While stretch marks are relatively harmless and super common, many of us wish we could have prevented them from appearing during pregnancy.
Stretch marks, also known as striae gravidarum, are scars that appear when your skin stretches faster than usual.
While some people are proud of their scars, others feel self-conscious about them. Rapid skin tightening can also be uncomfortable, adding another to your growing list of pregnancy aches and pains.
If you want to prevent stretch marks, keeping your skin hydrated so it can stretch without cracking is your best defense. It may not be possible to get rid of them completely, but you can reduce stretch marks.
We reached out to two dermatologists to learn more about why stretch marks happen and what to do to minimize their appearance.
Why do we get stretch marks?
We get stretch marks when our bodies grow so fast that our skin can’t keep up. “This causes the elastic fibers below the surface of the skin to break,” explains Ailynne Marie Vergara-Wijangco, MD, researcher and clinical dermatologist.
When the skin fibers are broken, new collagen forms to replace the damaged, less firm and elastic parts. “New collagen can have a different texture, leading to raised or concave scars,” says Dendy Engelman, MD, FACMS, FAAD, board-certified cosmetic dermatologist and Moh’s surgeon at Shafer Clinic. in.
Dr. Vergara-Wijangco points out that stretch marks are very common during pregnancy, when you need to gain weight in a relatively short period of time. And as Dr. Engelman explains, stretch marks are scars, which means you can’t make them go away completely.
How can I get stretch marks during pregnancy?
Stretch marks are quite common during pregnancy with about 90% of women seeing them sometime during pregnancy, According to Dr. Vergara-Wijangco. Genetics also play an important role, so if your mother has a surname, you’re more likely to get the disease, too. Young mothers tend to have more stretch marks, maybe because their skin is firmer.
According to Dr. Engelman, most women start to see stretch marks around the end of the second trimester. “Some women start seeing stretch marks even earlier, and some may not get them. Stretch marks depend on each woman’s body and how it develops during pregnancy. ”
The color of stretch marks can vary depending on your skin tone. “If you have a lighter complexion, you’re more likely to develop pink stretch marks. [Those with deeper] Vegara Wijangco says skin tones tend to have stretch marks that are lighter than their skin tone.
Stretch marks can appear differently on the skin due to the age and severity of stretch marks. “Newer stains tend to be darker in color, while older stains may be more translucent,” notes Dr. Engelman.
How to actively keep stretch marks in the bay
Hydration is your skin’s best friend if you want to try to prevent or keep stretch marks to a minimum because moist skin is less likely to develop stretch marks.
Dr. Engelman advises: Drinking plenty of water to stay hydrated, and using a humidifier while you sleep can help keep your skin soft.
Regularly moisturizing areas at risk of developing stretch marks, like the stomach, breasts, and legs, will also help, Dr. Engelman adds.
Dr. Engelman recommends applying multiple products to stretch marks-prone areas for a layering effect. According to dermatologists, the result is more protected and moisturized skin. She recommends Bi-Oil and Palmer’s Cocoa Butter as must-try products.
Some ingredients found in stretch mark prevention products are not safe to use during pregnancy or while breastfeeding. Avoid products that contain the following ingredients:
- Retinol Firms the skin and increases cell flow, which is great for reducing stretch marks, but can be harmful to an unborn baby or nursing baby.
- Formaldehyde and formaldehyde reducing agent “They have been linked to cancer as well as other nervous system problems including chest pain, shortness of breath and more,” warns Dr. Engelman.
- Parabens, are actually found in more food sources than topical products, which are generally thought to be safe. There is a risk of irritation with sensitive skin types and they are being studied for any possible effects on the endocrine system.
- Phthalates helps stabilize beauty product formulations but has been linked to miscarriages and gestational diabetes. “Avoid ingredients that end in -phthalate,” advises Dr. Engelman.
Does stretch mark cream really work?
