If you’re noticing stretch marks on your body, you’re not alone. Whether they’re caused by pregnancy or weight gain, one thing’s for sure: No woman wants them. Ninety per cent of pregnant women will get stretch marks that show up on their breasts, thighs, hips and butt.
Expecting mothers produce hormones that soften the ligaments in the pelvis so that they are more flexible during birth. Ligaments are strong bands of tissue that hold joints together. However, these hormones also soften the fibres of the skin, making one prone to stretch marks.
Stretch marks are also a common and normal part of puberty when girls and guys grow and develop. Stretch marks usually occur when bone growths outpace muscle and soft tissue growths. The skin is usually fairly elastic, but when it’s overstretched it can result in a scar, or stretch mark.
These scars can be caused by an increase of cortisol in your system. Cortisol is a hormone that is naturally produced by the adrenal glands that are located on the top of each kidney. This stress hormone is known to make the skin lose its elasticity.
People who are obese or gain weight quickly over a short period of time is a common cause of excessive stress on the body. If you need to lose weight, it’s important to do it slowly by eating a healthy diet and getting plenty of regular exercise. Experts agree that one should not lose more than 0.5kg a week.
It’s important to add light stretching exercises to your daily routine. Exercise improves circulation and skin elasticity as well as tightens and tones muscles. Drinking water and keeping the skin well hydrated will help keep the skin elastic. Dry skin has much less elasticity.
A healthy, balanced diet that is rich in vitamins and minerals, particularly vitamin C, vitamin E, and the minerals zinc and silicon is important to keep the skin healthy. These nutrients stimulate collagen production, which has been shown to help prevent the development of stretch marks.
Massaging your skin every day with stretch mark-reducing moisturisers can help improve circulation and encourage new tissue growth as well. Apply to the skin at least twice a day. If you’re really worried about stretch marks, talk to your doctor about prescription retinoid creams.
Stretch marks can be associated with genetics but that point of view only prevents women from taking proactive steps in their lifestyles. Being proactive is better than reactive when it comes to preventing stretch marks.
Dr Cory Couillard is an international health columnist that works in collaboration with the World Health Organization’s goals of disease prevention and global health care education.
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