Many women carry those pinkish streaks around their tummies, breasts, or thighs, known as pregnancy stretch marks, as a dignified warrior wears his battle scars. However, for just as many of us, pregnancy stretch marks are a sore sight, so we’re constantly looking for ways to prevent them or at least make them less visible.
Spoiler alert: There’s no miracle cream to help you get rid of stretch marks, but there are some remarkable contenders we’ll be discussing in a bit below. First, however, let’s see what pregnancy stretch marks are and what risk factors may make them more likely.
What Are Pregnancy Stretch Marks?
Stretch marks (lat. Striae Distensae) are protruding pinkish, purple, brown, or white streaks on your skin which may be caused by several factors, but the most obvious one is rapid weight gain.
They appear not only in pregnant women, but also in teens that develop too fast, overweight people, and body builders that grow in volume too rapidly.
Stretch marks’ favorite spots to set up their base is on stomach, breasts, chest, hips, thighs, and rear.
They usually appear when the layers underneath the skin break apart because of the added pressure of a growth spurt, such as pregnancy. They might also appear during fast weight loss. It is estimated that 80% of the population develop stretch marks at one point over a lifetime.
When Do Stretch Mark Appear During Pregnancy?
Most pregnant moms develop them in the sixth or seventh month of pregnancy, while a few of them might notice the unsightly striations in the last few weeks of their pregnancy.
Do Pregnancy Stretch Marks Fade on Their Own?
Stretch marks do fade on their own as soon as the ruptured blood vessels underneath the skin manage to heal. You’ll notice that the stretch marks turn from a red-pinkish tint to a whitish or silvery color.
Am I Prone to Stretch Marks?
It is estimated that 50 to 90% of pregnant women develop stretch marks. The risk of getting them largely depends on several risk factors:
– Genetics – if your mother or grandmother had them during or after their pregnancies, you’ll likely develop them too (there’s at least one study that found a link between stretch mark risk and genetics.)
– Weight – If you are overweight or gained weight fast during pregnancy, you’re very likely to get stretch marks.
– Age – Young women are more likely to develop them than older women.
– Ethnicity – Unless you’re an African American or Latina, you have a high likelihood of developing stretch marks during pregnancy.
– Skin Type – Dry and/or dehydrated skin is an undisputed risk factor for stretch marks
– Sun exposure – Too much solar radiation is tied to rapid collagen breakdown and premature aging of the skin; it also makes stretch marks more visible.
– Nutrient deficiency – Some vitamins are critical for a healthy and resilient skin; make sure that your diet is not deficient in vitamin C (essential for collagen production), zinc, and vitamin D.
– Hormonal changes – During pregnancy and puberty, the massive production of glucocorticoid hormones accelerates the breakdown of collagen and elastin fibers beneath the skin, which results in stretch marks.
How to Prevent Pregnancy Stretch Marks
In the case of pregnancy stretch marks, prevention is better than cure. Fortunately, there are several ways to lower the risk of stretch marks or to help them fade faster while pregnant.
1. Proper Hydration
Drink plenty of water during pregnancy to prevent your skin from becoming dry and stretch-mark prone. Drinking coffee, soda and other caffeinated drinks may up the risk of stretch marks as they tend to dehydrate the body. If you do enjoy these drinks offset their side-effects by upping the amount of caffeine-free liquids.
2. Anti-Itch Lotions
As your skin stretches out during pregnancy, you’ll likely have to put up with a copious amount of itching. Refrain from scratching those hellishly itching areas as you might cause microlesions which up the risk of pregnancy stretch marks or make them worse.
Use a moisturizing lotion like the Sarna Sensitive Anti-Ich Lotion to help get you rid of the itch instead. However, do not use retinoid-based products or those containing steroids, as they might affect the baby for the worse.
3. Curb Rapid Weight Gain
This one is the main factor behind stretch marks. Talk with your doctor to develop a balanced and nutritious meal plan for both you and the baby. According to the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, pregnant women should not put on more than 25 to 35 lbs during pregnancy.
Overweight women should trim those numbers by 10 lbs, while underweight women are free to gain up to 40 lbs during pregnancy.
4. Nourish Your Skin from Within
Enrich your meals with foods that boost your skin’s elasticity (collagen is the key here) and levels of hydration.
Vitamin C, for example, is an essential nutrient for collagen production and skin firmness. Look for natural sources of vitamin C, such as berries and citrus fruit.
Vitamin D, or the ’Sunshine Vitamin,’ may lower the risk of stretch marks, according to a 2015 study. Keep in mind that our bodies naturally produce vitamin D when our skin is exposed to the sun. However, too much solar protection may lead to vitamin D deficiency.
Zinc ramps up your body’s natural wound healing processes. It can be naturally sourced from oysters (5.3 mg per oyster), eggs (0.6 mg per egg), hummus (1.1 mg per ¼ cup), and pumpkin seeds (2.2 grams per ounce).
5. Kick the Habit
Smoking during pregnancy is not only bad for the baby but for your skin too. Smoking releases free radicals which lead to the rapid destruction of elastin and collagen in your skin. This does not only mean higher risk of stretch marks but premature wrinkling and skin sagging as well.
6. Treat Stretch Marks as Soon as They Pop Up
You have higher chances of getting rid of stretch marks if you tackle them from the early signs than trying to treat them when they are already silvery white. Fortunately, there are plenty of moisturizing creams out there that help keep the skin supple and the risk of stretch mark forming to a minimum.
Home Remedies for Stretch Marks
You could also try some home remedies for stretch marks such as rubbing generously coconut oil (a moms’ all-around favorite) or wheat germ oil on the areas more prone to stretch marks, such as the tummy, breasts, and hips.
Wheat germ oil is rich in vitamin D, minerals, antioxidants, and protein, which are a boon for skin’s elasticity and resilience during period of rapid weight gain or loss.
Best Stretch Mark Creams
Here are some products that have caught our attention as they have the seal of approval of hundreds of expecting moms out there.
With literally thousands of positive user reviews on Amazon, The Burt’s Bee fragrance-free Belly Butter will keep your skin nourished and moisturized and keep stretch marks from forming. Many expectant moms who used it at least twice a day claim that they got no stretch mark during their pregnancies.
Another best-seller on Amazon, Bio-Oil is a blend of natural oils that are supposed to help fix scars, stretch marks, uneven skin tone, and more. A 2016 study, found that this product was the most frequently used by pregnant women to prevent stretch marks. However, the same study revealed that nearly 60% still developed stretch marks after using it.
This is an organic oil blend that promises to lighten up pre-existing stretch marks, reduce itching, and prevent new marks from forming. So far, it has delivered on most of its promises, according to dozens of happy mothers. It is made of organic coconut oil, rosehip seed oil, arnica extract, jojoba oil, and hyaluronic acid.
It is toxin-free and retinol-free (retinoids are not recommended during pregnancy)
And last but not least, this Belly oil by Provence Oil is a fast absorbing formula of nutrient-rich essential oils that does what it says: it keeps the skin firm and supple as it expands, alleviates itching, improves hydration levels, and helps prevent stretch marks even during advanced pregnancies. Unlike other products in its class, it doesn’t leave a greasy film behind and comes in a luxurious glass bottle.
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