We all want soft, smooth and supple skin, but things don’t always go as per our plans, do they? At some point, you’ve got to deal with all things ugly. Stretch marks are just one of those inevitable things. If you have ever wondered why they happen, how to get rid of them and IF you can ever get rid of them, you’ve arrived at the right place. We spoke to experts and got the skinny on stretch marks, and this is the truth, and nothing but the truth.
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What causes skin to stretch?
Stretch marks (stria) are stripes or streaks that appear on the skin, which are usually red, pink, grey or white in colour. They are actually scars that occur when the skin is stretched beyond its elastic limit. Stretch marks are particularly common during teenage years as the skin is generally firmer and has a lower elastic limit. The most common areas they appear on are the lower abdomen, lower back, thighs, knees and breasts.
Dr Aarushi Passi Bhandari, Cosmetic Dermatologist, SENS Clinic in Delhi says, “A sudden change in your body weight results in the elasticity of your skin loosening up, which creates stretch marks. The protein fibres in the skin break down with the stretching. This cannot be revived again which is what causes the scarring.”
Try as you might to avoid stretch marks, especially during pregnancy, there’s no tried and tested way to stop them. Dermatologist, Dr Simal Soin, Delhi says, “Pregnancy is the most common cause of stretch marks. Obesity, sudden increase or loss of weight, growth spurt during puberty and cortisone, the hormone, causes the skin to stretch. Sometimes people also have a genetic predisposition, which results in discolouration of the skin.”
The science behind it
Dr Simal explains, “Stretch marks are a result of the destruction of elastic fibres, which are present in the dermis of the skin. This happens when the skin is stretched as it cannot keep up with body’s rate of growth. The hormone cortisone weakens the elastic fibres and results in stretch marks.”
Do they really disappear?
Truthfully speaking, that’s what we are really concerned about and Dr Simal leaves with a dash of hope, saying, “They may never completely go away but with the right kind of treatment they can improve by 80 per cent”.
Dr Aarushi agrees that stretch marks can never be completely removed. “The skin may start looking better and improve up to 40-60 per cent, but it will lack luster. It may also start looking loose and there are never 100 per cent results.”
The best way to prevent stretch marks
It is difficult to prevent stretch marks as most of the causes are not under our control like hormonal imbalance, maintenance of weight. The skin changes hues initially and then develops the red marks we commonly see. This is the first stage of stretch marks and the ideal time for treatment. “The skin fibres can only be regenerated through treatment such as heat energy, radio frequency and resurfacing,” states Dr Aarushi.
Dr Debjani Chakraborty, Consultant Facial Aesthetics, SENS, Delhi, recommends topical medicines with onion skin extracts that can regenerate the skin tissues. “There is research that proves that onion skin extracts works. Drink lots of water, eat foods that have fatty acid oils such as Omega-3, which will keep your skin hydrated, supple and prevent stretching,” she says.
Coconut oil application or creams which contain Vitamin A, C and E are also of great help to prevent damage and to lighten the skin while reconstructing the tissue. “Products like bio oil and aloe vera gel may help lighten the stretch marks but the process in long and results are not guaranteed,” adds Dr Simal.