All About Stretch Marks
What are they?
Believe it or not, many women still get confused when they hear this term. Is it enough to know they just don’t look pretty? Not really, because stretch marks can take on various forms.
Stretch marks typically appear as bands of parallel lines on your skin. These lines are a different colour and texture than your normal skin, and they range from purple to bright pink to light grey. When you touch stretch marks with your fingers, you might feel a slight ridge or indentation on your skin. Sometimes, stretch marks feel itchy or sore.
When do they appear?
Commonly during or after pregnancy, hence the relevancy of the topic to every mother and mother-to-be out there. Also, after any sudden changes in weight. Stretch marks are not typically dangerous and often disappear over time.
Where do they appear?
You can have them just about anywhere, but they’re most common on your stomach, breasts, upper arms, thighs, and buttocks.
Are you at risk? The factors include:
- being a woman
- being Caucasian (having pale skin)
- having a family history of stretch marks
- being pregnant
- having a history of delivering large babies or twins
- being overweight
- undergoing dramatic weight loss or gain
- using corticosteroid medications
What are the causes?
Stretch marks were found to be a result of, just that, the skin stretching in addition to having too much cortisone in your body, which makes the skin lose its elasticity. Cortisone is a hormone which is naturally produced by adrenal gland.
Stretch marks are common when:
- The tugging and stretching during pregnancy causes the skin to stretch
- Some corticosteroid creams, lotions and pills may decrease the skin’s elasticity
- Adrenal gland disorders including Cushing’s, Marfan and the Ehlers-Danlos syndromes alter cortisone levels
Dr Marwa El Badawy
Specialist Dermatologist, Al Zahra Hospital
Stretch marks, or Stria Gravidarum (SG) during pregnancy, are caused by the mechanical stretching of the skin in association with hormonal factors. They tend to occur in areas of maximum skin stretching.
It is estimated that up to 90% of pregnant women develop stretch marks. The risk factors for their development include family history, race, skin type, birthweight, baseline Body Mass Index (BMI), age, weight gain and poor nutrition.
Prevention and early treatment of red stria show better results. Once they become white, they can only be reduced, but not completely treated. Therefore, prevention and early treatment are the best ways to manage them.
Using moisturising cream and/or lotion regularly at least twice daily with a gentle massage helps maintain water content in the skin of the abdominal wall. Using products containing centella, bitter almond oil and hyaluronic acid are helpful for that purpose. Cocoa butter and olive oil aren’t effective for preventing SG or reducing the severity of lesions.
There’s no conclusive treatment. However, Tretinoin-containing creams and gels hold promise for reducing the severity of new-onset SG, but their use is limited during pregnancy and breastfeeding.
Other modalities such as microneedling, microdermabrasion, laser and radiofrequency help reduce the size of SG and improve the general appearance of the skin.