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Stretch marks are streaks that appear on the skin due to weight gain, weight loss, exercise, pregnancy, or other conditions that may cause your skin to stretch. They are scars that may develop due to the rupture of collagen and elastin cells that bind the skin. (1)
Some stretch marks fade with time, while others may last forever. They tend to be red, brown, or purple depending on your skin color. (2)
Take a deeper look at why they occur and how to treat them.
Causes of Stretch Marks
Stretch marks may occur due to a variety of reasons. The most common ones are:
Ways to Prevent or Reduce Stretch Marks
Here are some ways to prevent and reduce stretch marks on your skin.
1. Apply aloe vera
Aloe vera gel is filled with antioxidants, such as vitamin C, and also contains many anti-inflammatory properties. It can help in skin regeneration and fading stretch marks. (5)
Apply fresh aloe vera gel to your stretch marks by extracting it from aloe leaves. Wash it off after 15–20 minutes.
Alternatively, mix the gel with oil extracted from 5–10 vitamin E and vitamin A capsules. Apply this paste to the affected area, leave it on for 20 minutes, and then wash it off.
2. Try sweet almond and coconut oils
Oils extracted from nuts have potent moisturizing properties. They can help lighten stretch marks by moisturizing the skin and nourishing them with antioxidants and nutrients required for skin regeneration. (6)
3. Consume enough vitamin A
Vitamin A is an essential nutrient required for the growth and repair of body tissues. (7) It helps moisturize the skin and increase its oil content.
Get vitamin A from your diet by consuming animal products such as organ meats, eggs, and fish; green vegetables such as broccoli, spinach, and turnip greens; and fruits such as red bell peppers, oranges, and papayas.
4. Apply hyaluronic acid creams
Hyaluronic acid is a polysaccharide that helps stimulate collagen production and hydrate the skin. It helps increase skin elasticity and prevent stretch marks from forming. (8)
Use a hyaluronic acid cream to lessen stretch marks and prevent scarring. (9)
5. Apply gotu kola creams
Gotu kola is a herb known by different names around the world. It has been traditionally used in Asian medicinal practices to promote skin healing from different conditions.
Gotu kola can increase collagen production and make your skin stronger.
Apply gotu kola-based creams to your skin directly. (10)
6. Use egg whites
Eggs are rich in protein and amino acids, both of which can encourage collagen production in the skin and promote healing and repair. (11)
Take two egg whites and whip them till you see soft peaks. Apply this to your stretch marks using a brush or sponge. Let it dry completely before rinsing it off with cold water.
Moisturize your skin afterward, or massage a few drops of olive oil on the area.
7. Eat foods that promote collagen development
Your body produces collagen naturally, but consuming certain foods can help increase its levels in the body. These include lean meats, fruits that contain amino acids, and green leafy vegetables.
8. Drink plenty of water
Keeping your skin moisturized is necessary to avoid scarring and stretch marks. Healthy, hydrated skin tends to heal sooner. (13)
Hydrated skin is also properly nourished, encouraging collagen growth, which supports skin health and prevents scars and stretch marks.
9. Keep your weight gain or weight loss slow and steady
Rapid weight gain or weight loss is one of the leading causes of stretch marks. (1) If you are trying to build muscle or lose weight, follow a proper schedule and plan to change your weight slowly and steadily.
Who’s at Risk for Stretch Marks?
Certain factors can make you more prone to developing stretch marks. These include:
- Pregnancy: Stretch marks may appear on a pregnant woman’s belly and breasts when they rapidly increase in size.
- Weight lifting: Weight lifters tend to use supplements for muscle growth. This, combined with lifting heavy weights, can promote rapid muscle development and cause stretch marks in certain areas such as the buttocks and thighs.
- Puberty: Teenagers tend to go through phases of rapid growth during puberty, which may cause stretch marks.
- Weight gain or loss: Rapid weight loss or gain can cause the skin to contract or expand quickly, leading to stretch marks.
When to See a Doctor
If you have spent a lot of money on OTC treatments and have not seen results, visit a dermatologist’s office for medical treatments that are more effective than gels or creams.
Stretch marks are a very normal and common phenomenon. They tend to occur more often in women after pregnancy and childbirth.
It is important to remember that your stretch marks do not make you less attractive and are not a defining feature of your body. However, if they make you constantly feel insecure about yourself, you can try the treatments given above to lessen them.