Stretch marks are a kind of scarring, which appear in the form of long, narrow striations on the skin and can occur on various parts of the body. They form when the skin stretches or shrinks rapidly, causing collagen and elastin to break down.
Although our skin is elastic and very flexible, it reaches a point where it can no longer stretch without causing those scars we call stretch marks.
Types of stretch marks
Before discussing prevention and treatments to eliminate them, it is important to find out what types of stretch marks may form on our skin. Stretch marks are generally classified into 2 categories:
- Red stretch marks: represent an early stage and are caused by an excessive stretching of the dermis. The collagen fibres become denser and adapt to the new conformation, while elastin begins to break down. This results in the formation of pink, red or even violet-coloured streaks, which at first are subtle, but with time can increase in length and width and cause itching or swelling.
- White stretch marks: they are an advanced stage in which the scars appear more faded, also white or silvery in colour and irregularly shaped, almost similar to wrinkles.
Pregnancy-related stretch marks
Stretch marks due to pregnancy (caused by the enlargement of the uterus) are also recognisable, usually appearing around the 6th or 7th month on the abdomen, breasts and thighs, sometimes also in the lumbar area, hips, buttocks and upper arms.
The loss or weakening of elastin fibres is also attributed to physical and hormonal changes during pregnancy. Stretch marks have a parallel rather than perpendicular alignment. Pregnancy stretch marks tend to disappear within a year or 2 after delivery, although not always.
Where do stretch marks form?
What are the areas of our body where stretch marks appear? Below is a list of the areas of our body where stretch marks most frequently appear:
- Stretch marks on the breasts: they can be caused by various factors. At puberty, hormonal changes can cause rapid growth of breast tissue, which leads to the skin stretching and thinning, creating stretch marks. The same applies to pregnancy, as mentioned above.
- Stretch marks on the belly: In addition to being caused by pregnancy, stretch marks on the abdominal area are also caused by rapid weight loss. The skin, in this case, cannot adapt in time to the new shape and stretch marks are created.
- Stretch marks on the thighs and legs: they can occur either due to weight gain (or sudden weight loss due to dieting) or caused by certain physical exercises that increase the volume of the thigh muscles. Pregnancy is also one of the main causes of stretch marks on the thighs.
- Stretch marks on the back: they are caused by both puberty (rapid growth) and physical exercises such as lifting weights. Again, pregnancy is also responsible for stretch marks on the back.
- Stretch marks on the buttocks: there are various factors that lead to the formation of stretch marks in these areas, including puberty, pregnancy, but also obesity, abnormal collagen formation and hereditary factors.
Why do stretch marks form?
Before stretch marks form, symptoms can be noticed: the skin appears thin and pinkish and itching or irritation may be experienced. Initially, wrinkled, even red streaks appear (but it depends on the skin type), which in time fade to a whitish or silvery colour.
But what are the most common causes of stretch marks?
Pregnancy: a high percentage of pregnant women show stretch marks, which last even after childbirth.
Puberty: during this phase, there is rapid growth of the body, which inevitably leads to stretching of the skin in various areas.
Diseases: specific medical conditions can cause stretch marks, such as Marfan syndrome (leading to a reduction in elastin in the skin tissue) and Cushing's syndrome (leading to rapid weight gain and skin fragility).
Obesity or extreme exercise: both conditions involve a rapid increase in weight and volume in certain areas of the body.
Diet: this condition has the opposite effect in that a rapid decrease in the weight and volume of certain areas of the body does not allow the skin to adapt to the volume reduction.
Corticosteroids: prolonged use of corticosteroid creams and lotions can reduce collagen levels in the skin.
How to prevent stretch marks
Is it possible to prevent stretch marks? We have seen how certain factors along with natural physical conditions (growth and pregnancy) can cause stretch marks in certain areas of the body. However, there are habits and behaviours to adopt that may educe the risk of stretch marks.
- Diet and exercise under control: you have read how obesity and even hard training in the gym may lead to an unnatural increase in muscle volume. You should therefore manage your weight with a healthy diet and not overdo exercise.
- Hydration: drinking plenty of water helps keep the skin well hydrated and soft. Stretch marks are also caused by dry skin.
- Exercise: proper exercise improves circulation and keeps the skin elastic.
