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It’s no surprise that stretch marks are the bane of many a life, for both men and women. Alongside troublesome cellulite, stretch marks are certainly up there with some of the most annoying beauty problems around. The thing is, whilst they’re not dangerous and they’re not going to harm your health, they can do a lot to harm your self-esteem and the way you see yourself in the mirror.
We’re going to talk about whether you can actually get rid of stretch marks once they have appeared. It can be done, but it takes time and it takes effort. Of course, the bottom line is that we should all love our bodies, stretch marks, cellulite, moles, scars, and all, but if it is really bothering you, if it is really causing you to avoid looking in the mirror and perhaps avoid going to the pool or beach, you should certainly do something about it. Bodily imperfections happen to us all – nobody is perfect, but it’s not worth something affecting your mental health through a lack of self-esteem.
That little pep talk out of the way, let’s quickly cover what stretch marks actually are and what causes them, before we get onto the most effective ways to get rid of them, or at least make them less visible.
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What Exactly Are Stretch Marks?
You will see them medically referred to as ‘striae’, but they are one and the same thing. Stretch marks are not dangerous, as we said before, and they are not something which will cause you any harm to your overall health. Millions of men and women the world over have stretch marks to some degree, and whilst most people assume that this is a woman’s-only problem, many men do suffer with them. The most common reason for men to develop stretch marks is through weight gain, or via body building. For women, it is weight gain, weight loss, and pregnancy, but can also be due to building muscle in the gym too.
When a stretch mark first appears it will be red or purple, and it will usually be a set of lines which run parallel to one another. There are certain areas of the body which are more prone, usually the tops of the arms (the back of the arms being the most common spot), the stomach, the buttocks, the thighs, the breasts, and the groin. As time goes on, the redness and purple tinge goes away, and leaves a silvery line in its place. It is often thought that when a stretch mark turns silver, it is far harder to eliminate. That may be true, but it’s not impossible, as we will talk about shortly.
There are very few women who have experienced pregnancy and not had at least one stretch mark to remember those nine months by! The reason is because stretch marks, as the name suggests, are caused by stretching of the skin. We’ll talk in a little more detail shortly about exactly how and why, but by the very name you can understand that pregnancy is a serious hotspot for stretch mark development. Despite that, anyone (male or female) who has quickly put on weight for another reason, perhaps lost it, or simply kept it on, will also have experienced stretch marks. As before, anyone who has been body building, will probably notice these marks on the arms in particular.
The stretching of the skin we just talked about is the most basic way to explain what causes striae. The skin simply doesn’t have enough elasticity to cope with the rapid change in shape and as a result, these lines appear.
So, Can You Get Rid of Stretch Marks Once They Appear?
Yes, but it’s not easy. Basically, the faster you get to work on the issue, the better.
As we mentioned before, when stretch marks first arrive, or when they first start to appear, they will be pink, then turn red, and then turn purple. They will also look like scars at first, and will be raised from the surface of the skin. This is the best time to try and tackle the stretch marks, as these are relatively new, and haven’t yet ‘set in’.
There is no set timescale as to when a stretch mark will settle and become silver in colour; it depends on the person, and can be anything from a few months, to a year. Over time, the marks will be a little wrinkled in appearance, and may sink down; they will begin life as a raised-looking ‘scar’, and will eventually sink down to an indention in the skin.
You will probably have heard the old adage of using cocoa butter morning and night to get rid of stretch marks, but unfortunately, this isn’t really the most effective way. If you’re trying to avoid stretch marks appearing in the first place, cocoa butter might do some good, because it gives the skin hydration, thus helping with elasticity. The problem is, once the stretch mark has appeared, elasticity isn’t going to do it much good – the damage is done!
You will see many different stretch mark creams, lotions, oils, and potions, but the jury is out on whether any of them really work to a huge degree. In a lot of ways it depends on the person and the severity of the stretch mark, and how long it has been there. Is it thought that stretch mark creams which contain Retinol are the most effective out of the lot, but anyone who is pregnant should avoid this like the plague, as it can cause damage to the unborn baby. If you’re trying to get rid of stretch marks in pregnancy, to be honest, it’s better to wait until after you have delivered and then tackle the problem; you’ve got enough to deal with during pregnancy without trying to stop inevitable stretching!
