Stretch marks: most people have them…nobody likes them. Known to dermatologists as striae, stretch marks are scars that develop when your skin has to accommodate rapid growth. Often first appearing as reddish or purple lines on your thighs, hips, or belly, stretch marks fade over time but, like any scar, may never disappear completely.
Why do we get stretch marks? Your skin stays supple thanks to the proteins elastin and collagen, but when it becomes overstretched during puberty, pregnancy, or times of sudden weight gain and hormonal imbalance, the dermis layer of your skin tears and stretch marks form. Women are particularly prone, but stretch marks also commonly plague obese people of both genders.Your personal susceptibility to developing stretch marks is mostly genetic, and unfortunately, there’s no way to completely prevent them. Don’t waste your hopes or money on lotions and creams; stretch marks form from within and nothing you apply topically can counteract the process (if only that weren’t true!).
The good news is that you can boost your defenses against stretch marks by eating foods and leading a lifestyle that help the skin to maintain its elasticity. Even better, these measures are excellent for all other aspects of your health, too!
Eat foods that boost collagen production: Enjoy foods rich in vitamins C, B, and E, all of which contribute to collagen formation. Good (and delicious) options include citrus fruits, green leafy vegetables, and nuts and seeds. Check out the other foods you should eat for your skin this summer!
Get plenty of exercise: Regular physical activity improves circulation and promotes the elasticity of skin. New research shows that a regular exercise routine even can undo signs of aging!
Stay well hydrated: Drinking plenty of water is one of the best things you can do to strengthen and renew your skin. Plus, staying well hydrated boosts your immune system, energizes muscles, and improves digestion.
Once you have stretch marks, the most common ways to reduce their appearance are decidedly unnatural—both laser treatments and applying topical retinoids stimulate collagen growth and speed up cell turnover.
However, exciting research also points to the effectiveness of mixing onion extract and hyaluronic acid, a carbohydrate that is naturally found throughout the human body. Some people also swear by the topical application of vitamin E, though it’s unsupported by research.
Finally, perhaps the most important point to keep in mind is that although your stretch marks may never magically change, your outlook on them can. Try to accept them and even embrace them! Think of it this way: your body is your vehicle through life, and as time passes, it leaves physical marks as mementos of the experiences you’ve had, places you’ve gone, and people you’ve loved. Some women value their pregnancy stretch marks as badges of motherhood and a symbol of their love and sacrifice for their children. And never forget the old cliché—true beauty comes from within!