It’s easy to find evidence of stretch mark creams, oils, and ointments, but there really isn’t much scientific evidence that they work. What we do know is that preventing stretch marks is much more affordable than treating them once they’ve formed.
Applying products the right way can make a big difference in whether they work for you or not. Dr. Engelman offers the following tips for preventing or reducing stretch marks:
- Start moisturizing as soon as you find out you’re pregnant.
- If stretch marks have begun to appear, treat them immediately to give them time to form and darken.
- Apply a few drops of oil or several pumps of cream.
- Moisturize your stomach, chest, legs, or anywhere else on your body that you know tends to grow as you gain weight. Apply the product directly to any existing stretch marks.
- Gently massage the product into the skin with your fingers in a circular motion for about 30 seconds.
- Repeat two or three times daily throughout pregnancy and for three months postpartum.
Stretch marks treatment
You can’t make stretch marks go away completely, but you can reduce their appearance. When you’re no longer pregnant or breastfeeding, you can consult a dermatologist to see which course might be right for you. Sometimes going through multiple treatments works best.
Chemical peels involve applying skin-safe acids to the skin to remove the top layer of skin cells and reveal newer skin cells. “Depending on the strength or degree of the chemical peel, different acids are used,” says Dr. Engelman. “Often chemicals like alpha-hydroxy acid (AHA), beta-hydroxy acid (BHA), glycolic acid, retinoic acid, salicylic acid, lactic acid, and more are used in the peeling process.”
The strength of the acid in the peel affects the downtime you may experience. “If you have a mild chemical peel, you may experience little or no downtime, although you should stay out of the sun for a few days afterward. If your chemical peel is stronger, it may take you to Dr. Engelman to explain.
Chemical peels help reduce the appearance of stretch marks, and are usually performed by a dermatologist. That said, they are not a final solution. “The treatment doesn’t penetrate deep enough to be able to remove stretch marks on their own very effectively,” notes Dr. Engelman.
Laser therapy uses a focused laser to resurface the skin and stimulate collagen production beneath the skin. “Because the lasers are so precise, they can treat problem areas without damaging the surrounding skin,” explains Dr. Engelman.
The most commonly used lasers for stretch marks, CO2 and Erbium YAG ablation lasers, cause little or no downtime. “The recovery time can range from zero to several days,” says Dr. Engelman. Laser therapy is painless, but you won’t feel any mild stinging.
Microdermabrasion is a procedure that uses an abrasive tool to exfoliate the top layer of skin. It doesn’t hurt, but it can feel a little uncomfortable, like sandpaper rubbing against your skin.
Dr. Engelman says microdermabrasion is minimally invasive and can be performed in the office with no down time. “Your skin may be red for a few hours after the procedure, and it’s best to stay out of the sun for a few days as your skin will be very sensitive,” she explains.
This in-clinic treatment can be quick but is not a significant or permanent solution to stretch marks, Dr. Engelman points out.
Ultrasound isn’t just for measuring your baby and finding out the sex. These machines can also aim sound waves at a targeted area to dilate blood vessels. “[It] Engelman explains: improving circulation and drainage, and thus promoting the body to repair itself.
This treatment has been successful in reducing the appearance of stretch marks without any major risks or safety concerns.
Radiofrequency treatments send radiofrequency waves deep into the skin to stimulate collagen production. Radio frequency is a type of energy. The energy converts to heat as these waves are transmitted down your skin, helping to encourage collagen production.
“This is a more effective stretch mark treatment than exfoliation, as it actively stimulates collagen to fill the scar from the inside out,” says Dr. Engelman. “The procedure is painless but you may experience a burning sensation in the areas that need to be focused.” There is no downtime. Radiofrequency is a relatively safe and effective treatment with few side effects.
A very good word
The fact that your body can sustain a growing human is an amazing feat. It’s easy to get the unwanted side effects of pregnancy, but it’s helpful to try to respect and respect your body rather than tearing it apart mentally. Try to think of your stretch marks as a symbol of what your body can be.
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