If you’re over 30, have had kids, have ever been on a diet and you’ve still managed to avoid getting stretch marks, then you’re either blessed with very good genes, have amazing elasticated skin, have a fantastic moisturising routine or you are very, very lucky!
Contrary to popular belief, stretch marks aren’t just reserved for pregnant women, no in fact anyone can get them, including men and even children. But what exactly are they and why do we get them?
Check out our guide to stretchmarks!
What Are They?
Stretch marks, as the name would suggest, are marks left behind as a result of the skin being stretched so far that it literally tears. They appear as thin lines across the surface of the skin and rather like a bruise, will start off an angry reddy purple colour. Over time this will gradually fade to a less noticeable silvery-white colour, but the streak across the skin will still be visible. Although stretch marks can occur on any skin surface, they predominantly affect the areas where we store a bit more fat, for example on the:
- Upper arms (Bingo Wings)
To get a bit more of an idea about how and why we get stretch marks, let’s take a look at the make up of what is actually the body’s biggest organ: SKIN.
Skin is made up of three main layers:
- Epidermis – The outer layer. Protective and waterproof.
- Dermis – The middle layer. Strong, supportive, and creates firmness and flexibility.
- Subcutis/Hyperdermis – The inner layer. Made up of fat and connective tissue.
Because stretch marks are visible on the surface of the skin you’d imagine that this is where the root of the condition lies, but you’d be wrong; it goes deeper than this. Rapid stretching of the skin goes beyond the epidermis, down to the dermis, which then starts to break. As the dermis tears, it exposes the subcutis/hyperdermis below and it is this that shows through as a stretch mark. Prior to the mark showing up on the skin, you may experience an itching or prickling sensation and the skin may start to thin out and flatten.
Who’s Most Likely To Get Them?
It’s not so much who is most likely to get stretch marks, but rather how and why they occur. These are the most common reasons:
Approximately 8 out of 10 women come out at the other end of pregnancy with at least a few lines, marks or scars as a reminder of their baby’s growth and journey into the world, but let’s face it having a few stretch marks is hardly the worst thing about childbirth now is it?!
Usually stretch marks start to appear during the later stages of pregnancy, as this is the biggest growth period. The change in hormones also softens skin fibres, making them more vulnerable and therefore more likely to tear. The obvious area for pregnancy related stretch marks is on or around the tummy, but depending on how much weight a person puts on during their pregnancy, they may also notice them develop on their thighs and breasts.
Puberty is a crazy enough stage as it is, with dramatic changes happening to the body both inside and out, and one of those changes can be the sudden appearance of stretch marks. With so much growth happening in such a short space of time, it’s no surprise that the body may take a few hits. For boys it is most common on their shoulders and backs and girls may see them on their hips, thighs and breasts. Oils can help keep the skin supple and a healthy, well balanced diet will prevent excess weight gain.
A big factor in whether you’ll get stretch marks or not, boils down to your genes. If your mum’s got them, then chances are you’ll be more prone to them, because it may indicate that your genetic skin type is more susceptible. Ultimately, it depends on the elasticity of your skin; the stretchier it is, the less likely you are to get stretch marks.
One of the biggest reasons for getting stretch marks is dieting, particularly extreme weight loss in a short space of time. I myself am guilty of this and it is the very reason that I have stretch marks. Yep, even though I’ve had two children, it was my days of dieting during my late twenties that has left me with the reminder that yo-yo dieting is never a good option.
Yo-yo dieting, so called because dieters switch between losing weight whilst on a diet and then putting it back on again, causes the skin to stretch at a rate it can’t keep up with, resulting in stretch marks. Of course, I now know that if anyone wants to lose weight it needs to be done slowly and steadily both for long term results and so that it doesn’t put unnecessary strain on the body, including the skin.
I have stretch marks on the tops of my thighs and around my hips, and because I have had them so long they have faded considerably. Most of the time no one can see them; it’s only if I go swimming that they are exposed to public scrutiny, but let’s face it most of us are so paranoid about our own appearance we’re not even looking at any one else! In the past I was definitely self-conscious of them, but now I am completely at ease with my body and in all honesty I have far greater things to worry about than a few lines on my legs!
