Managing/Treating Stretch Marks
By Funmi Azike
Stretch marks develop when the skin is stretched or distended, such as during growth spurt, workouts, and pregnancy. Rapid and extensive stretching or distending of the skin breaks down the skin’s elastin fibres faster than they can reproduce. It commonly appears around the belly, hips, upper thighs, and breasts, and behind the knees and upper arms. Several over-the-counter products are available to help improve the appearance of stretch marks, not treat it. Treatments for stretch marks may include use of chemical peels and a number of more sophisticated medical procedures.
Ultimately, the best way to attack stretch marks is with the pulsed dye laser which stimulates collagen and elastin production without affecting the skin’s surface. The laser zaps stretch marks when the beam of light activates cells, called fibroblasts, into producing new collagen and elastin to replace the damaged collagen and elastin. For very older stretch marks, fractional laser treatment (laser resurfacing) is a more reliable option.
Other Useful Tips
• What you eat plays a very important role (perhaps, the most important) in the appearance of the skin. A healthy diet will nourish the skin and encourage proper healing and recovery process.
• Manual lymphatic drainage (MLD) massage can help improve the appearance of stretch marks as it boosts circulation, detoxifies and reduces fluid build-up. Massage improves circulation so nutrients and blood can more readily reach the stretch marks helping to heal them rapidly. In addition, massage helps to break up scar tissues that form the marks. Regular massage will help keep your skin nourished and supple.
• You can use vitamin E cream on stretch marks, massaging it into delicate or affected areas once or twice a day. This will improve the appearance of the skin prevent the marks from spreading. Vitamin E helps heal the skin and encourages the development of healthy skin tissues.
• Increase your water intake which will help keep your skin hydrated from within. This will ensure your skin is well nourished and supple to be able to bear the impact of any stretch without developing marks.
• Exfoliation is the deliberate removal of dead cells from the skin’s surface. It is one of the most effective ways of keeping the skin looking supple as it aids its renewal process. It also stimulates blood flow to the skin thereby helping the circulatory and lymphatic systems. The removal of dead skin cells softens and smooths the skin making it easier to absorb moisture, prevent dryness and relieve itching. Regular exfoliation has been shown to prevent, improve the appearance of stretch marks and promote smoother skin as the skin ‘gets used’ to regenerating itself in response to the upper layers being removed efficiently.
• Aloe Vera has healing properties that helps to renew damaged tissues, while it also helps keep the skin hydrated. Massage fresh aloe vera gel on the stretch marks to tone and firm up the skin.
• Moderate exercise helps to keep the skin firm while encouraging blood and oxygen flow to it which also helps improve the appearance of stretch marks.