Why Do You Get Stretch Marks?
Stretch marks are injuries to the skin that have resulted in smooth scarring. The first part of this process is epidermis degeneration. The epidermis is the outermost layer of the skin. Therefore, this epidermis degeneration happens from literally stretching the skin, whether it be a rapid expansion or contraction.
The dermis is the middle layer of the skin that utilizes strong fibers that connect the skin to adjust for normal growth changes. Rapid expansion or contraction of the skin actually causes the dermis to tear.
Since the epidermis is degenerated by this point as well, the deepest layer of the skin (the hypodermis) shows through to the surface.
This is why when you build muscle faster than the skin can adjust, you develop stretch marks. When you first start lifting intensely and you get those newbie gains wicked fast, sometimes the skin can’t adjust to compensate for the muscle growth.
When you take performance enhancing drugs and build muscle even faster than normal, the skin often can’t adjust in time. Another circumstance that may lead to stretch marks is when you switch training programs and get results faster than usual.
That being said, gaining muscle doesn’t mean you’re definitely going to get stretch marks! It’s just those cases in which you gain muscle quicker than the skin can adjust.
The Coloring of Stretch Marks
The actual coloring of the stretch mark, whether it be red, purple, or pink, doesn’t make much of a difference—it may simply depend on your natural skin color. However, stretch marks with pinkish coloring generally indicate a more recent stretching of the skin.
How To Prevent Stretch Marks
So now that you know why it happens, let’s get into prevention methods. First of all, I would never tell someone to not work hard and to sacrifice their gains! Honestly, a lot of people look at stretch marks as battle scars. They’re a result of hard work so you should wear them with pride.
That being said, I know they aren’t especially physically appealing and some people's stretch marks are a lot worse than others.
Truth be told, the appearance of stretch marks often depends on your skin genetics. Some people will have skin elasticity that can adjust very fast and others will have skin elasticity that adjusts very slow. Unfortunately, it’s just how it is sometimes.
But there are some factors you can control to help prevent getting stretch marks or at least limit the severity of them:
1. Maintain a Healthy Body Weight
Avoiding rapid weight loss or weight gain has been shown to help prevent stretch marks.
2. Exercise Regularly
Exercise has been shown to make the skin more healthy and younger looking. A loss of elasticity, also known as elastosis, is a natural part of aging, but regular exercise significantly helps.
Drinking enough water actually improves skin physiology—it is essential for the skin! Cold showers have also been proven to improve skin health.
4. Eat Healthy Foods
Vitamin A, Vitamin C and minerals such as zinc and silicon play major roles in promoting skin health.
All in all, if you maintain good skin health, it will retain its elasticity and you will reduce your chances of developing stretch marks.
How to Get Rid of Stretch Marks
I’m going to start this section off with some bad news: the majority of creams, gels or oils that are sold as treatments on the market are not very effective. The majority of these so called treatments just moisturize the skin and help with dryness.
That being said, there are certain topical treatments that show some promise in reducing or eliminating the appearance of stretch marks.
1. Hyaluronic Acid
Hyaluronic acid is a topical preparation in some of these treatments that has evidence of reducing the visibility of stretch marks. Yet, there is not enough evidence to say it gets rid of them completely.
2. Bitter Almond Oil
Bitter almond oil application has been shown ineffective by itself. However, the application of bitter almond oil along with massaging it into the skin for roughly 15 minutes has been shown effective in reducing stretch marks.
3. Silicone Gel
Silicone gel has also been shown effective in reducing stretch mark pigmentation. By massaging it into the skin, you can naturally increase your collagen levels.
4. Olive Oil
The application of olive oil has been proven ineffective for reducing early onset stretch marks. But surprisingly, there is evidence that the application of olive oil twice daily reduces the incidence of severe stretch marks.
5. Retinoic Acid
Retinoic acid is one of the most promising remedies for stretch mark treatment. There is little evidence that it supports pre-existing, well developed stretch marks but there is significant evidence that it can get rid of early onset stretch marks.
Retinoic acid is derived from Vitamin A as a compound to rebuild collagen. So if you catch a stretch mark starting to develop, quickly get some retinoic acid!
All in all, the majority of creams, gels or oils on the market don’t have enough scientific backing required for effective treatment. For that reason, most advertiser claims are false.
Microdermabrasion is a proven technique for getting rid of early onset stretch marks. This process involves a device that blows crystals onto the skin. These crystals polish the surface of the skin and as that happens, a vacuum tube removes the crystals as well as skin cells on the top layer.
By gently removing this top layer of skin, microdermabrasion stimulates newer, more elastic skin growth.
2. Laser Therapies
Laser therapies are also a proven treatment method for stretch marks. They use light wavelengths that stimulate production of collagen, elastin, and melanin. Pulsed dye lasers are shown most effective for early stretch marks and fractional laser treatment is most effective for older stretch marks.
Intense Pulsed Light is another skin therapy method that uses a high-powered light to destroy certain skin structures. As a result, newer, more elastic skin cells are produced which helps get rid of early stretch marks.
Summary: The fastest most proven way to get rid of old stretch marks is by laser therapy, specifically fractional laser therapy. However, if you maintain top notch skin health, a lot of stretch marks can fade away over time!
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