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Stretch Marks: Treatment and Prevention Beyond Pregnancy

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Treating Stretch Marks, Laser Skin Resurfacing

Stretch Marks: Treatment and Prevention Beyond Pregnancy

December 11, 2008

By: Laurie Edwards for Scars1
 
Most often when we hear about stretch marks the conversation involves pregnancy. As many mothers can attest to, the stretch marks remain behind long after the baby is born. Despite their popularity, research suggests many over-the-counter lotions aren’t effective in treating stretch marks. However, there are ways you can help prevent stretch marks from occurring in the first place.
 
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Tips on Healthy Skin:

Immature red stretch marks may respond better to some treatments than older, white scars so if you’re concerned about your stretch marks, discuss options with your physician as early as possible.

Your complexion matters – some treatments are not recommended for people with darker skin, so be sure to talk to your doctor.

Hydration is important for your skin, especially if you’re pregnant – drinking up to two liters of water a day is recommended.
 
While stretch marks are certainly common during pregnancy, other conditions contribute to their appearance, too. Anytime the skin is stretched abnormally, whether from the rapid weight gain of pregnancy, obesity, extreme weight loss or even growth spurts, the thin red parallel lines can occur. Conditions like Cushing’s disease or diabetes also contribute to their formation, and so can certain medications. For some people, hormonal changes or heredity may contribute to their formation as well.
 
Of course, between the impact of pregnancy, obesity or rapid weight loss, the abdominal area is a common place for stretch marks. They can also found on the hips, flank, thighs and buttocks. Over time, the red or purple lines fade, eventually turning white or gray and more scar-like.
 
Let’s Talk About Treatment
The reason stretch marks are a source of frustration for many is that they are permanent. Once the deeper dermis layer of the skin is damaged by stretching, it fails to bounce back and regain its former elasticity.
 
The fact that the dermis is damaged is the reason that heavily-touted treatments like cocoa butter and other lotions aren’t effective in diminishing stretch marks. These topical treatments don’t reach the deeper layer of skin. Other treatment options like chemical peels, dermabrasion or laser therapy do not remove the marks altogether, but can work to even out the skin’s surface and make stretch marks less obvious.
 
Stretch marks are a cosmetic annoyance but do not represent a serious health threat on their own. Some are more noticeable than others, and the level of treatment you seek depends on how much of a disruption they present. Be sure to consult with your physician as well as your insurance company about the appropriate treatment – not all plans cover cosmetic procedures like the ones used to treat stretch marks, and treatments may not be all that effective.
 
Prevention is Preferable
Maintaining a stable weight is obviously an ideal preventive measure. But for many, particularly those who are pregnant or going through a natural growth spurt, that option simply isn’t feasible. The next best thing you can do is to keep skin as hydrated and elastic as possible. In addition to drinking plenty of water, you may also want to discuss a safe pregnancy exercise program – staying active increases circulation and helps skin stay more elastic as it expands.
 
Nutrition is also an important factor. For example, foods that are rich in vitamin C and vitamin E help the body form collagen, the glue-like protein that gives skin its shape. Eating more citrus fruits, vegetables like broccoli and potatoes or nuts and sunflower seeds are easy ways to include these nutrients.
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