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Stretch Marks

Stretch marks are narrow lines or stripes, that develop on the skin when suddenly stretched. You might feel a slight ridge or indentation on your skin on a range of body parts, including the stomach, thighs, hips, breasts, upper arms, and lower back.

What are Stretch Marks

Stretch marks also called striae, striae distensae are scars or disfiguring lesions caused as a result of overstretched skin.

Stretch marks typically appear as groups of narrow lines on your skin. The marks have a different color and texture from your normal skin, ranging from purple to bright pink to light gray. When you touch stretch marks with your fingers, you might feel a slight ridge or indentation on your skin. Sometimes, stretch marks feel itchy or sore.

What causes stretch marks?

During pregnancy, your skin is expanding at such a rapid rate—particularly during the sixth and seventh months—which can cause stretch marks. You’re also more likely to get stretch marks if you’re carrying multiples or a big baby or if you’ve gained weight quickly.

Of course, pregnancy isn’t the only reason women get stretch marks. Genetics and hormones can also have an impact. Stretch marks are a result of skin stretching and an increase of cortisone in your system. Cortisone is a hormone naturally produced by your adrenal glands. However, having too much of this hormone can make your skin lose its elasticity.
Stretch marks are not physically dangerous but can cause problems with self-image and anxiety. For some people, stretch marks are a significant cosmetic condition that can affect day-to-day living.

What medical treatments are available for stretch marks?

Stretch marks often fade with time. If you don’t want to wait, there are treatments that can improve their appearance. However, no treatment can make stretch marks disappear completely.

There are several ways to improve the appearance of stretch marks:

  • Tretinoin cream (Retin-A, Renova) works by restoring collagen, a fibrous protein that boosts your skin elasticity. This stretch marks cream is best to use on recent stretch marks that are red or pink. This cream may cause skin irritation. If you’re pregnant, you shouldn’t use tretinoin cream.
  • Pulsed dye laser therapy encourages the growth of collagen and elastin. It’s best to use this therapy on newer stretch marks. Darker-skinned individuals may experience skin discoloration.
  • Fractional photothermolysis is related to pulsed dye laser therapy as they both use a laser. However, it works by targeting smaller areas of your skin, causing less skin damage.
    Microdermabrasion involves smoothing the skin with tiny crystals to reveal new skin that’s under the more elastic stretch marks.
  • Microdermabrasion can improve the appearance of older stretch marks.
  • The excimer laser stimulates melanin production so that stretch marks match the surrounding skin more closely.
    Medical procedures and prescription medicines aren’t guaranteed to cure stretch marks, and they can be expensive.

How to prevent Stretch Marks

Unfortunately, there’s no direct way to prevent stretch marks, but there are still measures you can take.

  • Reduce weight gain, eat healthy food and stay updated with routine medical care.
  • Moisturize regularly with ceramide creams. Notwithstanding your best efforts, striae inevitably occur due to genetic factors or stretching during pregnancy. In this case, it’s best to consult with an expert and resist the temptation to buy the latest gimmick that promises to erase the stretch marks.
  • There’s one more solution: Embrace them! You’ve earned your stripes while your baby was growing inside you—nothing to dislike about that.
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