Numerous products and clinical procedures that center on the elimination of stretch marks have emerged in the market. The prices of these products range from affordable to thousands of dollars. But what exactly are stretch marks and why do they appear on your body?
What Causes Stretch Marks?
As their name implies, stretch marks are caused by the sudden stretching of the dermal layer of the skin, such as during pregnancy. They usually appear as long and narrow streaks or stripes along the skin, which is why some people call them “tiger stripes.”1 These striations are also called stria or striae gravidarium.2
Stretch marks are usually seen on your thighs, abdomen, buttocks and sometimes your shoulders.3 There are two factors why you get them:
• Physical factors — If you closely observe the physical manifestation of stretch marks, you will notice that they are usually seen in regions of the body that are known to be very susceptible to rapid increase in girth.
The dermal layer of the skin is stretched out, making it appear cracked and torn. This is why stretch marks appear during pregnancy, as they are usually caused by fluctuations in your weight.5 They’re also seen in people who work out, because of the development of muscle mass.6
In pregnant women, stretch marks can appear when you gain more weight. For this reason, many expectant moms usually consider reducing their food intake.7 However, note that extreme dieting is not recommended when you are pregnant because it may lead to nutritional deficiencies that may endanger both you and your unborn baby’s safety.8,9
• Hormonal factors — Studies suggest that stretch marks can also occur because of hormonal changes.10 The hormonal imbalance that occurs during pregnancy and puberty11 alters the production of elastin and collagen, which causes your skin to lose its elasticity, allowing it to tear.12,13
Stretch marks may also manifest during puberty and when growth spurts occur.14 The book “Got Teens?: The Doctor Moms’ Guide to Sexuality, Social Media and Other Adolescent Realities” notes that stretch marks occur at this point because the growth process continuously tucks on the skin, stretching it out more than it is accustomed to.15,16
Another lesser-known risk factor of stretch marks is Cushing’s syndrome. Stretch marks are indicative of this condition because it causes the body to produce a higher amount of cortisol, as well as weight gain and thinning of the skin,17 leading to the formation of purple stretch marks.18
There Are Two Types of Stretch Marks
According to Consumer Health Digest, stretch marks vary in color and appearance and can be classified under two types:19
• Red stretch marks (striae rubra) — These form because of the overstretching of the dermal layer of the skin. People with red stretch marks will notice that the blood vessels in the layer below are visible.
• White stretch marks (striae alba) — These silvery white marks appear where blood vessels have receded, showing the fat beneath the dermal layer.
Try These Natural Techniques to Help Reduce Stretch Marks
There are numerous stretch mark remedies on the market today, with some claiming that they can make these marks disappear in a few days or weeks. Despite their high cost, many of these products are virtually worthless.
Stretch marks usually go away with time, but if you want to quicken the process, there are numerous natural ways to help you combat the sudden appearance of stretch marks:
• Use natural essential oils — There are numerous essential oils available on the market that can help alleviate the appearance of stretch marks. These include lavender, frankincense,20 sandalwood21 and tangerine oils.22
Before using these oils, it is recommended that you dilute them in a safe carrier oil like almond, coconut, jojoba or olive. For frankincense oil in particular, avoid using it during pregnancy and when nursing23 because it may trigger menstruation.24
• Rub aloe vera on areas that are susceptible to stretch marks — Aloe vera is famous for being a natural remedy for various skin problems because of its moisturizing,25 cooling26 and healing qualities.27 Aloe vera gel is well-known for its anti-inflammatory effects,28 and constantly using it may help make stretch marks less visible.29
If you’re planning to use aloe vera on your stretch marks, acquire the gel from fresh aloe vera stalks (not aloe vera products) and try to apply it onto the area where the marks are located.30
• Use lemon juice —Lemon juice is famous for its bleaching and whitening properties,31 and it can also boost the amount of collagen the skin produces because of its high amounts of vitamin C.32 “The Big Book of Home Remedies” recommends cutting a fresh lemon into small pieces and squeezing the juice onto body parts with stretch marks to facilitate healing.33
• Use egg whites — Egg whites contain protein and certain amino acids34 that may help target stretch marks.35
How to Avoid Getting Stretch Marks in the First Place
Avoiding stretch marks is a matter of staying hydrated and keeping your skin moisturized. Here are some tips to help you keep your skin stretch mark-free:
Drink sufficient amounts of pure and clean water — Staying hydrated has a lot of positive effects on your body. It helps in the prevention of stretch marks as it provides the skin with enough moisture to stop these marks from showing up when you gain weight or build muscles.36
It is a common misconception that you should drink exactly eight glasses of water daily. The amount of water intake actually varies from person to person. It depends on specific factors like the food you eat, how much you’ve perspired and how much liquid you’ve ingested throughout the day.
To know if you’re dehydrated, I recommend that you use your urine to gauge if you’re drinking enough water. Take in consideration certain factors, including the amount, color and odor. If you observe that you haven’t urinated in several hours, this may be an indication that you are not drinking enough water to flush out your body’s toxins.
Apply coconut oil to stretch mark-prone areas — Coconut oil is revered for its antimicrobial and antibacterial properties, and can also be used as a makeup remover, facial cleanser, body scrub, deodorant and even as an ingredient in soaps. I personally use coconut oil every day in various ways.
Coconut oil can also function as a moisturizer to help your skin stay moisturized, exfoliate the outer layer37 and give your skin extra elasticity.38 This can help prevent the breaking of the dermal layer by maintaining its integrity and lowering the risk for stretch marks.39
Eat healthy — Nourishing your body with wholesome foods lets you maintain a healthy balance of vitamins and minerals. By eating a balanced diet, you’re also avoiding the fluctuations in your weight that can cause stretch marks. It helps you maintain a constant weight and prevents you from gaining fat, which usually causes stretch marks to form on your abdomen and thighs.40
Avoid drinking alcohol — As much as possible, avoid excessive intake of alcohol. Alcohol is known to suck out the moisture from your body, which may make your skin drier than normal,41 making it more prone to stretch marks.42
Stock up on vitamin E — Vitamin E is famous for its role in maintaining skin health. It may help preserve the collagen found in the skin, which helps the skin to maintain its elasticity.43
Exercise regularly — Regular exercising can help keep your skin taut and your weight in check, and eventually minimize the risk for stretch mark development.44
These aforementioned tips are only some of the ways to prevent stretch marks from forming. But before you stress out about them, know that it’s completely normal to have them at some point in your life. It’s just one of your body’s ways of adapting to physical changes.45
Nevertheless, if stretch marks form excessively, then it might mean that you need to reevaluate your lifestyle, as you may be experiencing weight gain or loss. Feel free to try the solutions mentioned here to help you bid those stretch marks goodbye!