Pregnancy brings with it a lot of changes. Unfortunately, for some 90% of women according to estimates, these changes may include stretch marks. Some women get just a few; others find themselves with silvery-pink or reddish lines on their abdomen, hips, breasts and even upper arms.
Are you doomed? Maybe not. Try these time-honored tips to prevent and treat these unsutely but perfectly normal lines in this otherwise happy time in your life.
Too Much Growth, Not Enough Give: The Science Behind Stretch Marks
Stretch marks, or “striae” as they are known among dermatologists, can happen at times other than pregnancy. Puberty may cause them, as well as fast weight gain or loss, according to experts. But even if your skin remains clear with these changes, pregnancy is one area where a priority of women seems to experience them.
The reason? The skin is stretching faster than it can keep up with. Skin naturally has quite a bit of give thanks to elastin and collagen, which are flexible and keep skin looking healthy. But when too-fast growth occurs, the skin experiences small breaks. The breaks repair and form what technically can be called a scar. The resulting look? Stretch marks.
Permanent or Not? Opinions Differ
According to dermatologist, most of these marks will be permanent – but they will fade to some degree within the first year after they show up. This shows that the skin does attempt to heal itself. This is good news for women looking for ways to combat them.
At the same time, many time-honored methods and ingredients have been discovered that seem to fade them further than the 12-month rule permits for, and in some cases, erase smaller, lighter scars completely.
Prevention During Pregnancy
When it comes to stretch marks, an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. Genetics play a role in how many stretch marks you may get, as well as how much the skin is stretched. But you can stack the deck on your side with these tips:
- Gain adequate weight during pregnancy, but not too much. Most obstetricians recommend a maximum weight gain of 25 lbs. in normal to slightly overweight women or 15-20 lbs. in obese women.
- Drink plenty of water. Water keeps skin plump, hydrated and supple and allows it to function and repair.
- Use moisturizer on areas of stretch … and use it daily. Cocoa butter, vitamin E and almond oil are all good choices; use these ingredients alone or in a moisturizing lotion or cream. The abdomen, breasts, hips and buttocks are your obvious areas.
- If you notice scarring popping up in unexpected areas, include those in your moisturizing routine. For example, you may discover small stretch marks on your upper arms, thighs or calves.
- Get exercise. Exercise boosts your entire metabolism – including the metabolism of your skin cells.
- Exfoliate gently. Use a loofah sponge or a gentle scrub cream (such as apricot kernel) and rub in light circles, then rinse, pat dry and moisturize. Exfoliation stimulates your skin to produce newer, fresher cells.
- Take your vitamins – and eat well. Adequate nutrition, vitamins and minerals are critical in maintaining good skin and keeping your skin's self-repair capabilities. Antioxidants are especially important, so be sure to eat lots of fruits and veggies.
Do not think of these steps as a chore. Actually, they're a good-feeling form of self care that you deserve, especially at this time. Think of it as a daily spa treatment just for you. You're worth it!