The Ultimate Stretch Marks
Guide for Moms-to-be

No one likes stretch marks. They are ugly, show on the surface of the skin and take ages to fade. More often than not, they are tell-tale signs of pregnancy. A lot of moms-to-be think that having stretch marks is a part and parcel of motherhood and they can’t do anything about it. At the most, they opt for some common creams and oils available on the market to keep stretch marks at bay but they are hardly of any use! The best approach is to find out the best ways to keep stretch marks at bay by taking preventive measures right from the beginning. This guide is an attempt to educate moms-to-be about the A-Z of stretch marks and how they can work towards preventing it from scratch.

Women experience a surge in their hormone levels during pregnancy. This in turn, leads to a lot of skin problems that lessen after childbirth. Some of these skin related problems, which are commonplace during pregnancy include:

  • Melasma: Melasma or Chloasma is the hyperpigmentation of the skin, which occurs due to an increase in Melanin production during pregnancy. The skin turns brown or tan colored in patches at different parts of the body. But mostly, the dark patches appear on the face and for this reason, it is called – “the mask of pregnancy”.
  • Stretch marks: Stretch marks is another common skin condition that occurs during pregnancy. As many 70%-90% of pregnant women get stretch marks. Caused by the stretching of belly to accommodate the baby, the severity of stretch marks may vary from person to person depending upon various reasons. In the initial stages, stretch marks are pinkish, red or purple in color. With time, they turn silvery or white in color. It is possible that the stretch marks may itch and become sore, causing a lot of discomfort to the moms-to-be.
  • PUPPP: PUPPP or Pruritic Urticarial Papules and Plaques of Pregnancy is a skin condition where pale, red bumps appear at different places on the skin. Common areas where PUPPP form include the abdomen, arms, legs and buttocks. These outbreaks may cause itching, burning or stinging sensations. PUPPP are of varying sizes and may be as small as a pencil eraser or as large as a dinner plate! When these red bumps form together on a large area, they are called Plaques.
  • Skin Tags: A skin tag is basically a small section of tissue that is connected to the skin by a stalk. It is benign and most commonly occurs under the breasts, on the neck, the chest, the back and in the groin area. Skin tags are painless and rarely cause any discomfort.

Stretch marks or Striae are skin scars. Stretch marks are common in parts of the body, where the skin is most likely to stretch. It is also common in areas where body fat is stored. Some of the common parts of the body where stretch marks are visible are – tummy, thighs, arms, breasts, abdomen, torso, and buttocks. Stretch marks may feel itchy and become sore in some cases. It is completely normal to get stretch marks.

A stretch mark can be caused by puberty and pregnancy or diseases such as diabetes, Marfan syndrome and Cushing’s disease. Even rapid weight gain or loss can cause stretch marks.

Stretch marks can appear on the tummy, thighs, arms, breasts, abdomen, torso, and buttocks.

Although stretch marks may fade with time, they never disappear completely. However, they can be prevented to an extent.

Unlike stretch marks, cellulite is the build-up of fatty deposits beneath the skin. They are most common in areas where fat is stored in excess such as the buttocks and thighs. Cellulite is not necessary a result of lost elasticity of connective tissues but an increase in the fat deposits, which “pop out” and cause a bumpy, dimply appearance on the skin. It is assumed by many people that only overweight people tend to get cellulite. However, skinny people get cellulite too as a result of puberty, aging, diet, genetics and hormones. Pregnancy doesn’t necessarily cause cellulite.

Stretch marks are caused by the rapid rate of the stretching of the skin along with some influence of hormones.

During pregnancy, the baby starts growing in the womb and the mother starts gaining weight rapidly. This leads to the stretching of the skin, which continues to stretch till the collagen fibers start breaking down. The skin starts tearing and eventually results in scars and these scars are stretch marks that appear as parallel bands of lines on the skin. Also, the change in the hormones during pregnancy may prevent collagen and elastin formation, which makes the skin less supple and more prone to stretch marks.

Stretch marks are more visible around the later trimesters or the sixth or seventh month of pregnancy, when the growth of the baby is the maximum. When they mature, stretch marks turn whitish in color and become depressed in the skin as irregular streaks. Apart from the belly, pregnancy stretch marks can also form on other parts of the body such as the breasts and buttocks.

Women with a family history of stretch marks during pregnancy, are more likely to get them than those without. Their skin type is another factor as some of them have more elastic skin while others don’t. Also, the severity of stretch marks is often higher in women who have higher body mass indices or women who have bigger babies.

Stretch marks are not dangerous or something to worry about. However, in some cases, they may feel itchy and become sore. Also, it becomes a matter of concern for women when the stretch marks are visible. But the worst part is that stretch marks take their own time to fade and can’t be completely removed except for surgery. This is what makes them undesirable.