If you are already dieting, or considering starting a diet for weight loss, please just remember to only aim for a maximum of 1-2lbs weight loss each week.
Anything more and you really do run the risk of creating stretch marks that will be with you forever.
Certain health conditions or syndromes can also cause stretch marks, although these are obviously rare cases. Examples include, Cushing’s syndrome in which the body produces too much of the hormone cortisol and Marfan syndrome, which is caused by a faulty gene that weakens skin and connective tissues. This reduces its stretching capability, hence being more susceptible to stretch marks.
This really only applies to extreme body builders and athletes who are training a lot and see huge changes in their body shape and make up. In much the same way that you are more at risk of stretch marks if you put on too much weight, likewise the same can happen if you build up your muscle mass too much or too quickly.
Can I Get Rid Of Them?
I’m sorry to be the bearer of bad news, but the answer is no, you can’t completely cure or get rid of stretch marks. However, you can dramatically improve the appearance of them with a variety of different treatment options.
Cosmetic cover up make-up is readily available at most high street pharmacists or you can of course order online. Similar to facial foundation, so-called camouflage make up does just that; it camouflages the stretch marks. This option is best for small areas of skin affected by stretch marks and because some types are waterproof, they can last up to two to three days. However, be warned that make up may rub off onto clothing and if you use regularly it’s going to get quite expensive.
Lotions and Potions
Be wary of any cream, oil, gel or lotions that claims to be a miracle cure for stretch marks; they won’t be. Do your research and look for the ones that help nourish the skin and will help with fading.
Also consider what you want from a product:
- Do you want it to help prevent stretchmarks? In which case opt for an oil that is super hydrating and will moisturise to a deep level. Something like Moringa oil is fantastic at helping to moisturise stretchmarks.
- Do you want something to take away itching or sensitivity? Just before stretch marks become visible the affected skin will feel itchy and a good moisturiser will help with any discomfort.
- Do you want your stretch marks to fade in colour? Whilst no product can guarantee this, they can certainly help keep the skin supple and over time this will naturally result in the stretch marks looking less angry.
There are numerous places to buy products that will help with the appearance of stretch marks, but because they can be expensive a good place to start is by looking out for online discounts. You can find discounted rates from Boots along with many other well known brands and you can also find specialist discount sites, such as VoucherShops UK, which will give you the best value for money.
Laser therapy works by the energy from the laser being absorbed by the blood vessels that are underneath the stretch marks. Whilst this won’t make them magically disappear, the collapse of the blood vessels will certainly help the red/purple colour tone down to a less noticeable white/silver colour. We would recommend you discuss the different options with your GP first, because although laser therapy for stretch marks isn’t currently available on the NHS, there are quite a few different types of laser therapies available, so it’s really worth taking some time to think about which one will work best for you. You should also remember that you will need a few sessions of laser therapy before you will notice any real visible difference and this can vary depending on skin type and colour, so those bills are going to stack up. Make sure you have your finances in place before committing to anything.
At the most extreme end of treatment options for stretch marks is cosmetic surgery and there aren’t many doctors that will recommend this as an option. Cosmetic surgery for stretch marks is incredibly expensive and like all other treatment options, results can never be 100% guaranteed. As with any surgery it comes with a number of associated risks and can cause considerable scarring; perhaps even worse than the original stretch marks themselves!
Most of us will get stretch marks at some point in our lives and whether we learn to live with them or take the route of disguising them, one thing is for sure…we should not be ashamed of them.
As clichéd as it sounds, I like to view mine as the road map of my life. It shows I have lived, I have grown and I am ALL natural. But more than anything it reminds me that although I have lines running across my legs, I at least have legs – legs that work, that run and that carry me through my life.
Do you have stretch marks? What’s your stretch mark story? We’d love to hear from you, so get in touch!
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