How To Get Rid Of Pregnancy Stretch Marks
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Oh, those dreaded stretch marks.
Many women spend their entire pregnancy inspecting their expanding stomachs for the first signs of their tiger stripes.
They apply every lotion and cream, drink all the teas, and take every bit of their mama’s advice, only to wake up one morning with the fresh pink beginnings (or itchings) of the inevitable.
The market is saturated with creams and lotions promising you their worth. There is even an option to have your stretch marks removed via laser treatment! And if you’ve been on Pinterest, everybody and their mother have the secret “cure”.
Baseline is, if you love your tiger stripes, you go girl! But if you’re here to find out more about stretch marks and what you can do to get rid of them, read on. You’ve come to the right place.
First things first, what are stretch marks?
Stretch marks are actually a type of scar that develops when your skin stretches (or shrinks) too quickly. Basically, they are tiny tears in the skin (it sounds more painful than it is). Depending on your skin color, they can be pink, reddish, purple or brown, and eventually white.
If you want a super scientific explanation, here ya go:
The skin is made of three layers, and stretch marks form in the middle layer (aka the dermis) when the connective tissue is pushed to its limits; usually due to rapid expansion or contraction of your skin.
Stretch marks can develop on your breasts, stomach, thighs, butt, and hips, to name a few places. Essentially anywhere that weight may fluctuate.
Stretch marks are insanely common! On average, 50-90 percent of pregnant women get stretch marks because of their pregnancy.
Are stretch marks permanent?
Do you want the good news or the bad news first?
I’m personally a bad-news-first kinda gal, so you’re stuck with that.
Bad news: Yes, they are permanent *insert sad face here*.
Good news: They fade. Naturally.
Along with their tendency to fade naturally, there are a ton of treatments out there to help speed the process along.
So, what causes stretch marks?
Pregnancy is known as a time of great expansion. Your boobs, belly, and butt grow so quickly that your skin has a hard time keeping up.
Having a big baby or twins? You’re more likely to get stretch marks because of how far and quickly your skin will expand.
There are three main causes for stretch marks in pregnancy:
Does your mama have stretch marks? If so, mentally prepare yourself for those gloriously itchy lines to make their appearance.
Elastin is an elastic protein in the connective tissue that helps the skin return to its original condition after being stretched. So, if your mom lacks elastin, it’s likely that you will too.
The apple doesn’t fall far from the tree, ya know.
- Rapid weight gain
Women don't typically start to "show" until about 20 weeks. This means the last five months of pregnancy is when most women will put on those 30-60 pounds. Women who are expecting multiples are more prone to stretch marks because they tend to gain more weight during pregnancy. If you want to maintain a healthy weight during pregnancy, focus on eating nutritious foods.
- Hormones, man
Let’s think back to our adolescent years...
Ah, puberty. Our first round of an emotional rollercoaster.
Hormones in pregnancy are crazy, just like hormones in puberty (am I right or am I right?) Think of puberty as a pre-test to how your skin will handle pregnancy. Since hormones increase the fragility of your skin, you’re more likely to get stretch marks during pregnancy if you got them in puberty.
Can you get rid of stretch marks naturally?
Aside from your mom’s friend’s daughter claiming her home remedy worked, there isn’t any research to back-up those Pinterest finds.
“Few to none of the items touted to prevent or fix stretch marks really work,” says Frank Wang, M.D., assistant professor and a dermatologist at the University of Michigan Health System. “Most of the existing products aren’t based on solid scientific research.”
So then, what are the best products to get rid of stretch marks?
Ah, the golden question.
The short answer is there is no one best product.
But you aren’t here for short answers, are you?
The main answer I’ve found is to moisturize that skin, girl! It’s also a great way to prevent stretch marks in the first place.
My favorite product is Burt’s Bees Belly Butter. I used it religiously with my first pregnancy and I will say that I got through that entire pregnancy without stretch marks - but I did have some show up after delivery. However, they were barely visible. Plus, it smells absolutely delicious.
