Skin is usually fairly elastic, but when with growth or
rapid gain in weight really (like during puberty or pregnancy), fine lines
may appear on the body, called stretch marks. Stretch marks occurs, when the
tissue under your skin tears from rapid growth or stretching. When the
is over-stretched, it produces too much collagen, which can form the
"scars" called stretch marks. In essence, stretch marks represent
a dermal scar in which the connective tissue (i.e. collagen and elastin)
within the dermis is disrupted.
Around half of all pregnant women will
develop stretch marks (striae gravidarum), usually in the third trimester,
as the abdominal skin is forced to accommodate the growing uterus. Some
pregnant women also develop stretch marks on the breasts, hips, buttocks and
thighs. Another common cause of stretch marks is rapid weight gain &
loss. Depending on the
skin type, fresh stretch marks can be pink, purple,
brown or red. Over time, the stretch marks lose their bright colouring and
become silvery, shimmering lines.
The evolution of a stretch mark includes:
The skin is stretched beyond its capacity as in
The underlying tissue tears
The body responds by forming scar tissue
The fresh stretch mark looks pink, red, brown or purple, over time,
the colour fades & the stretch mark becomes a shimmering, silvery line
The silvery line may look slightly indented.
The scar is permanent.
The visible layer of skin (epidermis) protects the delicate inner layers.
The epidermis is made from several sheets of cells. Epidermal cells born in
the bottom sheet push up through the layers to replace old, dead skin cells
that are constantly sloughed off the surface. The epidermis also contains
melanin, the pigment responsible for skin colour. Beneath the epidermis is
the dermis. This deeper layer contains sweat glands, sebaceous glands, hair
follicles, blood vessels and nerves. The dermis is made from two types of
fibre: elastic fibres (elastin) for suppleness and protein fibres (collagen)
The overstretched dermis
Skin is remarkably flexible and can stretch substantially if given
sufficient time. However, a rapidly growing foetus often means the abdominal
skin is stretched further and faster than it can comfortably manage. The
overtaxed fibres of the dermis tear at the points experiencing the greatest
stress. Another common cause of stretch marks is rapid weight gain. Some
people develop stretch marks during puberty, if their growth spurt is
particularly fast. Whether or not a person develops stretch marks seems to
partly depend on their skin's inherited characteristics. Stretch marks are
also more likely to occur if a person uses steroid-containing (such as
hydrocortisone) creams or ointments on their skin for a long time (more than
a few weeks). Other cause of stretch marks may include Cushing's syndrome.
Prevention of stretch marks
Research is contradictory. Most studies maintain that creams and lotions
can't prevent stretch marks, but some trials have found significant
successes with certain creams. Prevention suggestions include:
Eat a highly
nutritious diet to maintain the health of your skin.
Wear a supportive maternity bra throughout
Consider using creams that include centella asiatica extract, alpha
tocopherol (vitamin E) and collagen-elastin hydrolysates
Recent studies found that stretch marks can be reduced with Pulsed Dye laser
and the regular application of creams containing retinoic acid or Retin-A.
It must be stressed that retinoic acid should not be applied to the skin
during pregnancy. There is currently no information on whether using
retinoic acid is safe during breastfeeding . Another approach is to simply
wait for the stretch marks to fade by themselves.
Although there are tons of products on the market that claim to eliminate
stretch marks, the truth is you can't make them go away without the use of a
form of plastic surgery called microdermabrasion. If you are concerned about
your stretch marks, talk to a dermatologist.