Stretch Marks

Your skin is usually fairly elastic, but when you grow or gain weight really quickly (like during pregnancy), you may get fine lines on your body called stretch marks.

What is it?

Stretch marks are purple-red streaky scars that appear in overstretched skin. Around half of all pregnant women will develop stretch marks (striae gravidarum), usually in the third trimester, as the abdominal skin is forced to accommodate the growing uterus. Some pregnant women also develop stretch marks on the breasts, hips, buttocks and thighs. Another common cause of stretch marks is rapid weight gain. Depending on the skin type, fresh stretch marks can be pink, purple, brown or red. Over time, the stretch marks lose their bright colouring and become silvery, shimmering lines.

What causes it?

Stretch marks are caused when the skin is stretched to the point of breaking down, similar to elastic losing its' elasticity. Losing collagen and elastin in the skin causes stretch marks, loss of tone, fine lines and wrinkles. When there is a breakdown or loss of elastin and collagen fibers or excessive stretching in the skin, the mark actually shows through to the epidermis (top layer of skin).

Stretch marks often occur in the normal course of development especially in women. They are frequently aggravated by rapid growth, pregnancy, hormones and some other natural causes. Severe stretch marks can be caused by some medications including steroids such as cortisone. Stretch marks are weaknesses in the supporting structure of the skin causing layers of the skin to separate leaving the skin grooved and discolored. Stretch marks develop when the skin is excessively stretched during pregnancy, weight gain or growth spurts. Dermal collagen is damaged and blood vessel dilation results in the formation of red or purple-colored early stretch marks. Inflammation and collagen remodeling may lead to the loss of pigment-producing melanocyte cells or obscuring of melanin pigment. Over time, this lack of pigment results in the white or hypopigmented scars that most people associate with mature stretch marks.

What are the symptoms?

The evolution of a stretch mark includes:

  • The skin is stretched beyond its capacity.
  • The underlying tissue tears.
  • The body responds by forming scar tissue.
  • The fresh stretch mark looks pink, red, brown or purple.
  • Over time, the colour fades.
  • The stretch mark becomes a shimmering, silvery line.
  • The silvery line may look slightly indented.
  • The scar is permanent..

Are there any natural therapies?

If you develop stretch marks easily, you may be deficient in the mineral zinc which is essential for skin repaif, and vitamin C may also need to be implemented as it helps to maintain the skin's elasticity through its role in collagen production.

What else can I do?

  • Eat sensibly to avoid gaining excess body fat.
  • Eat a highly nutritious diet to maintain the health of your skin.
  • Wear a supportive maternity bra throughout pregnancy.

Did you know?

Once a stretch mark has developed, it is permanent – no amount of massage will make it disappear.