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Body Stretch Marks
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The Ripple Effect
Stretch marks plague both women and men of all ages and race groups, but there are prevention and treatment options that can minimize these unsightly scars.
By Sandie Cormie
Striae Distensae is the medical term for stretch marks which have caused anguish and insecurity in women and men for years. But for all those people out there who believe that they alone have to suffer with stretch marks, here are some interesting statistics from the United States:
• 75 to 90% of pregnant women develop stretch marks. These are most likely to appear in the sixth and seventh months
• 70% of adolescent females develop stretch marks
• 40% of adolescent males also develop stretch marks
Understanding the cause
Stretch marks are not particularly discriminating and affect men and women of all ages and ethnic groups. There is evidence, however, to support that some people are genetically more prone to them than others. People most affected are women during pregnancy, obese people, habitual dieters and body builders who use anabolic steroids. The cause comes down to weight change; we don’t always stop to consider how the skin is supposed to cope with or accommodate the variations in body size due to the above factors.
There does not appear to be an ethnic tendency to developing stretch marks, but whilst fair-skinned people develop pink-tinged striations, darker-toned skins develop darker lines which make them infinitely more noticeable. Fair-skinned people have a slight advantage and can reduce the appearance of stretch marks by “camouflaging” them with a little self-tan lotion. Research would suggest that there is a hormonal component to stretch marks in women; the hormones that are designed to soften the collagen ligaments of the pelvis to accommodate stretching during childbirth also soften the collagen in the skin.
Scarring from the inside out
Stretch marks are actually a form of scarring. Whenever there is rapid and sudden growth of body size, the underlying tissue grows faster than the skin layers that cover it. This causes small tears in the epidermal surface. As a result of the tension put on the skin, the epidermal layer ruptures and the scars which result cause stretch marks. So you could think of it as scarring from the inside out. The skin is generally a resilient organ but it cannot fully bounce back from being abnormally distended. The dermis, which constitutes the middle layer of the skin, helps the skin to retain its shape but excessive stretching of the skin compromises this dermal support.
The life of a stretch mark
Stretch marks tend to differ in texture and colour. They start as reddish purple lines that run in thin, narrow parallel grooves. With time, they tend to fade and settle into silvery lines. The reason for this is that stretched skin is more transparent and small blood vessels that lie deep in the skin show through as reddish purple. As they contract with time, the purple fades to a silvery white which is the underlying fatty tissue showing through.
Finding a solution
Unfortunately stretch marks are difficult to eradicate, so prevention is the key. But if you already have stretch marks, take heart – there are some treatment options available to reduce the look and severity of them. Topical treatments such as tissue oil help to reduce stretch marks as well as to prevent them. These products, such as Skin Clinic Tissue Oil and Bio-Oil , are formulated to promote elasticity of the skin, stimulate regeneration of new cells and strengthen collagen fibres. Ingredients that seem to help include squalene oil, vitamin E, vitamin A, vitamin D3, aloe vera, grapefruit seed extracts and collagen hydrolysates.
Some of the specific stretch mark formulations available at GraceChem to reduce stretch marks include RoC Retinol Anti-Stretch Marks, Johnson’s Healthy Skin Pure Tissue Oil SPF15 and Dermatacin TS Stretch Mark Cream.
If you are in the early stages of pregnancy or planning to lose weight, start applying topical treatments to the areas which are most likely to be affected. Products used to prevent stretch marks include Happy Events (for pregnant women) and Performance Anti Stretchmarks Cream. In pregnancy, specific areas prone to stretch marks would be belly, breasts, butt and thighs. People who need to lose weight should concentrate on areas such as the upper arms, under arms, lower back and hips as well as inner and outer thighs. If you want to avoid serious stretch marks, aim to lose only about 0.5 kilograms a week.
Certain lifestyle choices can also play a role in reducing stretch marks. Drinking water and reducing your intake of caffeine both help to keep the skin healthier and more flexible. Other great promoters of healthy skin include zinc-rich foods (such as fish and nuts), foods high in vitamins A, C and D (such as carrots, citrus fruits and milk) and protein-rich foods (such as eggs).
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