Picture this. You’re putting on your favourite outfit and you suddenly discover strange marks of depressed lines on your skin in different areas of your body.
But there’s absolutely no need for alarm. These are just stretch marks! TThis is quite normal and usually starts showing after phases of fast weight gain or weight loss.
Stretch marks are also very common during pregnancy and can be seen on the abdomen when the belly expands rapidly from the 6th month onward to match the fetus’ growth. During pregnancy, hormones soften the collagen ligaments of the pelvis, so that the tissues can stretch easily during childbirth. Unfortunately, the skin collagen softens as well, allowing stretch marks to form easily.
What exactly are stretch marks?
Stretch marks are small, red, pink, purple or dark brown depressed lines in the skin and vary in width from one person to another. They may appear on different areas in your body, such as in the buttocks, thighs, hips, belly, upper arms, lower back or breasts. The upper layer of the skin is normal, but in the lower layer, the collagen and elastin, which give the skin its strength and elasticity, become thinner and break thus causing stretch marks. They happen to everyone, even men, bodybuilders, athletes and adolescents during rapid growth spurts.
What are the causes of stretch marks?
Genetics: Depending on the type of your skin and if your mother or sister got them during pregnancy you are more prone to have them.
Nutritional history: An unbalanced diet that doesn’t contain enough vitamins and minerals can affect your skin. Whereas a diet rich in antioxidants like vitamin C and E may increase your skin’s ability to stretch and thus less likely to form stretch marks.
Skin Condition: Dry skin is less elastic and is more prone to stretch marks.
Amount and rate of weight gain: The more you gain weight and the faster you gain it, the more stretch marks you will see. This is due to the fact that when stretching happens over a short period of time, it causes breakage in collagen allowing stretch marks to form easily.
Can you prevent stretch marks?
You can help prevent them from happening or reduce their appearance by:
- Controlling your pace of weight gain and weight loss, aim for no more than 1 kg per week on a weight loss diet.
- Eat a variety of colored fruits and vegetables. Foods that are high in antioxidants –vitamins C, E, Selenium and Zinc help the skin cells resist environmental factors, stress, and aging and also help it stretch better.
- Drink water to keep your skin hydrated.
- Moisturise your skin starting from the 2nd trimester of pregnancy. Nourishing oils or creams containing vitamins E, A, emu oil, cocoa butter, wheat germ oil, and lanolin improve skin elasticity.
Good to Remember
Enrich your diet with Citrus fruits! Vitamin C is the only antioxidant proven to increase collagen synthesis which is essential to maintain healthy skin.
Again the importance of a healthy diet and maintaining a healthy weight are very important for stretch marks prevention. Although there are uncontrollable factors for their appearance, the good news is that stretch marks flatten out gradually with time and start to lose their colour.