The truth about stretch marks (and how to avoid them.)
Growing a teeny new person is hard work. Whilst it is soooo worth it, pregnancy puts your body under a huge amount of strain and comes with a whole host of undesirable side effects. One of which – stretch marks – ranks high up on most people’s list of top pregnancy peeves.
What actually are stretch marks?
‘Striae’ – stretch marks to you and me – are caused by extreme skin growth or shrinkage and can appear as red or purple lines under the surface of your skin, eventually fading to silvery lines. They usually appear on your hips, bottom, stomach, thighs or chest.
The skin consists of three key layers: epidermis (the outer layer), dermis (the middle layer) and subcutaneous or hypodermis (the deepest layer). Stretch marks form in the dermis when the connective tissue is “stretched” beyond the limits of its elasticity due to rapid expansion or contraction of the skin from sudden growth or weight gain. The abrupt stretching causes the dermis to tear which allows deeper skin layers to show through, forming the stretch marks. It’s estimated that between 50 and 90 percent of women who are pregnant experience stretchmarks during or after birth.
Why do some people get stretch marks and not others?
Your likelihood of getting stretch marks is all down to your skin’s elasticity which is partly hereditary. If your parents and grandparents were prone to stretch marks your chance of getting them will be higher to begin with. Our science-bod friends over at Evergreen Life have developed a clever test which can indicate how likely you are to get stretch marks. Their at home DNA skin testing kits test against 21 different genetic markers, three of those can indicate your likelihood of getting stretch marks.
Head over to our Cosatto Facebook page to win 2 DNA kits, one for you… one for a friend. Alternatively find out more about the kits over at Evergreen Life
How your genes affect your likelihood of stretch marks (aka the science bit!)
There are many genetic markers in your DNA that are associated with your likelihood for developing stretch marks. The ELN gene makes a protein called elastin that is a major component of the elastic fibres in the skin. Elastin provides reversible extensibility to the skin and connective tissues, meaning skin remains smooth and tight. Variations in this gene can result in a loss of mature elastin, leading to sagging skin and may also contribute to the development of stretch marks.
What can you do about stretch marks?
There are a few things you can do to help your skin avoid them in the first place. As stretch marks are permanent changes to your skin’s structure once you have them they are here to stay although their appearance can be reduced.
1 – Stay hydrated. Drink plenty of water. Stretch marks are less likely to appear when you have soft, well hydrated skin.
2 – Follow a healthy nutrient rich diet. Making sure you incorporate a wide variety of foods into your daily diet so that your body gets all the vitamins it needs to maintain skin elasticity. In particular keep an eye out to make sure you are getting…
- Vitamin C. This helps in the body’s natural collagen production so make sure you’re not lacking vit C.
- Vitamin D. One study found a correlation between low levels of vitamin D and the incidence of stretch marks. More research is needed, but results suggest that maintaining healthy levels of vitamin D may reduce your risk of stretch marks. The easiest way to get vitamin D is through exposure to the sun. The vitamin is also commonly added to bread, cereal, and dairy products like milk or yogurt.
- Zinc is an important nutrient for skin health. It helps reduce inflammation and plays a role in the wound healing process. There is very little evidence to date of a connection between zinc and stretch marks, but including zinc-rich foods in your diet, such as nuts and fish, may help keep your skin healthy.
3 – Creams. Topical solutions have often been found to produce varied results, however, there is some evidence to suggest that products containing vitamin E, hydroxyprolisilane C, centella, retinoic acid and rosehip oil may aid in the prevention of stretch marks. Also, in the case of existing stretch marks, massaging the skin may also help to reduce their appearance. Boosting blood flow to the area can stimulate the cells and promote healing.
There are lots of products on the market but a couple of mummy favourites are:
Bio Oil – a cult favourite this is rich in natural ingredients like Vitamin A, Vitamin E, Calendula , Lavender Oil, Rosemary Oil, and Chamomile Oil.
Cocoa Butter – blend of pure Cocoa Butter, Vitamin E, Shea Butter and Bio C-Elaste®. Bio C-Elaste® is a powerful combination of Collagen, Elastin, Centella Asiatica, Sweet Almond Oil and Argan Oil.
5 – Collagen supplements. Collagen plays an important role in skin elasticity and levels naturally decline with age. Taking a supplement can help give these levels a boost and could improve your skin elasticity. This might be something you want to look into further. Remember to check with your doctor before starting any new supplement during pregnancy as there can be side effects.
Don’t stress it.
Whilst it can be upsetting to see the angry red marks appearing remember they will eventually fade to feint silvery lines. Most people get them and they are completely normal. Asos have been widely praised after they stopped airbrushing stretch marks on their models. Yes even models have them.
Pregnancy is a miracle and those little lines that now grace your bod are the battle scars that tell the world you’re a mumma.