Stretch marks. So many of us have them, and they might look like tiny tiger stripes but they have way less of a “cool factor” than they should. Some people choose to embrace and appreciate their stretch marks as memories of important times in their lives, and that positivity is beautiful to see! But I’m all about choices, and the fact is that a lot of people with stretch marks would rather not have them. So for that crew, let’s talk about what you can do.
What are stretch marks, exactly, and what can you do to prevent them or reduce the ones you already have? Buckle in, because I’ve got some answers!
What Are Stretch Marks, Really?
First of all, we need to have an understanding of what stretch marks really are and how they came to be. A stretch mark is actually a type of scar. There are protein fibers in your skin, namely collagen and elastin, that keep your skin firm and flexible. But when your skin stretches rapidly, beyond those protein fibers’ ability to hold on, some of these protein fibers rupture. As your body heals those ruptures, it forms scar tissue that’s visible because it’s thinner and potentially colored differently from your skin.
The best-known culprit for causing stretch marks is pregnancy because obviously, your skin has to adjust to an entire other person inside your body within nine months. But stretch marks also often come from the sudden changes in your body proportions during puberty, rapid weight gain, and even rapid muscle growth.
Ways to Prevent Stretch Marks
As the doctors always say, prevention is the best medicine, and that’s the case with stretch marks. Now, cards on the table: there’s no way to 100% guarantee that you won’t get stretch marks. Some people are more susceptible to them than others. But the prevention tips on this list will lessen your risk for stretch marks as much as possible, and it’s likely that if you do still get stretch marks, they’ll be less severe than they would be if you wouldn’t have taken precautions.
The more supple and elastic your skin is, the more changes it will be able to roll with before the protein fibers start to rupture, so the name of the game is keeping your skin supple. One of the best ways to do this is by keeping your skin hydrated.
Hydrating your skin should happen from the inside and the outside. Get into the habit of drinking plenty of water (which, yes, can be frustrating if you’re pregnant because you’re already hitting the bathroom 500 times a day, so my apologies in advance). At the same time, apply a body moisturizer on a regular basis to help your skin lock in that hydration.
Our bodies were made to move, so as it turns out, stretch marks are another common problem that can be helped with regular exercise. Getting consistent exercise improves your circulation. Since your blood is the highway that delivers essential nutrients and oxygen to your skin, healthier circulation leads to healthier and more elastic skin.
Stock Up on Vitamin C
Vitamin C isn’t just known for its ability to empower your immune system. It’s also a powerful antioxidant that can reduce tissue damage…including the tissue damage that comes from stretched skin and leads to stretch marks. It’s a good idea to incorporate plenty of vitamin C into your diet in addition to applying topical vitamin C to the area where you’re trying to avoid stretch marks.
Ways to Reduce Existing Stretch Marks
What if the stretch mark ship has already sailed? How can you get rid of stretch marks if you already have them? Again, I’m all about transparency: stretch marks are scars, so they generally won’t ever be gone entirely. There are, though, steps you can take to minimize their appearance as much as possible, and your stretch marks could become so subtle that they’re barely visible.
You’ve probably heard of retinol as an anti-aging skin care ingredient for fighting facial wrinkles, and you’re not wrong – it’s highly revered for its time-defying effects. But your goal for reducing stretch marks is actually the same as your goal for reducing wrinkles: you’re trying to stimulate collagen growth so your body can smooth out the inconsistencies.
That’s why it can help to use a retinol cream on your stretch marks. Make sure to follow the instructions closely, though, as retinols can be irritating to some people’s skin. Also, if you’re pregnant or breastfeeding, be sure to talk to your doctor before you try any retinol creams because these can sometimes be harmful to your baby.
Professional Skin Treatments
If you have stretch marks that have been around for a while, your best bet for reducing them is generally professional skin treatments. These procedures can stimulate your skin’s collagen production more quickly than retinol products, but of course, they have the downsides of being expensive and, like any medical procedure, they have risks as well. Still, treatments like microneedling, laser treatments, or chemical peels can be very effective in reducing stretch marks.
Choosing What You Want for Your Stretch Marks
Stretch marks carry a different significance to everyone they affect – sometimes it’s positive and sometimes, not so much. But no matter how you feel about your tiger stripes, battle scars, or whatever you want to term them, the tips above can help you if your goal is to make them a smaller part of your life.