles. Elastin accounts for less than 5% of the weight of the dermis.
How Can I Prevent Stretch Marks?
In the case of stretch marks, an ounce of prevention truly is worth a pound of cure.
If you’re pregnant, and wondering if – and to what extent you will experience stretch marks, look first to the genetic factor. If your mother, sister, or grandmother experienced stretch marks you most likely will too. The degree to which they occurred in your family is a pretty good indication of what you can expect. While you may be predisposed to stretch marks, there are things you can do to help reduce the risk and severity of stretch marks during your pregnancy.
- Avoid gaining or losing weight quickly. Sudden weight fluctuations can play havoc with your skin’s ability to ‘snap back’.
- Drink your water! Your skin needs to be hydrated to remain soft and “supple”. Drinking a lot of water not only prevents stretch marks, it helps to flush out toxins and improves the look and feel of your skin. Read more about Water Intake During Pregnancy.
- Use a moisturizing cream or lotion daily right after your bath or shower on the areas most prone to stretch marks. This will help keep your skin moisturized and “elastic”. We offer several different pregnancy skin products and stretch mark creams that help prevent itchy skin, dry skin and stretch marks caused by pregnancy.
- Be careful NOT to scratch! Scratching causes small tears in your skin. Also, an interesting phenoman is that the more you scratch, the more you seem to itch. Many pregnant women experience dry and itchy skin during pregnancy. Using a moisturizer will help prevent your skin from becoming dry. You may want to cut your fingernails short so that even if you do scratch, you won’t tear your skin or leave marks.
- Exercise daily to keep your skin tone. Exercise will also help keep your skin “flexible”.
Home Remedies for Stretch Marks
There are several home remedies that women have been using for generations to reduce the appearance of stretch marks, as well as preventing them.
Olive Oil is a natural moisturizer. As such, daily olive oil massages will help prevent stretch marks. Oils such as almond oil and castor oil have also been used to reduce stretch marks.
Egg white and egg white powders are rich in protein and many say they are greatly effective in treating stretch marks.
Which ever method you use, the secret to using oils and creams effectively is knowing the best time to apply them to your skin – which is shortly after you take a shower or bath. Let your skin absorb the oil or lotion naturally. For the best results you should make this a part of your daily routine.