Although stretch marks present no health risk, they are not especially aesthetically pleasing, and can be difficult for sufferers to accept. What is behind this phenomenon which affects both women and men? How can they be prevented and what can be done to make them less visible after they appear?
What are Stretch Marks?
Stretch marks have a marbled appearance and are most often found on the hips, buttocks, thighs and breasts. They are the damage which occurs when the skin is subjected to too much tension. Skin elasticity reaches its limit in a particular place, and the deep collagen fibres ultimately break and leave a depressed mark. They are generally purple in colour just after the fibres break, and then progressively take on a pink tone, finally becoming white after a few months.
This skin damage can occur for a number of reasons:
- Significant and sudden weight gain: excess tension is exerted on the skin and the elastic fibres give way.
- Hormonal changes: during periods of significant growth, such as adolescence, the skin becomes more fragile rather than becoming accustomed to the growth. Skin tension is created in the places the body is developing fastest, mainly on the buttocks, thighs and chest in women.
- Elevated cortisol levels in the blood - this can occur following cortisone therapy or illness.
Prevention is the Best Cure
It is obviously difficult in some cases to get around circumstances that arise against our will. Nevertheless, it is possible to take steps to reduce the risk of stretch marks appearing:
- Avoid “yo-yo” diets, which can lead to sudden weight gain.
- During pregnancy, it is recommended to receive “palpate-roll” massages, which have a comforting effect on the skin and stimulate the production of collagen.
- Cortisone treatments are not recommended unless prescribed by a doctor.
- Avoid stress, which is bad for your health and your skin!
- Sunbathing should be avoided as much as possible, but it may be prescribed when stretch marks first appear.
- Practicing sport has a beneficial effect – it firms up the muscles beneath the skin.
Methods for Reducing Stretch Mark Visibility
Once stretch marks have appeared, it is unfortunately impossible to make them disappear entirely – they are irreversible. However, there are techniques which can minimise their appearance.
It is right at the start, while the stretch marks are still purplish in colour, that it is easiest to obtain results. It is therefore recommended to consult a dermatologist as soon as possible so that the right treatment for each occurrence and skin type can be determined.
- Creams which are applied twice daily with massaging motions can improve the elasticity of damaged skin (Product: Famenpax Stretch Marks – Lehning).
- Peel or micro-dermabrasion treatments are sometimes offered by dermatologists. These are surface treatments which have the advantage of eliminating dead cells and restoring firmness to the skin.
- Laser treatment boosts the production of fibres and improves aesthetic appearance. Laser sessions are not reimbursed by French social security and must be repeated in order to obtain the best results.