In today’s day and age, everyone wants to be perfect with the ideal body structure, sharp features and flawless skin. Nothing much can be done about the first two as they depend on one’s genes, but the latter can be worked towards. Stretch marks, also known as striae distensae, are long, depressed bands on the skin that appear as either red, purple or silvery white, depending on skin colour. They are dermal scars or disfiguring lesions that tend to occur near the hips, buttocks, thighs, armpits, stomach, chest, etc. They can be found in both men and women, but more commonly affect women, almost up to 40-90% of women. According to Dr. Jangid, a senior dermatologist at SkinQure, New Delhi, “Stretch marks are formed due to the incapability of the lower skin (dermis) to stretch as much as the upper skin. During pregnancy or bodybuilding, the skin is stretched as the body grows. But after pregnancy or when an individual stops working out, the body regains its previous size. The skin isn’t able to go back to its original size and leaves stretch marks behind. It doesn’t just affect the superficial skin, but also the deeper dermis. To get rid of the scars, both the layers of the skin need to be treated.”
Causes of Stretch Marks
Stretch marks appear due to large amounts of cortisone present in the skin. The elastic fibres in the dermis are weakened by cortisone. Due to the constant stretching of the skin, the layer tears which causes a mark to form in the middle layer of the skin. There are a number of reasons for the stretching of the skin like pregnancy, dramatic weight loss or gain, having a family history of stretch marks, using corticosteroid medication, etc. During adolescence, teenagers undergo a growth spurt which may cause the marks. Genetic disorders like Cushing’s Syndrome or Marfan Syndrome increase the likelihood of developing stretch marks.
Dr. Deepali Bhardwaj, a trained dermatologist and laser surgeon, states, “Stretch marks are formed due to the breaking of collagen fibres ,which happens when the body suddenly bloats with fat or with a child inside. Even steroids can be a cause for stretch marks; athletes and fitness freaks may misuse them and cause the formation of scars due to the sudden bulk up of muscles.”
How to Prevent Stretch Marks
In recent times, several methods have been introduced to help fade away or completely remove these marks like medical procedures and prescriptions. But home remedies are the safest and most effective. “The application of essential fatty acid oils and coconut oils can be effective if they are applied at the time of the formation of the marks. Initially they are pink, then red, soon they become yellow and finally white. The trick is to catch them young, when they are pink or red, and prevent them for damaging the skin any further,” says Dr. Bhardwaj.
Coconut oil is used to dull the scars and has proven to be quite useful. It has great moisturising properties and improves the overall health of the skin. It’s anti-fungal, anti-inflammatory, anti-viral and anti-microbial qualities get absorbed by the skin and heal it. The irritation caused during pregnancy can be reduced by the application of the oil. It nourishes the damaged skin and strengthens its cell walls. Coconut oil contains vitamins like Vitamin E, which heals the dermis, and Vitamin K that removes the damaged and dead cells.