What Are Stretch Marks
Stretch marks are essentially scars that result from the tearing in some layers of the skin. This type of damage occurs when skin expands quickly in a short period of time.
Our skin is naturally stretchy but at the same time, if the stretching occurs too quickly, small tears can occur.
When these tears are repaired by the body, scars emerge – stretch marks. It is estimated that more than 60% of women have stretch marks. 40% of males also have stretch marks. Stretch marks are exceedingly common so if you happen to have them, don’t be ashamed.
Do Stretch Marks Ever Go Away
Since stretch marks are scars, they don’t disappear completely. A new stretch mark will be purplish or reddish and in time, it will lighten to white or silvery white.
The fading process often takes months or years, depending on the pace at which the skin attempts to regenerate itself at the sites of the tears.
If you are into bodybuilding and have gained sizeable muscle mass in the past months, you may have noticed stretch marks form on your shoulders, back or even legs.
Any kind of skin expansion can cause tears. So whether you’ve gained mass from muscle or fat, it doesn’t matter – it’s still skin expansion and tears will form on the surface of the skin.
How To Best Deal With Stretch Marks
Stretch marks are mostly unavoidable, unless the root cause of the tearing is addressed (mass/weight gain) quickly while the tears haven’t advanced to the point that they have become highly visible.
Now, if you have a large mat of stretch marks now because of your bodybuilding efforts, here are some ways you can manage it:
1. Act quickly – The best time to remedy stretch marks is when the tears are still ‘in progress.’ Doctors agree that this peak stage is when the stretch marks are mostly reddish and highly visible. Don’t wait until your stretch marks turn purple.
All stretch marks fade with time and some people are luckier because their stretch marks disappear more quickly than others.
While it’s true that stretch marks don’t exactly disappear from the surface of the skin, the lightening effect that takes place when skin restoration occurs is what we’re after. The lighter the color of the scars, the less visible they are overall.
2. Hyaluronic acid – Hyaluronic acid is a naturally occurring compound in the body that is most concentrated in and around joint tissues. Some studies have shown that hyaluronic acid can increase the healing rate of stretch marks.
Topical hyaluronic acid combined with organic onion extracts have shown promise in treating new stretch marks.
According to research, continuous use of creams or ointments with hyaluronic acid can help fade stretch marks in three months.
While not all doctors will recommend it, you may get a prescription for it if you want to apply a topical remedy to your stretch marks.
3. Retinoic acid – Retinoic acid or vitamin A has long been used by dermatologists to influence the cellular turnover in skin.
It is used to heal the skin of burn victims as well as reduce the scarring of large wounds. In the case of stretch marks, topical retinoic acid may help clear stretch marks more quickly by increase the regeneration rate of the skin.
Retinoic acid can only be purchased with a prescription so consult with your dermatologist if it’s the right topical aid for you.
The period of healing with retinoic acid is similar to hyaluronic acid – about two to three months of continuous use will provide visible lightening of the skin. Of course, things will still depend on how your skin reacts to the remedy.
If you are a female bodybuilder, you may not use retinoic acid during pregnancy or if you are presently breastfeeding.
Compounds that are tagged as unsafe for pregnant or lactating women can affect fetal growth or can contaminate breast milk.
Caveat: using a topical retinoic acid remedy can cause skin discoloration (yellowing) and can also cause redness. Itching has also been noted in some patients. In some cases, the skin will begin to peel mildly as cellular turnover increases.
4. Laser treatments – Laser treatments are used for a wide variety of treatments, from wrinkle shrinkage to stretch marks. Laser guided skin technology heats the skin’s various layers and changes the structure of blood vessels, too.
Laser treatments may sound a bit scary at first but are actually mostly non-painful. Between laser treatments and topical creams, if you can afford laser treatments then try them.
While this type of treatment does not provide instant results, you can expect lightening after a few sessions only. The restoration period of the skin is typically shorter than when you apply topical aids.
The downside of course is the procedure is more expensive and has to be performed in a dermatologist’s clinic/office.
If you’re the kind of person who doesn’t like applying topical remedies regularly, dermatological treatments like laser might be a better option.
5. Dermabrasion – Dermabrasion is a procedure where the top layer of the skin is ‘sanded’ using microscopic elements to remove dead skin cells. This helps improve regeneration rate too, by allowing new cells to surface more quickly.
Dermabrasion is often used to improve the appearance of wrinkly skin and to smoothen out facial skin that has been damaged by acne. It is the most common treatment for severe pimples/acne.
It causes the skin to go pink for a day, but after that period the skin immediately bounces back and begins to repair itself on the sites of dermabrasion.
Like your typical skin procedure, it has to be performed in a controlled environment, so a visit to your dermatologist will be required.
Several sessions of dermabrasion will help lighten even large patches of stretch marks regardless of where they are located on your body.
If you’re about to compete in an amateur or professional bodybuilding competition, you may want to start managing your stretch marks now, since it takes a bit of time before they are light enough to not be too noticeable under bright lighting.
Image Credits: andrew_fisenko