Diminishing the Appearance of Stretch Marks

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Ladies, it’s almost that time of the year—bikini season. If you’re anything like me, you take this time of year with a grain of salt. Yes, I LOVE being on the beach, swimming and catching some rays, but there is one thing that I’m very self-conscious about—my stretch marks. I have them on my hips, stomach, thighs and arms. Needless to say, I didn’t inherit good skin from my family. There is no way to completely get rid of stretch marks, but there are ways to diminish the appearance of them considerably. I have used these methods and have noticed a dramatic decrease in my stretch marks.

3 layers of skin

First, let’s learn a little bit about the skin. It’s composed of three parts: the epidermis, dermis and hypodermis. The epidermis has five layers: stratum germinativum, stratum spinosum, stratum granulosum, stratum lucidum and stratum corneum.

The middle layer, the dermis, consists of collagen and elastin. This is the layer that is responsible for giving you those dreaded stretch marks. Collagen is the ‘fountain of youth’ and helps ward off wrinkles and fine lines. Elastin is what keeps your skin flexible, like a rubber band. Your genes will determine the amount of collagen and elastin in the dermis. If your mother has stretch marks, most likely you will too.

The hypodermis consists of layers of fat and connective tissue that house larger blood vessels and nerves. This fatty layer helps to conserve the body’s heat and regulate temperature.

Stretch marks occur when the body either stretches too far after rapid weight gain or weight loss, which most commonly occurs during pregnancy or growth spurts during adolescence. The lack of collagen and elasticity in the dermis is what leads to the stretching and scaring of the skin.

Whether you suffer from stretch marks from pregnancy, weight gain or growth spurts, there are a few ways to diminish their appearance:

Exfoliate! You can either use a loofah or better yet, a body scrub. This will help your body shed the dead skin cells on the top layer of your skin, the epidermis—which will reveal new, more youthful looking skin. A body scrub has algae and vitamin E which helps keep the skin soft and healthy.

Lotions and potions. Look for lotions that have Retin-A (to promote cell turnover and healing), vitamin E, vitamin C, hydroxy acids and peptides. Retin-A stimulates collagen growth, plus increases the thickness of your skin, skin-cell turnover and the flow of blood to your skin. Lotions with high levels of vitamin C help your skin produce collagen and make your skin look brighter. Hydroxy acids also make the skin look brighter and improve the quality of collagen and elastic fibers. Peptides are small pieces of collagen that can penetrate and reach the dermis, the layer where collagen is produced. Some popular lotions on the market include Trilastin and Striafade. My dermatologist recommended I use the Tazorac she prescribed for my face. Another great lotion primarily to keep the epidermis supple that I like is Jergins Ultra Healing lotion. It penetrates all five layers and keeps my skin incredibly soft.

Wear sunscreen. As always, to keep your skin supple and youthful looking, wear a sunscreen. You should wear at least a SPF 15. Sunlight damages collagen fibers and causes a buildup of abnormal elastin, which is what leads to wrinkles. I like to use Neutrogena spray sunscreen with SPF 30. On my face, since I have very oily skin, I like to use an oil free SPF 15 lotion from Neutrogena.

Stay hydrated. This seems like a no-brainer, but water is incredibly important for your skin. When skin is not properly hydrated, it can be tight, flaky and dull. Skin needs to be hydrated to stay smooth and plump. Another tip: when showering, don’t use hot water—it actually dries out your skin.

Fake a tan. You can either buy a self-tanning lotion to help hide your stretch marks or get a professional spray tan. Self-tanning lotions usually range from $7.00 all the way up to $50. I like the Nivea and Jergins gradual tanning lotions. These help create a more natural looking tan. Spray tans from a salon can range from $25 to $60.

Lastly, if you’re still feeling self-conscious about your stretch marks, you may want to invest in some waterproof cover up.  Products such as Dermablend are very popular and work really well. These products provide long lasting coverage, are waterproof and have SPF. Another costly method of stretch mark removal is laser removal. However, it can cost thousands of dollars and results vary greatly. When in doubt, ask a dermatologist.

Keep in mind, you are not alone in your hatred for stretch marks—90% of women have some sort of stretch mark on their body and men get stretch marks too. It may take time for your pregnancy and growth spurt scars to heal, but remember how incredible your skin is and all the amazing things it does, including protecting your body from infection and regulating your body temperature!

Have you been successful with warding off or healing stretch marks? If so, what products did you use?

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