Stretch marks or “Striae” are indented, discoloured streaks caused by the skin stretching or shrinking. During this process, the elastin in our skin ruptures and leaves behind a mark. They’re typically associated with pregnancy, but they can also appear after other rapid weight changes, during growth spurts in adolescents or after surgery. Not everyone will be left with stretch marks; it’s thought that high cortisone levels (an excess of which reduces skin elasticity), genetics and hormones contribute to the likelihood of developing them. Some stretch marks will never disappear completely and others will fade gradually over time. What’s certain is that they are completely normal and nothing to be embarrassed by! I’ve never met a woman who hasn’t had at least one mark at some point in her life.
What causes stretch marks?
This form of scarring happens when the skin stretches or contracts in a short period of time, causing the body’s natural production of collagen (which gives the skin strength and elasticity) to become disrupted. Red and purple bands of parallel lines or streaks may appear first (the body’s inflammatory response), later turning into silvery-coloured scar tissue (dense and tough collagen fibres formed as part of the healing process).
How can you prevent stretch marks?
There is no conclusive evidence that any single lotion or concoction can prevent stretch marks, but starting with essential fatty acids really helps. These offer deep and lasting nourishment and create a dense barrier of moisture that helps the skin feel more pliable and elastic. So too, does a diet rich in healthy fats – things like avocado, cold-pressed olive oil, nuts and wild fish all give our skin a boost of lipids. Collagen supplements can also help with the preventative process, by boosting the skin from the inside.
How can you treat Stretch Marks?
Though there is no ‘cure’ per se, there are things you can do to fade and soften stretch marks. AHAs are beneficial in boosting cell turnover. This will encourage the healing process and refine affected areas. Vitamin C will provide the building blocks for healthy tissue repair, promoting collagen, and brightening any deeper demarcations. Retinol, hyaluronic acid and Vitamin E are also effective ingredients to help reduce scars and stretch marks.
All in all, consistency is key. No stretch mark can miraculously fade overnight. Take time to massage the product into your skin for a number of minutes each day to promote circulation and increase absorption, with the expectation of seeing improvement over weeks or months. In-clinic treatments like laser, microdermabrasion and chemical peels can be great solutions, but unfortunately, there is no one-size-fits-all cure for stretch marks. With a combination of the right products and patience (as they say, time heals all wounds), we can look to treat and fade them.