Whether due to pregnancy, rapid growth during puberty or weight gain: there are many reasons why women in particular have to struggle with stretch marks throughout their lives.
Munich dermatologist Dr. Elisabeth Schuhmachers explains how they develop – and gives helpful tips on how to prevent and get rid of stretch marks.
What are stretch marks and how do they develop?
One thing in advance: stretch marks, i.e. small cracks in the subcutis, are a widespread phenomenon and not an illness. “More than half of all women are affected,” says the expert.
Stretch marks occur when the connective tissue expands beyond a certain degree. As a result, elastic collagen fibres of the skin are pulled apart and tear. This can happen during pregnancy, for example. Another common reason is rapid growth in length during puberty – or quite simply a strong weight gain.
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Are stretch marks and stretch marks different?
No, they don’t. The expert explains: “Both terms describe cracks in the skin caused by an unusually strong growth of a certain part of the body, which is particularly the case in pregnancy, especially in the abdomen and breast.
Why do some women get stretch marks and others do not?
The bad news: stretch marks are partly genetic, as there are different types of connective tissue. So some people have weak connective tissue at birth. Cushing’s disease also makes people susceptible to stretch marks.
“In this disease, the adrenal cortex is stimulated, which leads to increased cortisol production,” said Schumachers. Stretch marks are particularly frequent in parts of the body that are subject to severe stretching, such as the abdomen or chest. They also occur frequently on the thighs, hips and buttocks.
How can I – if ever – Prevent stretch marks?
The good news: there are ways to prevent stretch marks. Of course, first and foremost it is important to avoid heavy weight gain or extreme fluctuations. “Of course, the growth of the baby cannot be slowed down during pregnancy. It is advisable not to put on too much fatty tissue, which stretches the skin even more.” The dermatologist also recommends the following products to pregnant women to prevent stretch marks during pregnancy:
- Prenatal lap belts: These support the stomach and relieve the connective tissue
- Abdominal support underpants which have a stabilizing effect on the baby’s abdomen
- Supporting bras because especially the breast grows during pregnancy
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Do creams help against stretch marks?
Preventive, yes! Especially lotions containing caffeine are recommended. But also creams with Vitamin-A -acid are effective. However, you need a doctor’s prescription. Otherwise, it helps to cream the skin with retinol. Oils with vitamins C and E are also recommended.
Can I have stretch marks treated by a doctor?
It’s possible. Initially red stretch marks fade again after about 1-2 years and then turn white as the tissue scars. But once these white streaks are there, stretch marks are persistent and not so easy to get rid of. There are, however, effective methods of having stretch marks removed by a doctor, but the process is lengthy. In detail, this is about lasers and microneedling.
How does laser treatment work?
You can have stretch marks treated by laser treatment. An often praised method is the fractional laser, which fires mini flashes of light on the affected skin areas and thus penetrates their surface only punctually (fractionally).
These mini-injuries are intended to stimulate the production of collagen and stimulate cell regeneration. When the tiny stitches heal, new tissue is supposed to form, which reduces the stretch cracks in the skin.
What happens in microneedling?
Elisabeth Schuhmachers prefers to use the microneedling method with radio frequency in her practice. “In this method, small needles are used to cause very fine injuries to the skin”, explains the dermatologist. A heat impulse (radio frequency energy) is then emitted within milliseconds, this process is intended to stimulate the regeneration of the skin.
“Afterwards I inject some of my own blood under the skin. It’s called a vampire lift,” says the expert. The costs for this treatment are approximately 300 euros per session – depending on the size of the area to be treated. Usually several sessions are necessary to completely remove stretch marks. It is easier, more comfortable and above all cheaper to simply accept these traces of life.
What else can I do against stretch marks?
According to Dr. Schuhmachers, sport only helps against stretch marks to a limited extent: “You can only control weight gain with sport. Through massages and a healthy lifestyle it is possible to reduce the appearance of stretch marks”.
In the course of a pregnancy, it can help to prevent this by not only applying cream or oil to the most frequently affected areas on a regular basis, but also by undergoing a plucking massage. So always grasp small areas of skin with your fingers and pluck lightly.
The principle of microneedling is also available in a slimmed-down version for use at home: so-called derma rollers are hand rollers studded with wafer-thin needles with which you yourself should treat the affected areas. However, these devices are far from being as effective as the medical instruments – and because you cannot sterilize at home, there is a greater risk of infection.
Try to accept your stretch marks
Always remember: Stretch marks are nothing to be ashamed of! Every second woman is affected and has to find a way to deal with it.
Artist Sara Shakeel has found a method that proves that stretch marks don’t have to be an optical flaw and artfully stages her stripes on her Instagram account. Other women follow this example as well. Two American women created the Instagram Account “Love your lines”, on which women from all over the world show photos of their bodies after pregnancy or after a major weight loss.
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Of course you can do something about stretch marks if it is worth the effort and cost. But don’t fight with nature, accept your body as it is! Stretch marks are just a reminder that he has done great things!
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