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Since the skin is the largest organ in the body, it has the ability to expand and contract as required. However, due to its elasticity, the supporting tissues could be damaged if the skin is stretched too much within a short period of time. This rapid expansion of the skin is what causes stretch marks. Stretch marks are a very common problem among women and up to 90% of women gain stretch marks during pregnancy. These marks can affect people of any age and skin type and usually occurs when the body experiences change and growth such as puberty, muscle building and weight gain.

What are stretch marks?

Stretch marks of bands or lines that occur when the skin’s connective tissues are stretched. When the middle layer of the skin is stretched rapidly, some of the collagen fibers could break and this allows the underlying blood vessels to show through. This is what leaves the red or purplish marks which will fade over time to a white or silver colour once the blood vessels heal.

Stretch marks do not cause any physical pain but it could disfigure when it comes to severe cases. Furthermore, it can affect self-esteem and confidence and once the marks appear, it doesn’t usually go away completely. Medical experts have tried to find an effective treatment for stretch marks but there is no treatment to erase them fully. However, there are many new ways of treating these stretch marks which show some good promise.

Risk factors of stretch marks

There are some clear reasons as to why people get stretch marks but other reasons are not totally clear. Some people are more prone to getting stretch marks due to some hormone levels and genetics play a role too. According to a study, women who get pregnant at a younger age get stretch marks more frequently and the same applies to those who gain rapid weight during pregnancy. In certain cases, a high level of steroid hormones in the body appear to play a role too.

Similarly, people who undertake steroid medications or steroid creams are more likely to get stretch marks. The reason for this is that steroid hormones can weaken the collagen in the skin, making it more susceptible to breaking.

Treatment for stretch marks

Skin doctors and plastic surgeons offer hope in reducing the appearance of stretch marks and while no solution has been proven to work for every single person, many have found success in the following treatments:

  • Retin-A

While there isn’t a lot of evidence that tretinoin or retinoic acid works, a cream that contains 0.1 percent tretinoin was effective in erasing early stretch marks. Tretinoin penetrates the upper layer of the skin and rebuilds the collagen which is how it can improve stretch marks.

Known for its brand name Retin-A, tretinoin is known to cause side effects such as peeling and redness and therefore, pregnant and nursing women should avoid this. Retin-A should only be taken upon prescription and since the benefits are best reaped when used on new stretch marks, people should go for treatment as early as they can. If your stretch marks have already faded to white or silver, this would not be of any benefit.

  • Laser or light therapy

More recent treatment for stretch marks, laser therapy appears to have good effects in reducing the appearance of stretch marks. Intense pulsed light and pulsed dye lasers can improve stretch marks and increase the production of collagen over time. This therapy can only be carried out by a fully licensed plastic, cosmetic or skin surgeon and a person may need up to 20 treatment to see a 20%-60% improvement in stretch marks. However, these treatments can be very costly.

  • Platelet-rich plasma with ultrasound

Platelet-rich plasma or PRP with ultrasound is a popular way of reviving the skin and increasing the production of collagen. This therapy uses platelet-rich plasma that is taken from the person’s blood before the procedure. Over 70% of people who have undergone this treatment have reported very good improvement in their appearance.

  • Plastic surgery

Thigh lifts, tummy tucks, and other similar procedures are effective since it removes excess skin and tightens the remaining skin and tissue. People who have sagging skin due to pregnancy or rapid weight loss often opt for this treatment. According to the American Society of Plastic Surgeons, the following are the candidates who are suitable for plastic surgery:

  • A person with good health and stable weight
  • A non-smoker
  • A realistic expectation of what the surgery can do

While plastic surgery is not designed to remove stretch marks, it can help in reducing it due to the removal of excess skin from the body. Before opting for plastic surgery, people should be well aware of the risks and benefits of it.

Here are some quick everyday precautions that can help reduce the risk of stretch marks:

  • Use good sun protection

Exposure to the sun can make existing scars and marks noticeable so using a good sunscreen is important. Additionally, exposure to the sun can break the skin’s collagen fibers, putting people at greater risk of getting stretch marks.

  • Keep the skin well hydrated

When you use a moisturizer after bathing when the skin is still wet, it can penetrate the skin better and leave it soft and supple. Since pregnant women often complain that the rapidly expanding skin on the belly causes itchiness, moisturizers can offer relief.

  • Follow a healthy lifestyle

A healthy lifestyle can lower the risk of developing stretch marks. Make sure to drink a lot of water, eat nutritious food and exercise regularly to keep your weight stable.

  • Avoid sudden weight loss or gain

Rapid weight changes cause stretch marks so be sure to work towards a healthy and gradual weight gain, particularly during pregnancy.

  • Alternative and home remedies

As far as stretch mark removal in Sri Lanka in concerned, there are several cream, oils and skin products that can prevent or reduce stretch marks. Some popular ingredients used in such creams are cocoa butter, almond oil and olive oil.

Palmers Sri Lanka has a highly effective cocoa stretch mark lotion that reduces the appearance of stretch marks. Enriched with pure cocoa butter, shea butter, Bio CElast and Vitamin E, this lotion helps to enhance the elasticity or suppleness of the stretching of the skin that occurs during and after pregnancy. Palmers Cocoa stretch mark cream, Cocoa Butter Dry Itchy Skin and Cocoa Butter Skin Therapy Oil – 60 ml are also another option that is widely recommended to reduce stretch marks during and after pregnancy and is ideal for stretch mark prone areas such as the bust, thighs and hips.

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