Preventing & Treating Pregnancy Stretch Marks
6 minutes read
Stretchies, tiger stripes, lightning marks; whatever you call the silvery lines that appear on the skin, stretch marks are a perfectly normal by-product of our body changing and are especially common in pregnancy. Many of us also experience them when going through puberty or when we gain and lose weight quickly. While harmless and natural, their aesthetic appearance is a point of concern for some people and can impact one’s self-esteem, so read on for our tips and tricks to avoid, prevent and treat stretch marks in pregnancy.
Pregnancy stretch marks: what to expect?
Stretch marks are natural scars and the narrow lines on the skin’s surface. They can be pink, red, purple, brown or silver and affect around 8 out of 10 pregnant women. Generally speaking, as your pregnancy progresses, they appear on stomachs, thighs, hips, and breasts, but there’s no hard and fast rule to their placement or appearance. As the skin stretches, the middle layer becomes broken, and it’s when the skin starts to heal itself; that’s when stretch marks develop. One of the first signs of a stretch mark en route is itchiness in the area in question.
The elasticity of your skin will affect how defined your stretch marks appear. Your age plays a role, too, with studies suggesting that younger women are more likely to get them. Lifestyle choices are also important, as eating well and exercising regularly will promote healthy skin elasticity from within. Hormonal changes can make you more susceptible, and the rate at which you gain weight during your pregnancy plays a part.
Quickly gaining weight will mean your skin is stretching faster, upping the likelihood of marks appearing. Stretch marks are perfectly harmless, but given how often we see perfectly airbrushed and super smooth skin, it’s no wonder they bother some people; so, it’s worth remembering that they’re perfectly natural, and estimates suggest that up to 90% of the population have them.
When do stretch marks appear during pregnancy?
There’s no exact science as to when stretch marks will appear during your pregnancy, but most likely, you’ll start to notice them cropping up around the end of the second trimester, in line with when your baby bump begins to form. However, note that it’s not unusual for them to appear sooner, and every woman’s experience will be slightly different.
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Avoiding stretch marks during pregnancy
Moisturising and massaging:
Be cautious of wonder creams offering magical results; they’re often simply too good to be true, with studies having failed to provide concrete proof that moisturising products can prevent stretch marks altogether. But it’s worth noting that dry and dehydrated skin is more at risk of developing stretch marks. Regular moisturising will help with the dry, itchy skin accompanying pregnancy. Start moisturising early in your pregnancy, and be sure to massage it in gently. Some research suggests that it’s the massaging action that can help with the appearance of stretch marks. And remember to keep it up post-birth.
Alongside your prenatal vitamins, eat plenty of vitamin C-rich foods like citrus, tomatoes, peppers, and broccoli. Vitamin C is an antioxidant that helps repair skin damage, plus it promotes collagen production, which keeps skin strong and elastic. Foods rich in zinc like fish and nuts will also help keep your skin in great condition.
We all know we should drink more water, and it’s an essential part of keeping skin soft, supple, hydrated and healthy.
Steady weight gain:
To counteract the effects of rapid weight gain, try to gain your pregnancy weight slowly. Then, the skin won’t be stretched so quickly, and the risk of marks is minimised. But of course, this is often easier said than done and as your body changes, remember to be kind to yourself.
Up your vitamin D:
You always need to be cautious when exposed to direct sunlight, especially when pregnant, so invest in a decent SPF before boosting your vitamin D with a stroll in the park. Should you live in a shadier area of the country and want to avoid the sun altogether, add fatty fish and eggs to your diet; they’re chock full of the good stuff.
Keeping active while pregnant will help avoid sudden weight gain, plus keeping fit boosts blood flow to your skin, helping it stay healthy. Frank Wang, M.D., associate professor of dermatology at Michigan Medicine, says, “in fact, mild stretching exercises and aerobics might help prevent stretch marks during pregnancy.” But remember to take things gently and seek out a doctor’s advice when trying something new.
When it comes to stretch marks after pregnancy…
The good news is that most stretch marks will fade over time, forming paler scars and becoming less noticeable. However, they probably won’t disappear completely, but some treatments will help improve their appearance.
Known as a wonder ingredient for acne scarring and the minimising of fine lines and wrinkles by speeding up skin cell turnover, studies have also suggested that Tretinoin (concentrated retinol available via a prescription) can improve the appearance of stretch marks.
Microdermabrasion is a skin rejuvenation technique that sloughs away your skin’s outer, uneven layer. Research has shown that it effectively reduces the appearance of stretch marks.
Another method is microneedling, where tiny needles prick the skin to kickstart its healing process. Again, the science is there with evidence showing that the practice can improve stretch marks, with one study suggesting that microneedling had a slight edge over microdermabrasion.
Chemical peels are effective ways of deeply exfoliating your skin, with glycolic acid peels seeming to lead the way in treating the appearance of stretch marks.
Using light and heat to repair and regenerate skin cells, sign up for a series of sessions to see a 20 to 60 per cent improvement in the appearance of stretch marks.
But importantly, these are treatments to be considered after you have given birth (and in some cases, after you have finished breastfeeding,) so be sure to seek your doctor’s advice.
Stretch mark cream for pregnancy
A deeply comforting cream, the Clarins Body Partner, £40, was created for people who want to avoid stretch marks, especially during and after pregnancy. Harnessing plant power, it helps improve elasticity and firmness whilst soothing and moisturising your skin. Apply using circular motions.
“The Tonic Oil was an absolute game-changer during pregnancy. I used this on both of my bumps (and hips and thighs) to help keep my skin supple and ever ready for the expanding girth,” says Sarah Joan Ross, Editor of Beauty Daily.
Adding, “It smells so utterly divine thanks to the geranium and rosemary essential oils, that it helped ease the mind during those (many) anxious moments, and now it’s a permanent bathroom cabinet staple to keep skin smelling great and feeling nourished. Whether it was genetics or this oil – I’m happy to report I’m stretch-mark-free on my stomach.”
Clarins: your perfect pregnancy partner for oils, scrubs and cooling legs to refresh swollen, tired limbs.
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