Stretch marks: Lines on the body that don’t need to be fought

IF CELLULITIS CAN BE CALLED A REGULAR SIGN OF FEMALE PHENOTYPE, then most people, regardless of gender have stretch marks. They do not hurt, do not cause physical discomfort, do not affect the size of clothes – and still cause many feelings of shame. A huge industry has formed around them: they are constantly trying to sell us “innovative” procedures to eliminate lines on the body, hinting that stretch marks are something bad. On the market, there are more than one hundred special creams for prevention – first of all, manufacturers rely on pregnant women, whom they sell miracle remedies under the guise of “organic”, “natural” and “completely safe”. And while activists call to love stretch marks as a part of themselves and to see beauty in them, such “imperfections” still prevent many women from living in peace.      

Where do stretch marks come from? 

Imagine a ribbon of elastic fabric that has a piece of paper glued to it – if the ribbon is stretched, the paper will crack in several places. The same can happen with the middle layer of the skin – the dermis – if the body increases dramatically in size: the dermis is not elastic enough and does not stretch at the same rate as the underlying fatty tissue or the surface layer of the skin – the epidermis. As a result, atrophic scars are obtained – the result of the healing of injured tissue. Like any other scars, they lack hair follicles, sebaceous and sweat glands, and are less elastic compared to the surrounding skin. The word “atrophic” means that such a scar is flush with the skin , and the tissue underneath is atrophied.  

Most often this happens when the hormonal background changes, for example, during pregnancy, puberty, or when taking certain medications; hormones also affect the elasticity of the skin. And although the resulting stretch marks are immediately noticeable, close attention is usually paid to them only later – when the pregnancy ended, the person lost weight or adolescent “swelling” was replaced by a more stable physique. Most often, stretch marks occur on the hips, buttocks, chest, abdomen, upper arms, or shoulders. 

The first tears appear, as a rule, precisely in adolescence, when the body grows sharply in height and width. Stretch marks appear as lines on the skin that differ in color and texture; at first they may be red or purple, but gradually fade and acquire a white or grayish tint. If there are a lot of stretch marks in one place, for example, on the abdomen, then the skin may sag – but usually smooth lines stand out only in color or make the skin surface slightly ribbed.

How can stretch marks be prevented?

Although most people have stretch marks, they tried to fight them back in Ancient Egypt: artifacts in the form of small vessels for oil, which pregnant women smeared on their belly, have survived . The ancient Roman poet Ovid in his “Love Elegies” mentions a woman who had an abortion in order to preserve her body and protect her stomach from stretch marks (although these words were lost in translation into Russian).       

It is possible to prevent the appearance of stretch marks, or at least reduce its likelihood, if you really want to – however, they usually remember this when it is already useless to do something. We used to think that the first stretch marks appear during pregnancy, but this, of course, is not so: they make themselves felt in adolescence, when the whole body grows and changes.

Skin elasticity is largely determined by the action of hormones; for example, it is reduced by exposure to corticosteroids (these are adrenal hormones) or excess estrogen. Sometimes stretch marks appear with prolonged use of steroid creams. If we take two people whose levels of one hormone are within normal limits, but closer to the upper or lower limits of the norm, then the former may have a higher tendency to form stretch marks. During puberty and pregnancy, hormones change rapidly, and at some point the balance may not be in favor of skin elasticity.  

The essence of prevention is to maintain the elasticity of the skin, primarily due to its hydration. Of course, judicious weight control helps as well: if you don’t gain weight too quickly, your skin is less likely to fail. At the same time, of course, it is not worth giving up food and ignoring teenage appetite just to keep the skin childishly smooth: in the first place should be the healthy development of the body, and not serving conventional beauty. In addition, it is possible that genetics also plays a role in the predisposition to stretch marks – that is, someone will not be able to avoid them by any efforts.    

For moisturizing, you can use any remedy you like, even if it does not say “from stretch marks” – this can be used by adolescents and even pregnant women. Sometimes they worry that an excessively active cream will penetrate the bloodstream or pass through the placenta, but such fears are in vain: the components usually work at the most superficial level, not even reaching the dermis. It is not necessary to buy special creams “for pregnant women” only for reasons of caring for the unborn child – it is better to pay attention to the presence of specific components. Although no remedy has been found to prevent stretch marks, there is some evidence in favor of almond oil and hyaluronic acid.      

It is important not to forget about a sufficient amount of liquid. While extra (excess) drinking is unlikely to make dry skin more hydrated, dehydration certainly reduces skin turgor . In a recent study, in people who usually drink little water, as the amount of water in their diet increased, their skin became more hydrated and supple.

local_offerevent_note June 26, 2021

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