The right diet to prevent stretch marks
It is also thanks to a healthy diet that it is possible to prevent stretch marks, which may be caused by a lack of nutrient supply to certain areas of the body. A proper diet should include foods rich in:
- Vitamin C: this is an important nutrient for collagen, which keeps the skin elastic and strong and helps reduce the formation of wrinkles. Vitamin C is found in fruits (citrus fruits) and also in many vegetables.
- Vitamin D: Maintaining healthy levels of this vitamin reduces the risk of stretch marks. Bread, cereals and dairy products (milk and yoghurt) are rich in this vitamin.
- Zinc: reduces inflammation of the skin and helps keep it healthy. Foods rich in zinc are fish and nuts.
- Proteins: reduce the formation of wrinkles and stretch marks. They are contained in white meat, but also in eggs and seafood.
Preventing stretch marks during pregnancy
They generally appear in the 6th or 7th month of pregnancy when the increased volume of the uterus leads to a rapid stretching of the skin. Collagen and elastin stretch and break due to the pressure caused by weight gain, thus causing stretch marks around the abdomen, but also on the hips and breasts.
Is it possible to prevent the formation of stretch marks during pregnancy? Here are two tips you can follow:
- First trimester: start by moisturising the skin in the areas where stretch marks are most frequent (stomach, breasts, hips). Moisturising helps to keep the skin elastic and able to adapt to the new, growing volume. more easily. Also keep your weight under control with a balanced diet.
- Second trimester: if you start to see pinkish streaks, you can still get rid of them by means of constant daily applications of a stretch marks cream.
Remedies and Creams for stretch marks
Are there any effective remedies for removing stretch marks from the skin? Prevention and a good diet coupled with regular exercise are obviously the basic steps to fight them.
However, we now know that natural events such as pregnancy and puberty can cause stretch marks to form. What shall we do once they appear?
We can use two types of remedies against stretch marks: treatments such as laser and chemical peeling and natural remedies such as creams and oils.
Remedies for stretch marks with laser and chemical peeling
Laser therapy against stretch marks: this is a non-invasive, quick and easy method for removing stretch marks with laser pulses. It eliminates redness, smoothing the streaks and giving the skin a better, healthier appearance. It guarantes long-lasting results.
Laser therapy uses high-energy ultraviolet light that breaks the molecular bonds of the skin tissue (this process is called ablation). In a nutshell, the laser removes the skin on stretch marks. At the end of the therapy, new layers of healthy skin will form on the treated area.
Chemical peeling therapy against stretch marks: this treatment involves applying an acid solution to burn the superficial layers of the skin affected by stretch marks. Dead and damaged skin cells are then removed, thus promoting the regeneration of a new layer of skin.
There are 3 types of chemical peeling against stretch marks:
1.Alpha-hydroxy acid peeling, which burns the superficial layer of the skin.
2. Glycolic acid peeling, which is more aggressive and burns the superficial and middle layers of the skin.
3. Phenol peeling, which acts more deeply and therefore requires only one treatment.
Remedies against stretch marks containing important natural active ingredients
Snail slime stretch mark cream: contains elastin, which is a protein derived by the connective tissue of the skin. It also contains a good number of active ingredients, such as allantoin, which help regenerate skin cells.
Snail slime body cream cream, acting in depth, also stimulates the production of proteins, which are helpful in restoring the skin's flexibility. In addition, the presence of glycolic acid in snail slime promotes the removal of dead skin cells, thus performing a natural peeling action.
Essential oils against stretch marks: these oils, such as almond oil, argan oil and rosehip oil, have proven effective in preventing and reducing stretch marks.
- Almond oil: contains a good amount of fatty acids, zinc and vitamins, which stimulate the healing of damaged skin fibre besides improving skin tone. Its nutrients make the skin suppler and firmer.
- Argan oil: when applied locally, or even ingested, it improves the elasticity of the skin.
- Rose hip oil: this is distilled from the seeds of the rosehip flowers. The oil is easily absorbed by the skin and provides soothing and protective elements such as vitamin C and fatty acids, which stimulate collagen production and have regenerative effects on the skin.
It is essential to use a synergy of active ingredients to achieve good results against stretch marks.
When should the stretch mark cream be used?
Constancy and patience are needed to obtain good results, which will obviously not be visible from the day after the first treatment. If the stretch marks have been there for at least a year, it will be more difficult to eliminate them. This is why undergoing periodic checks is the best approach to prevent them from forming.
The application of creams against stretch marks gives the first optimal results after 60 days of use.