What is a stretch mark?

For those unaware, stretch marks are long, narrow stripes on the body, normally occurring as a result of overstretched skin. They are typically a lighter shade than your skin color and are extremely common – but for many, they are still extremely unpleasant.

While stretch marks don’t themselves pose a health risk, they can act as a source of cosmetic frustration for men and women alike.

Let’s discuss what causes these pesky little lines.

The Causes

Stretch marks are “more likely to develop and become more severe where there are high levels of circulating cortisone, or when cortisone is applied to the skin. Cortisol, the stress hormone produced by the adrenal glands, is converted into cortisone. This weakens elastic fibers in the skin.”1

  • Rapid Weight Gain or Weight Loss
    • When the body gains a lot of weight, or loses it over a short amount of time, it can cause stretch marks due to the fluctuation of body mass.
  • Puberty
    • As if there wasn’t enough going on with the body during this time, teens may also get stretch marks from a rapid growth spurt.
  • Pregnancy
    • The amount of women who report getting stretch marks throughout the pregnancy process, or after birth, is astonishingly high – at least 50% of pregnant women get stretch marks.2
  • Medical Conditions
    • Certain medical conditions can lead to a decrease in the skin’s elasticity, while others can produce too much of certain hormones that contribute to rapid weight gain.3
  • Corticosteroids
    • Corticosteroid lotions and creams may decrease levels of collagen in the skin.4 This can cause a “weakening” of the skin, which may increase the risk of stretch marks.

The Solution

There have been some investigations into the benefits of certain creams, oils, and topical solutions. However, there is no high-quality5 evidence that they do much to treat or prevent stretch marks. There are a few natural things you could do that may help prevent the marks from occurring, but they are not guaranteed.

Try to maintain a healthy weight. This decreases your chance at rapid stretching of the skin, which may help prevent the marks from suddenly sneaking up on you.

According to Medical News Today, eating a balanced diet that’s rich in vitamins and minerals can help support the skin.6 Especially important are vitamins A and C, along with zinc and silicon minerals.

During pregnancy, aim for a slow and gradual weight gain over the 9-month period to avoid rapid stretching of the skin.

Try drinking six to eight glasses of water a day7 to keep the body well-hydrated.

!! FYI – Exercise and Stretch Marks

If you’re looking to bulk up, be careful not to do it too quickly. Try using lighter weights and higher reps to gradually build muscle without putting your skin at risk.8

What’s Really Important

Stretch marks are natural, and you shouldn’t feel ashamed of them. If they are bothersome, talk to your doctor and ask what he/she suggests.

This article should not replace any exercise program or restrictions, any dietary supplements or restrictions, or any other medical recommendations from your primary care physician. Before starting any exercise program or diet, make sure it is approved by your doctor.

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