Positive test. Great news! Once you confirm you’re pregnant, the whirlwind of emotions, cravings, moodswings, and what seems as unending race to gain weight, starts. You know many of these symptoms will end once you deliver your bundle of joy, but it is probably those that will stick with you after that big day, that worry us women the most. For me, it was stretch marks that gave me nightmares. I searched everywhere for that magic potion that would give my skin that added je ne sais pas quoi that would allow it to stretch, but just without leaving traces. The first few months there’s not much to worry, it is after that 25th week that things start to expand and you start to notice changes in your skin. Let’s try to understand what Stretch marks are and how we can diminish their appearance and better yet, lower our chances of getting them.
What are stretch marks anyways?
Stretch marks are scars formed on the outer layer of the skin as a result of its sudden overstretching. They usually start reddish or even purple in color depending of the skin tone, but usually fade over time to a silvery white tone. In a nutshell, what happens is that due to stretching of the layers of the skin, the second layer (the famous dermis) interrupts its normal production of collagen which is what allows the skin to stretch. With less collagen in the skin, it is more prone to rupture as it stretches beyond its limit.
How are stretch marks formed?
As you already know, stretch marks start on the second layer of the skin, the dermis. When there’s sudden weight gain, this layer stretches beyond its normal limits, causing it to open up and show the layer underneath. We can compare it to baking a cake or a loaf of bread; when it rises, the top cracks a little bit and you can see the inside. Now imagine you wrap the cake/loaf it in surround wrap; those long, curvy, deep fissures you can see thru the clear surround wrap, are the “stretch marks.” If you touch them gently, you’ll be able to feel the thin layer of plastic wrap (epidermis) and the “hole” underneath.
Who’s prone to stretch marks?
Apparently there’s a genetic predisposition to stretch marks, if your grandma or mother had them, you may be more likely to have them.
Women are more affected by them (roughly 70%), although around 40% of men develop them at some point.
Stretch marks are more likely to appear after rapid weight gain/loss in the belly, arms, breasts, buttocks and thigh area.
Pregnant women in their 3rd trimester start seeing them in their mid-low belly.
Is there a way to prevent them?
We hate to be the bearer of bad news, but the short answer is that No, you can’t completely avoid having them if you are in the wrong side of genetics. I know, I know,…lets take a minute….deep breath….BUT here’s the good news: you can help your body maintain elasticity, eat foods that promote collagen production and do topical treatments that help diminish the appearance of already existing ones. Good enough? Let’s go one by one:
Helping your body maintain its elasticity
There are many things you can do to help your body cope with age and stress, drinking plenty of water is probably the one that must be mentioned first. Just like in our cake example above, if you don’t have enough liquid in the batter, the cake will crack and look dry right away. Let’s avoid that, drink a lot of water. What’s a lot? About 8- 8oz glasses (or 2 liters) per day is what’s recommended. Another important one to mention is the temperature of the water on your skincare routine; are you doing it under nice hot hot water in hopes it will help your skin? Well, let’s stop that immediately. Hot water has been proven damaging and drying on your skin. It also opens up the pores more than needed, leaving your skin prone to bacteria and absorbing those harmful free radicals much quicker. Lukewarm and even a tad colder is perfect. Also Apply a cream filled with antioxidants, Argan oil is one of the oils with the highest concentration of antioxidants in the world. Apply it on your skin morning and night, and before your makeup if you use it. Argan nourishes your skin and helps boost the production of collagen. You can even mix it in with your current day/night creams and get even better results. Check out Ormana, a skincare line that is already Argan based and pairs perfectly with Aynara.
Last but not least, a body in movement is a healthy beautiful body. Ideally 30 minutes per day of cardiovascular activity increases circulation and oxygenation, and helps with overall health, including skin texture. Do what you can, we know you’re busy and it is hard to get exercise during busy days, but try your best, a little bit is better than nothing.
Eat foods that promote the production of Collagen
Fish is loaded with healthy Omega 3s, eat generous amounts of Salmon or Sardines for a boost of this wonderful essential fatty acid.
Red vegetables have lycopene in them, which ingested in nice amounts (6+ servings per day- one salad and a couple of red fruits will do the trick) act as a natural sunblock, protecting the skin of free radicals, which are causing your skin to age prematurely, while also promoting the production of collagen.
Orange fruits and veggies which are loaded with Vitamin A to help restore collagen that has already been damaged.
Berries eat away free radicals while boosting the production of collagen. Also, citrus fruits like oranges and grapefruits have vitamin C which promotes collagen production.
Argan oil can improve the elasticity of the skin. We know by now that the skin is the largest organ of the body, it absorbs nutrients and releases toxins effectively. To use it daily, warm 2-3 drops (per area) of pure argan oil in the palm of your hands and gently rub your stomach, hips, thighs or any other potential problem areas.
The vitamin A and vitamin E will help to rejuvenate the skin while moisturizing it, making stretch marks less likely to form. If you already have a stretch mark or two (or six), start by making an argan oil and brown sugar paste to use as an exfoliating cream. Massage it into the affected areas before your next bath. Rinse well and apply the oil to the affected areas prior to dressing. The sugar will help remove the dead skin cells and promote newer ones to grow underneath, it will also help prepare the skin to absorb the Argan nutrients more effectively.
There are stubborn stretch marks that will still show even if you follow all these recommendations. If you really feel like you need to get rid of them, let us mention two treatments that may be for you: Microdemabrasion, as its name suggest, micro-derm-abrasion “damages” the top layer of the skin when it’s polished with crystals which are then vacuumed out together with the dead skin cells, giving the skin underneath an opportunity to regenerate. It is like an exfoliation, but many times more profound and unlike the harmless yet effective Argan-sugar scrub, microdermabrasion may cause a little bit of discomfort and leave the area irritated after the treatment. This treatment is most effective on early scars, the red or dark colored ones.
Laser treatments is another option that is proven to reduce the appearance of stretch marks. It is most effective on scars that have become that silvery white in color. By sending wavelengths of light into the skin, lasers stimulate the production of Collagen, Elastin or Melanin, which significantly improves the appearance of stretch marks.
They key seems to be to nourish the body from within, drink plenty of water, maintain a healthy lifestyle, keep argan oil handy and the one factor we cannot control, not to have family history of stretch marks.
If you already have some, try the exfoliating paste and argan oil massages and let us know how your skin feels.
More important than anything, love the skin you’re in, it will love you right back.