If misery loves company, stretch marks are the hit of the pity party. Catalog the most common skin lesions and stretch marks is the premier listing. Comfort yourself at your child's next play-date with the knowledge that on top of the up to 70 percent of women who don't even make it to adulthood unscathed, 90 percent of pregnant women get a bundle of stretch marks with their bundle of joy.
Think the guys are getting off easy? 40 percent of men don't make it through adolescence without the battle scars of rapid growth. Oddly, for such a pervasive problem, the fixes virtually all come with the caveat that they won't "cure" the problem, only incrementally improve their appearance at best. No need to simply give up however. Incremental improvement is still improvement and with a little camouflage you may be able to fake flawless skin altogether.
First, let's talk prevention in case you've managed to make it this far without a stretch mark. Think overall skin health.
1. Eat a balanced diet rich in fruits and vegetables, good fats (olive oil, rich fish like salmon, nut oils), whole grains, and water, water, and more water for hydration.
2. Keep fried, sugary, nutrient-stripped, and over-processed food off your plate.
3. Get some exercise to keep the blood flowing and skin functioning at its peak.
4. Add to that regimen regular moisturizing to keep skin supple (focus on hips, thighs, breasts, buttocks, and abdomen the favored haunts of stretch marks) and you've at least done what you can to give your skin a fighting chance and try to overcome heredity (yep, if you're mom has stretch marks they are more likely to be your legacy as well).
That said, slathering on all the topical moisturizers in the world aren't going to keep you from getting a stretch marks because in reality, these stria (their clinical name) develop deep in the dermis layer of your skin before they ever surface. What happens is at certain times in our lives (adolescence, when you're pregnant, while piling on the pounds, or pumping up with heavy weight lifting) a hormone called glucocorticoid is being pumped into your system at higher levels than at other times.
Glucocorticoid disrupts the formation of collagen and elastin fibers (the scaffolding that keeps skin firm). When that scaffolding is lacking the skin microscopically tears resulting in a stretch mark. They generally are reddish at first (miniscule capillaries burst within the tear) and after passing through a bluish-purplish phase, fade over time to a silvery streak. How you go about treating them depends on what stage they are in.
If you notice the stretch marks when they are still red, you have the best chance of improving their appearance. Either get to your dermatologist for a prescription of Retin-A, start a vitamin C serum regimen, or grab a tube of the scar softener Mederma and use it religiously. If you expect instant results, you'll be disappointed. You'll pass through several seasons before making an impact. If you're pregnant or nursing, pass on the Retin-A.
If you missed the initial red stage and the marks have already faded in color, bundling products aimed at stimulating the collagen may make an impact. Consider a routine that introduces various products that work syngergistically. Try applying a super-moisturizing glycolic acid cream such as DERMAdoctor KP Duty Dermatologist Moisturizing Therapy For Dry Skin every other night, alternating with a retinol containing product like DERMAdoctor Poetry In Lotion intensive retinol 1.0 or Afirm 3X (or a prescription version like Retin-A or Renova) to tackle the marks. (The retinoid should be not be used by women who are pregnant or nursing). Every morning, apply a skin-firming vitamin C serum like Cellex-C Advanced-C Serum.
Microdermabrasion (basically skin-safe sandblasting performed by a trained person) treatments may also stimulate the underlying collagen lessening the appearance of stretch marks. Likewise, using a home microdermabrasion treatment such as DermaNew Total Body Experience Kit or Dr. Brandt Microdermabrasion Exfoliating Face Cream or combining an AHA chemical peel with a microdermabrasion treatment such as DERMAdoctor Physical Chemistry Facial Microdermabrasion + Multiacid Chemical Peel can enhance your result; just don't try to scrub them away. Slow and steady over time. What you're trying to do is speed up the cell renewal so the damaged fibers can be replaced by new ones).
If you have the means, there is some evidence that laser therapy can help. Depending on the stage the stretch mark is in, laser treatments can either fade a red mark, stimulate pigment production in a silvery streak, or boost the production of collage to help plump up the indentation of a stretch mark.
Not to disappoint, but no matter how successful the treatments are, like any scar, there will be a hint that it was there. Don't chase the dream of pre-puberty skin. But don't give up either. Add camouflage to your routine and you may get near flawless results.
Since you're already lubricating your skin with a moisturizer to head off more damage, use one with a hint of self tanner. Unlike baking in the sun which further damages collagen, self tanners can visually even out the appearance of your skin so the silvery marks aren't as visible. Liquid body foundations (such as Dermablend) can also mask marks with super-pigmented formulations that are also super-long lasting.
For the complete self tanner experience, consider using Rodial Brazilian Tan - DARK or go all-out for the home-use GlowFusion AirGlow Airbrush Gun System. A final option - why not get bronzed and beautiful when applying your sunscreen? MD Skincare All-In-One Tinted Moisturizer Sunscreen SPF 15 provides color to match your skin tone and a broad spectrum SPF 30, too.
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