Updated: Dec 2, 2019
Stretch marks are fine atrophic lines that appear on the skin as the result of the failure of skin elasticity, adhesive and modeling properties to resist distension. As we grow, our skin stretches and remodels itself to adapt to the changes.
However, like a rubber band that snaps when stretched to a certain point, the skin can break too when distension is extreme. This is what causes what we see externally as stretch marks. Stretch marks often appear after pregnancy or even during puberty. There are also non-natural causes, some diseases like Cushing syndrome can make stretch marks appear on the skin too.
What causes stretch marks?
The skin has three main layers: the most external layer which is called the epidermis acts as a shield. The next layer called dermis gives the skin its firmness and elasticity. And the inner layer, rich in fat cells and blood vessels called hypodermis. A breakage in the dermis is the first injury that creates stretch marks.
The dermis consists of a mesh of different molecules like collagen (firm and resistant) and elastin (elastic). When distension (for instance, a rapidly growing baby in your belly) acts on your skin, the tight bond between these molecules breaks. This causes an inside-out tear. The body is capable to repair the broken tissues but for some unknown reasons, the repaired tissue never goes back to normal.
Who is more at risk of having Stretch Marks?
At this point, you have come to see that stretching the skin too fast puts anyone at risk of getting stretch marks. But it's a little more complicated than that. Feminine hormones play a role in the development of stretch marks on the skin, as they relax all the body tissues, not just your belly. You should know that a baby's head will pass through your pelvis. This could be one of the reasons why the skin repair is not perfect, and why women get more stretch marks during highly hormonal periods like puberty and pregnancy.
According to research, younger mothers are at higher risk of developing stretch marks. A mother who gained more than 33 pounds during pregnancy or that already had an upper body mass index at the beginning is also more likely to get stretch marks. More yet, women who have bigger bellies are susceptible. And stretch marks are hereditary.
Can we prevent stretch marks?
The good news is that we can try.
To prevent stretch marks, it's important to maintain a healthy and stable weight during pregnancy to restrain excessive stretching of the skin. Maintaining a nutritious diet is very important too because repairing and remodeling of the skin is facilitated by large amounts of vitamin C, copper, and essential amino acids.
More so, some natural derivatives like Centella Asiatica have proven effective in the prevention of these warrior stripes, but its safety during pregnancy has not been entirely assessed.
Massaging also works magic especially with the use of oils such as almond oil or a special natural oil blend like Baby + Mommy Helper to help ease the itching of a growing belly. Although medical research is ongoing on the prevention of stretch marks, everyone can still benefit from nature’s cure.
So, what do you think? Are you keeping up with your diet? Check out our article on a healthy diet during pregnancy.