Stretch marks prevention lotions work on reducing unwanted stretch marks occurrence. For instance, Just For Moms is a stretch mark prevention lotion that contains a Strialene Collagen Boost Complex, which increases the production of collagen and elastin. As a result, the skin becomes supple and elastic, which helps reduce the formation of stretch marks. Using such lotions on a regular basis reduce the chances of stretch marks formation and you don’t need to opt for any other stretch marks removal cream, oil or other over-the-counter-products when you follow the regimen.

Stretch marks prevention lotion such as Just For Moms can be used twice a day beginning from the fourth month of pregnancy until three months post-delivery.

Although there are a number of stretch marks creams and lotions that are available as over-the-counter medications, you need to check whether they are non-toxic or not. Opting for a Gynecologist-approved formula that is gentle on the skin is always the best decision in this matter. This will ensure that the products are safe for both the mother and the baby.

Pregnancy stretch marks are a result of the skin stretching in the abdomen area when the belly starts growing to accommodate the baby. However, it is not possible to predict how severe the stretch marks will be before and after the birth of the baby. You can always try out several ways and lessen the impact of stretch marks when you are pregnant. For instance, you can make some lifestyle changes and use products like a stretch marks prevention lotion.

Here is what you can do:

  • Eat a balanced diet: Eating balanced, healthy and nutritious meals makes sure that your baby also gets the nutrients. Additionally, it also helps increase the skin’s elasticity levels, boosts collagen formation and moisture retention. This can help prevent the severity of stretch marks. Make it a point to include fruits, green leafy vegetables, berries, nuts, lean meat, eggs, food with whole grains etc. in your diet.
  • Increase fluid intake: Increase fluid intake and stay hydrated as often as you can. Apart from liquids, citrus fruits, cucumbers, watermelons, lettuce etc. will also help you remain hydrated and also detoxify your system. This prevents the skin from getting severe stretch marks.
  • Exercise regularly: Exercising regularly is one of the best ways to retain the elasticity of your skin as it improves your body’s circulation. Also, it prevents rapid weight gain (another factor that contributes to stretch marks). There are some special exercises for pregnant women and you can take your pick from them. However, you also need to take some precautionary measures and consult your physician before starting any exercise on your own.
  • Stop “eating for two”: It is common for pregnant women to consume more food than usual when they are pregnant. This is because they are often told to “eat for two”. But this way, you’ll only end up gaining more calories rapidly and put on weight. Instead, eat your fill and try to curb those cravings by replacing them with healthier alternatives.
  • Take care of your skin: Begin a skin care regimen right from the start of the pregnancy. Exfoliate the skin to improve the blood circulation and opt for regular oil massage. Don’t forget to start using a stretch marks prevention lotion at the right time.

It is true that some vitamins may reduce, if not remove pregnancy stretch marks. Vitamin A, Vitamin K, Vitamin E, Vitamin C are some of the essential vitamins that you need to include in your diet for effectively preventing stretch marks during pregnancy. These are also helpful for prevention of stretch marks that occur due to other factors.

Stretch marks can be reduced by opting for a preventive regimen. However, in some cases when the stretch marks are severe, people resort to cosmetic treatments that are often way too expensive. Moreover, irrespective of the treatment that you are opting for, you need to have patience and give it some time before the results become visible.

Here are some of the common treatments for stretch marks:

  • Natural Remedies: Natural remedies can also help prevent and provide temporary relief from stretch marks. These include cocoa butter, Vitamin E oil, Aloe Vera etc. (Go to home Remedies for Stretch Marks)
  • Laser Treatment: Laser therapy is another option for getting rid of stretch marks. Although the laser treatment for stretch marks be costly, it is the best option when it comes to getting rid of older stretch marks.
  • Dermaroller Stretch Marks Treatment : Dermaroller treatment for stretch marks is non-invasive and is suitable for all skin types.
  • Microdermabrasion : Cosmetic treatments such as Microdermabrasion is effective in getting rid of old stretch marks.
  • PRP : PRP or Platelet Rich Plasma treatment is used to activate collagen production in the skin. It effectively tightens the skin by inducing collagen formation.
  • Over-the-counter products for stretch marks : There are several over-the-counter products for stretch marks such as oils, ointments, creams and lotions, which you can buy and apply on the stretch marks affected areas. But before doing so, you must consult your physician or gynecologist and make sure that the product suits your skin type and isn’t harmful to the baby.

Stretch marks/Striae can be categorized into two categories – Red Striae and Silvery/White Striae.

