Stretch Marks are also called as ‘Striae Distensae’ or ‘Striae Gravidarum’ in medical terms. Stretch marks are usually in light pink, purple or silver in colour. Most of the times, stretch marks appear on:
- Lower abdomen (in pregnant women)
- Between chest and arm pits
Stretch marks are common during pregnancy but anyone can develop stretch marks during their life time. Stretch marks can also be commonly seen in once overweight/obese people who dropped their weight rapidly either due to medical condition or with intense workout and diet.
How to prevent stretch marks?
1. Maintain healthy weight at all times
Health and weight management are important for every individual. In women, whether pregnant or not, healthy weight has to be maintained. You will need to see your gynaecologist regularly and have a check on your weight and the weight/growth of your baby.
Take advice from your doctor regarding your food habits and type of workouts to prevent unnecessary weight gain. Putting on weight adds fat under your skin, making it to stretch more (apart from pregnancy related stretching) and results in more stretch marks.
2. Staying hydrated
Drinking water is very basic and important to keep your skin healthy apart from other vitamins, minerals etc. Water keeps the skin soft and maintains it’s elasticity. Coffee or caffeine products must be avoided since it can increase the chance of forming stretch marks. Substitute with more healthy drinks such as herbal tea, fresh fruit juices and caffeine free drinks.
3. Eat foods that keep the skin healthy and radiant
Foods rich in Vitamin C, D, E, Zinc and protein must be consumed on a daily basis. These vitamins and minerals boost skin health. Avoid processed foods, it is better to take these vitamins from fresh fruits, vegetables, eggs, whole grains etc.
Intake of Vitamin C improves collagen in the skin that keeps the skin soft and elastic. Vitamin C is available in citrus fruits such as Lemons, Oranges, Pomegranates, Amla (Indian gooseberry) etc. Prefer biologically available vitamins and minerals than supplements as they are readily absorbed by the body.
4. Vitamin D – free yet most often ignored
Spend time in sunlight every day to improve the levels of Vitamin D in your body. Vitamin D not just keeps your skin healthy; there are several hundreds of benefits that even science is still trying to understand today. In a study, it was found that there was a direct relation between the odds of stretch marks forming and Vitamin D levels.
Stretch marks during pregnancy
Firstly, note that it is very common for a woman to get stretch marks after delivering a baby. In some women, they may look lighter and in some they just stand out. This depends and varies with every woman. Many women start using creams or oils (such as Bio-Oil) from 2nd trimester to prevent/reduce stretch marks. The best way to prevent or reduce stretch marks caused due to pregnancy is to – keep a check on your weight gain. Your weight gain should be healthy and gradual. If you start putting on more weight than you should, then the skin has to stretch more than it actually should, resulting in more stretch marks and they may look more prominent after delivery. As said, you have to talk to your gynaecologist and be in constant touch during your pregnancy regarding your health, weight gain, food habits and hygiene.
As Dr. Deepa Ganesh says in the video (at the end of this article), stretch marks can’t be magically erased. They can only be lightened using creams and laser therapy.
Treating / Lightening Stretch Marks
1. Retinoid creams
Retinoid creams contain Vitamin A. Vitamin A (similar to Vitamin C) also helps in rebuilding collagen in your skin and lightens the stretch marks on the skin. It is better to start retinoid creams as soon as you start noticing the appearance of stretch marks. If you are pregnant or just delivered a baby, you must talk to your gynaecologist about what creams to use. Some creams pose unnecessary risks to your health.
2. Laser Therapy
The purpose of laser therapy is to help rebuild collagen in your skin, similar to retinoid creams. Laser therapy also helps in improving the elasticity of your skin. Talk to your doctor / cosmetic gynaecologist about laser therapy for lightening stretch marks.
3. Glycolic Acid
Glycolic acid based creams and peel offs is another alternative for lightening stretch marks. Talk to your doctor as this is a little expensive procedure.
One must note that, all these therapies can only lighten existing stretch marks but they don’t wipe them off completely. Also, these therapies do NOT help in preventing new stretch marks from forming. Stretch marks automatically fade with time. Some may even become invisible after few years. If you were pregnant and worried about how your abdomen looks after delivery, talk to your gynaecologist to get the best possible treatment to lighten the stretch marks.
Dr. Deepa Ganesh, one of the renowned Gynecologist in Chennai says “Stretch marks are not something that you need to feel ashamed of. A woman should be proud that she was able to achieve her complete womanhood by delivering a baby”.