I’ve also heard that self-tanner works because it helps camouflage your stretch marks with the rest of your skin. I haven’t personally tried this for this reason, but I do use Jergen’s Natural Glow during the summer months.
Moving on from moisturizing, you can also find over the counter creams that contain retinoids. Retinoids, more specifically tretinoin, help rebuild collagen in skin and can majorly reduce the appearance of stretch marks.
However, if you are pregnant or breastfeeding make sure to talk to your doctor first because possible side effects can affect your baby.
I’ve heard about laser stretch mark removal. What’s up with that?
Laser therapy is considered the most effective way to get rid of stretch marks, or at least fade them into non-existence.
Laser stretch mark removal is a minimally-invasive and non-toxic therapy that uses infrared and visible light to repair and regenerate skin cells. These forms of laser therapy let your skin heal itself, which is what makes them safe and easy to do.
There are two different methods for laser removal: ablative and non-ablative.
Ablative laser therapy breaks down the top layer of skin, which leaves room for the healthier skin underneath to replace it. The new skin will be smoother in both texture and appearance.
Non-ablative laser therapy doesn’t break down the top layer of your skin. This therapy uses an ultra-thin laser to reach into the deeper layer of skin, prompting collagen growth, which in turn heals the damaged areas.
Both treatments are quick, taking between 30 and 90 minutes depending on the type of laser used. Dr. Todd Plott, a dermatologist in Texas, states “This procedure doesn’t take long and offers immediate recovery. In fact, you should be ready for whatever your day holds as soon as you leave the office.”
More often than not, multiple treatments are needed to achieve the desired results from laser therapy. Plott says “Once treatments begin, patients can expect 3-6 treatments, one month apart to see their desired results.”
How can I prevent stretch marks in the first place?
The APA states the best defense against stretch marks is to make sure your skin retains its elasticity. This means keeping your skin well-hydrated supple at all times during pregnancy.
Here are a few other tricks that can help prevent stretch marks:
- Guac up!
Eating food high in Vitamin E and C, zinc, and silica may help reduce your chance of stretch marks because they help your skin form collagen. Vitamin C is also an antioxidant that helps protect your skin from tissue damage. Some foods you should be adding to your grocery list are: avocado, nuts, leafy greens, mango, and oranges.
- Hydrate yo self
I know, I know.
Drinking water can seem like a chore when you’re pregnant and having a baby who thinks your bladder is a trampoline doesn’t make it any easier.
Drinking around 2 liters a day is a must for pregnant women, though. Not only can it keep your glowing pregnancy skin, well, glowy, but it also helps make sure your organs are functioning properly and can help with hunger and fatigue.
So go get that water bottle girl and hydrate yo self. You won’t regret it.
Who am I kidding, right? Getting out of bed takes a solid five minutes, and all that walking to and from the bathroom from that 2 liters of water a day you drink probably equals miles.
Well, aside from the fact that exercise helps with mood swings, sleeping, and self-image, it can also help prevent tiger stripes.
Exercise increases blood flow which in turn helps skin retain its elasticity. It can also help reduce that annoying water retention that accompanies pregnancy.
Centella, a natural herb, has actually been found through research to help prevent stretch marks. So, run waddle to your nearest market and pick some up!
Otherwise, just make sure to use creams and lotions developed for stretch mark prevention and massage it in twice a day.
Gotta get that elasticity workin, girl!
Of course, there is one more option – embrace those tiger stripes, mama!
Those marks just mean you carried one (or more!) babies inside of you, and that your body was able to create a safe place for them. That’s something to be proud about!
And there you have it, friends! Whether you plan to love your new markings or look into helping them fade a little more, I hope this post gave you some answers and guidance, or, at the least, a little bit more confidence!
National Institutes of Health, National Library of Medicine, The use of anti stretch marks’ products by women in pregnancy: a descriptive, cross-sectional survey, September 2016.
American Academy of Dermatology, Stretch Marks: Why They Appear And How To Get Rid Of Them
American Pregnancy Association, What Can Be Done To Prevent Stretch Marks?
- Emily Rader