Stretch marks are essentially scars with long and narrow streaks on the skin. Often, those lines or ‘stripes’ are also slightly raised above the skin surface. They’re especially common among pregnant women, and can form on various parts of the body such as the torso, legs, breasts, and buttocks. That said, there are no direct health risks related to stretch marks, though they can be a cosmetic concern for most women for obvious reasons. As such, many women are constantly looking for ways on how to remove stretch marks, or at least reduce their appearance.
What Causes Stretch Marks To Form?
Before knowing how to remove stretch marks, it’s important to know why they form. Stretch marks develop when the skin either stretches or shrinks abruptly. Sure, our skin may be elastic and can expand and contract to adapt to our bodily changes. However, when the change is sudden and quicker than usual, this causes the skin’s elastin and collagen to rupture. And as the skin heals, that’s when the scars or stretch marks will begin to appear. Below are a few factors that cause the skin to stretch abruptly:
More than 50% of pregnant women experience stretch marks during their pregnancy or after giving birth. After all, this is when the body expands rapidly and the skin is unable to adjust to this sudden change.
Young people and teenagers who are going through puberty would undergo rapid growth spurts. This extreme skin growth also leads to the formation of stretch marks.
Rapid Weight Gain (Or Loss)
Someone who gains or loses a lot of weight in a very short period would also have stretch marks develop on their skin. Even athletes or athletic people who bulk up and gain weight quickly would be subjected to stretch marks. Again, this is due to the sudden expansion or shrinking of the body.
Certain medical conditions can cause stretch marks to appear too. For instance, Marfan Syndrome causes the skin tissue to lose its elasticity. Meanwhile, Cushing’s Syndrome causes the body to produce an excessive amount of a certain hormone that ultimately leads to rapid weight gain while making the skin more fragile. Prolonged use of corticosteroid creams also leads to stretch marks as it thins the skin and decreases its ability to stretch.
Signs And Symptoms Of Stretch Marks
There are early signs and symptoms of stretch marks that you can look out for before they begin to appear on the skin. From changes in skin texture to colour, here are some of them:
- Stretch marks usually develop and become visible during the third trimester of pregnancy.
- Thin, pinkish lines will start to emerge on the skin.
- The skin may feel itchy or irritated.
- The stretch marks can gradually become longer and wider, while developing into slightly raised streaks.
- The colour of the stretch marks can slowly turn more red, purple, or reddish-brown.
- Older or mature stretch marks will settle and fade into pale white or silvery hues over time.
Some risk factors are associated with the severity of stretch marks. This includes family history, the pregnant mother’s age, the amount of weight she gains during pregnancy, her baby’s birth weight, and gestational age during delivery.
Common Areas Where Stretch Marks Appear
In general, the body parts that are most susceptible to stretch marks are the areas that tend to store more body fat, which includes:
- Lower back
As mentioned, stretch marks do not cause any harm to one’s health. However, they can cause discomfort especially during the initial stages where an itch may be felt. The most common concern would be their appearance, as they could lead to self-image and self-confidence issues, including anxiety. While there aren’t proven ways as to how to completely remove or treat stretch marks, there are methods that can help minimise their appearance.
How To Remove And Prevent Stretch Marks
Unfortunately, stretch marks are permanent, just like any other scar. That said, even though you won’t be able to completely get rid of them, there are ways to reduce the severity of their appearance and prevent them from forming. Here are some recommended prevention steps and how to remove stretch marks to make them less visible.
Avoid Rapid Weight Gain During Pregnancy
Maintaining a healthy weight is crucial, if not more so during pregnancy, as the body is already naturally expanding to make way for the baby. Hence, consult your doctor to find out what’s a healthy range of weight gain that you should aim for. A slow and gradual weight gain during pregnancy is the best way to prevent severe stretch marks (plus, you won’t need to know how to remove stretch marks later on).
Eat Well And Stay Hydrated
Our skin is directly affected by what we consume. As such, it’s important to eat well-balanced meals to not only prevent the aforementioned rapid weight gain, but also to nourish the skin. Avoid fad diets at all costs and instead, stick to antioxidant-rich fruits and vegetables as well as the essential vitamins (like A and C) and minerals that promote healthy skin. Don’t forget your eight glasses of water a day to stay hydrated as well.
Try Topical Treatments For Stretch Marks
Though not proven to completely remove stretch marks, how topical treatments work is that they help improve the appearance of existing scars while preventing the possibility of future ones from forming. For instance, Bio-Oil and Palmer’s Cocoa Butter Skin Therapy Oil have been specially formulated to do just that, on top of keeping the skin soft, elastic, and well-moisturised. To help pacify dry and itchy skin, try a soothing body oil or lotion, such as this one that’s suitable for pregnant women.
Not Knowing How To Remove Or Treat Stretch Marks Isn’t The End Of The World
It’s important to remember that stretch marks will eventually fade and become less noticeable over time. This happens when you gradually lose the extra weight after giving birth and your skin starts to shrink back to its former state. Instead of stressing yourself out on how to remove or treat stretch marks, shift your focus towards nutrition and exercise so you have the energy to be a healthy mother.
However, if it’s really causing you emotional or psychological distress, try reaching out to one of these online therapy services for professional mental healthcare. Need help navigating your pregnancy journey? Here are some of the best pregnancy-tracking apps to consider downloading.