Stretch marks, also known as striae, are scars that normally occur due to rapid weight loss or weight gain, such as during pregnancy, causing an abrupt change in the structure of the skin.
When the skin is overstretched, the two main elements that support its elasticity, collagen and elastin, break. Leaving behind scars that look like narrow lines, known as stretch marks. Stretch marks are often pinkish, purple or red in the early stages, and tend to fade to a paler silvery, translucent colour over time.
While stretch marks can appear anywhere on your body, it’s more common to get them on places where larger amounts of fat are stored, such as the abdomen, breasts, hips, buttocks and thighs.
What affects whether you get stretch marks?
Genetics, lifestyle and skin health all play a role in whether or not you develop stretch marks. Some people are genetically predisposed to them, which may have something to do with overactivity of messengers in the genes responsible for scar development (1).
Stretch marks can also be attributed to the chronic use of steroids, which weakens the skin’s collagen structure, resulting in scars.
The most common types of stretch marks
Different types of stretch marks are categorized by their cause and for how long you’ve had them. The following are the three most typical ones:
- Striae atrophica arise due to the thinning of the skin and breakdown of elastin or collagen components.
- Striae distensae occur during puberty due to hormonal changes and rapid growth. They often look like stripes.
- Striae gravidarum only occurs during pregnancy. “Mama Stripes” can sometimes be seen as the pregnancy progresses, especially in the last trimester when the baby rapidly gains weight, but are most commonly noticed after giving birth. So, just when you think it’s all over and you can finally enjoy your new baby and start getting back into shape, you realise you’re looking a little like a Tapir!
Can you do anything to prevent and reduce the appearance of stretch marks?
As with most things, it is easier to prevent stretch marks from occurring rather than getting rid of them.
While it doesn’t exist one magical solution to prevent them completely, let’s look at a few different ways that can help you reduce the risk and the appearance of stretch marks.
Stretch marks treatment via natural remedies: How they help and what to look for
Natural remedies can help reduce the appearance of stretch marks and scars.
Key factors to look out for when you’re searching for a remedy are the potential abilities to increase cell proliferation and turnover, encourage natural collagen production, reduce inflammation and hydrate the skin.
When applying a topical remedy, be sure to massage it into the skin to ensure it is absorbed well and to increase the blood supply to the area.
Gentle exfoliation is also helpful in increasing circulation and stimulating cell turnover.
Your diet: How to eat your way to less stretch marks
Consuming a diet rich in skin-nourishing vitamins and minerals, along with the application of natural remedies, is an effective two-pronged approach to treating stretch marks and scars.
Vitamins E, A and C, as well as essential fatty acids, boast skin-regeneration and -healing abilities.
Below are a few foods and ingredients to look out for.
Known for its skin-healing properties, Vitamin E consists of tocopherols and the lesser known tocotrienols. Both tocopherols and tocotrienols promote a healthy skin barrier and reduce oxidative effects.
Tocotrienols are thought to have more potent antioxidant properties than α-tocopherol (2), and can therefore be absorbed quickly and penetrate through the deep layers of skin.
Good sources of Vitamin E
Sunflower seeds, almonds, kiwi fruit and spinach are a few examples of foods rich in Vitamin E . Red palm oil and rice bran oil are high in tocotrienols, while argan oil, olive oil and jojoba oil are high in tocopherol.
Omega-3 fatty acids play a key role in skin tissue reconstruction and cell membrane structure. Omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids modulate local inflammatory response at wound sites, accelerating the skin’s healing process.
Recent studies (3) have demonstrated how Omega-3 fatty acids can prevent wound infections and improve early wound healing, and after several days, decrease the deposition of collagen, preventing extensive scarring.
Good sources of Omega-3
Sacha Inchi oil and Flaxseed oil are high in Omega-3 fatty acids. Consuming cold-water fish such as salmon, herring and mackerel, as well as walnuts and chia seeds, can also increase your intake of health fatty acids.
Research shows that retinoids, a vitamin in the vitamin A family, may improve the appearance of stretch marks.
Good sources of Vitamin A
Carrots, sweet potatoes and red palm oil. Topical application of Rosehip oil and jojoba oil are hydrating and also rich in Vitamin A.
Vitamin C is essential for the synthesis of collagen, which is key in maintaining your skin healthy and elastic.
Good sources of Vitamin C
Foods high in Vitamin C include fruits such as papaya and citrus fruits and vegetables such as broccoli and Brussel sprouts.
- Oils such as calendula and lavender
Stretch marks and scars can appear inflamed and are sometimes sensitive to touch. These types of oils can greatly reduce the inflammation and calm the skin down.
Eating a diet rich in the micronutrients antioxidant polyphenols can help speed up your skin’s healing process and aid in wound healing.
Good sources of Polyphenols
Plant-based foods, such as berries, leafy green vegetables and herbs are high in polyphenols.
Ulam, a collection of Malaysian herbs traditionally eaten raw, exhibit strong antioxidant properties, and many are also known for their skin-healing properties.
Centella asiatica, more commonly known as Pegaga and Gotu Kola in Malaysia, is a herb high in terpenoids that helps increase collagen production in the body.
It’s positive effects, such as reducing the appearance of stretch marks and helping prevent new stretch marks from forming, are backed by a number of clinical trials and studies. Pegaga is used in many exclusive cosmetic brands as an anti-ageing component to reduce fine lines and tighten the skin.
With the right habits you can prevent stretch marks and reduce their appearance
Stretch marks are a normal part of growing and nothing to be ashamed of. With that said, you can take action to prevent stretch marks from arising in the first place and treat the ones you already have naturally.
While there is no one way to prevent stretch marks completely, eating well and exercising regularly help avoid rapid weight loss or gain. Organic oils rich in vitamins and skin-healing properties, as well as the consumption of skin-nourishing foods, are a great way to go.
1. Wu J, Ma B, Yi S, Wang Z, He W, Luo G, Chen X, Wang X, Chen A, Barisoni D. 1. Gene expression of early hypertrophic scar tissue screened by means of cDNA microarrays. J Trauma. 2004 Dec;57(6):1276-86. doi: 10.1097/01.ta.0000108997.49513.dc. PMID: 15625461.
2. Serbinova EA, Packer L. Antioxidant properties of alpha-tocopherol and alpha-tocotrienol. Methods Enzymol. 1994;234:354-66. doi: 10.1016/0076-6879(94)34105-2. PMID: 7808307.
3. 1. Kiecolt-Glaser J.K., Glaser R., Christian L.M. Omega-3 fatty acids and stress-induced immune dysregulation: Implications for wound healing. Mil. Med. 2014.
4. Kang S, Kim KJ, Griffiths CEM, et al. Topical Tretinoin (Retinoic Acid) Improves Early Stretch Marks. Arch Dermatol. 1996;132(5):519–526. doi:10.1001/archderm.1996.03890290053007
5. Bylka W, Znajdek-Awiżeń P, Studzińska-Sroka E, Brzezińska M. Centella asiatica in cosmetology. Postepy Dermatol Alergol. 2013 Feb;30(1):46-9. doi: 10.5114/pdia.2013.33378. Epub 2013 Feb 20. PMID: 24278045; PMCID: PMC3834700.
6. MALLOL, J., BELDA, M., COSTA, D., NOVAL, A. and SOLA, M. (1991), Prophylaxis of Striae gravidarum with a topical formulation. A double blind trial. International Journal of Cosmetic Science, 13: 51-57.
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