When the stretch marks begin forming on your skin, they start with reddish or purplish hued parallel lines. These lines turn silvery or white in color after some time, depending on the color and type of skin you have. The treatment for both these types of stretch marks may vary.

New stretch marks respond differently than older stretch marks. Medicated creams or Pulse dyed laser therapy or Fractional Photothermolysis are often used to treat the new, reddish stretch marks.

Note: Consult your physician before opting for any treatment for stretch marks removal.

Old stretch marks may vary from silvery to white in color and they do not respond to treatments for fresh or red stretch marks. They are more difficult to remove than the new stretch marks. Common treatments for white stretch marks include Microdermabrasion and Laser Therapy.

Note: Consult your physician before opting for any treatment for stretch marks removal.

  • Sunless self-tanners can cover up stretch marks : Sunless self-tanners can’t do anything when it comes to hiding stretch marks. In fact, when you opt for tanning via tanning beds, the stretch marks will not get tanned and end up being more visible than ever (as they are depressed and set deep in the skin). Let’s also not forget the fact that these tanning beds do more harm than good to your skin.
  • Only women get stretch marks : Both men and women can get stretch marks. In fact, even children can get them.
  • Stretch marks are a result of pregnancy : Stretch marks are not only caused by pregnancy. They can be a result of hormonal changes, rapid weight gain/ weight loss among other factors.
  • Stretch marks occur only in the belly area : Stretch marks commonly occur on the belly. However, they also occur on other parts of the body such as thighs, arms, breasts, abdomen, torso, and buttocks. Even the upper arms, elbow and knees can have stretch marks.
  • Lose weight, lose stretch marks : It is true that rapid weight gain may lead to stretch marks. But so does losing weight.
  • Skinny people don’t get stretch marks : Stretch marks can be a result of hormone imbalance and underlying diseases. Therefore, everyone is at an equal risk of developing stretch marks and this includes skinny people as well.
  • Stretch marks are always white in color : Stretch marks do change color. They begin as pink, red or purple lines that fade with time and become white or silvery in appearance.

Stretch marks can be a result of fluctuations in weight over a short period of time. Here’s what you can do to avoid stretch marks when you are losing weight or working on losing your weight.

  • Don’t opt for fad diets or crash diets. This will lead to rapid weight loss as a result of which, your skin will lose its elasticity and stretch marks will start showing up.
  • Include food rich in vitamins and antioxidants. Also, increase your intake of proteins and zinc in the diet. Consult a dietician to get an expert advice on what you need to include in your diet.
  • Make sure that you stay well-hydrated all the time. This is essential for retaining the moisture content in the body and keeping the skin soft and supple.
  • You may use an over-the-counter stretch marks prevention lotion and use it regularly to avoid stretch marks.
  • Lose weight gradually with a proper diet and exercise. Include stretching exercises to tighten and tone your muscles.

There are several common natural remedies for stretch marks, which may not be the most effective solution for stretch marks removal, but they do provide temporary relief from itching and burning sensations. The best option is to use these home remedies along with an effective stretch marks prevention lotion.

Here are some of the remedies or tips for stretch marks:

  • Sugar : Sugar is a natural scrub that is gentle on the skin. About one tablespoon of sugar with a few drops of Vitamin E oil can be used as an exfoliant for stretch marks. Apply it over the affected area before taking a shower.
  • Aloe Vera : Aloe Vera a common ingredient, which is present in stretch marks prevention lotions and creams. A mix of Aloe Vera gel and Vitamin E can be used on a daily basis for improving skin’s elasticity and moisture levels.
  • Potato Juice : Potato juice has bleaching properties and is said to promote the growth and repair of new skin cells. Grate a medium-sized potato and squeeze the juice from it. Apply this juice on the stretch marks and wait for it to dry up. Wash off with water.
  • Orange Juice : Orange is a citrus fruit and the citric acid present in it helps in alleviating scars that occur due to stretch marks. Mix orange juice with cucumber juice and apply it on the affected area. Wash off with water.
  • Castor Oil and Olive oil: Castor oil has healing properties and is used for treating skin problems such as wrinkles and fine lines. It can be used for stretch marks too. Apply the oil directly on the stretch marks and massage gently for about half an hour before you shower. Alternatively, you can use Olive oil.
  • Cocoa Butter : Cocoa Butter is also an effective remedy for stretch marks. A massage with Cocoa Butter regularly can help alleviate the marks.
  • Lemon and Glycerin : A mix of lemon juice and glycerin is another home remedy commonly used for stretch marks prevention. Glycerin is an excellent moisturizer and keeps the skin moisturized.

Stretch marks is a natural occurrence and it is definitely not something that you should lose sleep over. With the right solution and a few lifestyle changes mentioned in this guide, you can prevent stretch marks occurrence and reappearance.