The other thing to realise is that whilst you can opt for laser treatments, the chances are that your stretch marks will never 100% disappear; they will probably fade a little and be less noticeable, but they will probably never go completely. Make peace with this, but try and make them less visible if they are bothering you, for sure. The bottom line is that stretch marks are certainly not going to go away on their own; once they’re there, and if you choose not to do anything about them, they will simply turn silver and remain on your body as a battle scar you can either be proud of, or hide. Of course, if you’re trying to hide something and it is affecting your self-esteem, it’s probably best to try and tackle it in some way.
The Best Ways to Reduce Stretch Marks
We’ve used the word ‘reduce’ there instead of ‘get rid of’ simply because actually waving goodbye to any type of stretch mark completely is extremely hard. There will probably always be a dint or a slight mark there, it’s more a case of how it can be improved to some degree. We’re not trying to paint a dull picture here, simply giving you the best advice and no false hopes. Can they be improved? Sure they can!
There are many professional treatments you can try to reduce the appearance of stretch marks, including chemical peels, massage treatments, laser treatments, silicone gels which are usually incorporated alongside the massage option, and also injections of platelet-rich plasma. This is designed to kickstart the healing process and deliver nutrients to the area where the stretch marks have appeared. As you can imagine, because stretch marks are such a hot topic and such a concern for many men and women, there are countless new techniques which are being tested, and may yet be released onto the market. Many of these have shown early promise, so who knows!
One treatment which some practitioners use for the reduction of stretch mark appearance is microdermabrasion. This treatment is commonly used for acne problems, scarring, and even in the battle against the visible signs of aging, but there is the possibility of it being used for stretch marks more widely too. Whilst this isn’t widely yet the case, that is something to possibly look out for the future.
Microdermabrasion involves deep scrubbing of the skin, which gets rid of dead skin cells and other imperfections, and then a vacuum is used to get rid of these pieces of debris. This is all very microscopic, as the name would suggest, and has been very successful in the reduction of general scar appearance.
Can You Prevent Stretch Marks?
You can try, but nothing is 100% effective. As you have probably realised by now, if a stretch mark is determined to appear, it is likely to do so!
The most common ways to try and prevent stretch mark appearance is based around maintaining a healthy weight and improving the health and elasticity of the skin in those risk factor areas. We mentioned cocoa butter, and this is something you could try, but a general moisturiser will do the hydration trick too. Make sure you drink plenty of water, and obviously maintain a healthy and balanced diet, to avoid weight gain in the first place. Regular exercise will also strengthen the skin, but will help to keep your weight within the healthy bracket at the same time.
Pregnancy is a time which is likely to yield at least some kind of stretch mark, as we mentioned already. It is vital that if you are using any type of skin cream, lotion, oil, or potion, you check with your midwife to see that it is safe to use during pregnancy. Remember, Retinol is not safe, and its derivatives aren’t either. Your midwife or doctor will be able to give you the green light and advise you on what you can do to help reduce the chances of stretch marks appearing in the first place. Aside from that, the regular advice also stands during pregnancy, such as moisturising the skin, drinking plenty of water, and eating a balanced and varied diet. Whilst you are going to put some weight on during pregnancy, that’s a given, there is no reason to put on excess amounts.
You might roll your eyes at that, but the thing is, during pregnancy, you’re not actually ‘eating for two’. This is where extra weight gain occurs, and as a result, stretch marks are far more likely to appear. The stomach is obviously going to be the main point, usually towards the sides, however many pregnant women notice stretch marks on the sides of the breasts too, due to rapid growth in the area, thanks to those pesky hormones during this time.
Again, talking to your midwife or doctor about general health and diet in pregnancy will help you to avoid putting on too much weight, and as a result, you’ll find it far easier to lose the baby weight after delivery, as well as noticing far less in the way of stretch marks too.
We should point out that this article is by no means telling you that if you have stretch marks, you have to try and get rid of them. You don’t. Many men and women choose to live with their stretch marks very happily, and rather than seeing them as something negative, or something to hide, they view them as a positive, a battle scar, if you will.
For example, a pregnant woman might see her stretch marks as the experience she went through in order to become a mother. Someone might see the stretch marks they gained on their arms from body building as a result of their long journey towards optimum fitness. If someone gained a lot of weight and then lost it, they may see their stretch marks simply as a sign of their ability to overcome adversity.
Whatever your shape, whatever your size, no matter how many scars you have, it’s far better to learn to love your body, stretch marks and all.
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