What Causes Stretch Marks?
Medically, stretch marks are known as striae distensae and they are known to affect both males and females regardless of age.
Stretch marks affect different parts of the body, but the most commons regions where they appear are:
Of the many causes of stretch marks, body growth associated with pregnancy and weight gain are the main reasons.
Stretch marks can also appear due to the rapid growth associated with puberty or due to medical conditions which are known to affect the skin such as Cushing’s syndrome.
Stretch Marks Caused By Pregnancy
During pregnancy women experience rapid changes in their bodies. Apart from the hormonal changes, the body also adjusts to accommodate the growth of the fetus.
The abdomen is one of the areas that is greatly affected by these developments especially around the naval.
By the time the pregnancy grows into term, the abdomen will have increased by almost thirty percent.
Other areas where stretch marks appear during pregnancy are:
- Upper and lower arms
- Lower legs
In a book titled Pregnancy: Good Health For Mother, Baby And Dad, Joseph Awoyemi and David Salako explain that stretch marks affect every pregnant woman, with the areas that have the largest concentration of fat being affected the most.
The authors note that stretch marks caused by pregnancy is a positive sign of the fetus growing.
They add that these scars have no threat to a woman’s health and contrary to what is believed by some, they not are not caused by the body’s lack of appropriate functioning or an inability to synthesize food effectively.
In this respect, the appearance of stretch marks during pregnancy is by no means an indication of anything wrong with the health of your skin.
It is simply an indication of a faster body growth that your skin can accommodate and therefore causing the upper layer of the skin to stretch.
The age of the woman during pregnancy also affects the intensity or visibility of the stretch marks, with younger women presenting a higher intensity that their older counterparts.
Some people report itching around the areas where stretch marks develop but these are rare cases and they only affect an insignificant number of pregnant women.
Niels Lauersen in her work It’s Your Pregnancy attempts to answer common questions that women ask especially before and after delivery.
One of the biggest issues which women deal with during their pregnancy is the fear of stretch marks appearing all over their skin. This leads naturally to the question whether stretch marks can be prevented at all.
Niels’ belief is that the complete removal of stretch marks is a hard task which requires time and is very much dependent on the severity of your scars.
Prevention, however, is possible and can be achieved by targeting the causes and by applying appropriate treatments.
Niels observes that it remains a mystery why in some women these scars are highly visible while in others they are less so. One of the explanation is believe to be related to the amount of fat deposits under the skin – people with higher fat deposits have less visible marks.
Genetics is also seen to be one of the common causes of the appearance of stretch marks. However, this is very difficult to be scientifically evidenced because not all people whose relatives have stretch marks are passed on to them due to their genetic connection.
Weight Change Causes Stretch Marks
Weight gain can be considered to be one of the biggest causes of stretch marks, especially if it is fairly sudden over a short period of time.
When you gain weight the skin becomes elastic and thin, changes that occur in order to allow it to accommodate the excess weight.
Men and women of all ages are affected by weight gain, although in different magnitudes.
Genetic factors, lifestyle, gender, activity levels and general health wellbeing determine the level at which one gains or loses weight.
Women are sometimes more likely to go through weight fluctuations due to hormonal imbalance which may sometimes occur, as well as due to pregnancy.
The type of food which you eat is also another obvious determinant of your weight and respective cause of stretch marks.
Eating foods which are rich in starch and carbohydrates as well as fats and oils will lead to accumulation of fat in the body.
Not only is what you eat but the amount of food you consume is another big factor causing excessive weight gain.
Healthy Eating Habits Are Essential To Avoiding Stretch Marks
Your eating patterns have an effect on your weight too. Eating a few hours before sleep on a regular basis would most certainly result in accumulation of fat.
When the body accumulates fats, the skin is forced to stretch to accommodate the increased body mass, this normally happens in such a way that it is not given a chance to adapt to this change.
This leads to stretch marks appearing on the skin, a development that clearly shows that the skin is under pressure and has been stretched to accommodate the additional fats.
The same happens when we suddenly lose weight, the skin will be left hanging or sagging, and the areas which had originally stretched as the body size increased can be felt and seen on the surface.
In the book The New Harvard Guide to Women’s Health by Carlson, Eisenstat and Ziporyn, it is clearly pointed out that stretch marks which are caused by weight fluctuations, either sudden gain or loss of weight, are the ones which are most easily preventable.
In their book, the authors make suggestions of foods which need to be avoided but also recommend food which is rich in fiber and promotes the reduction of excessive body fat.
It is important to be underlined that healthy eating may be insufficient to sustain a good levels of body weight to prevent the appearance of stretch marks.
Exercises and increasing the level of activities are essential to effective weight management and skin health.
For those who may be looking to shed some pounds, the process ought to be gradual. Rapid weight loss is as bad as weight gain.
Kirstie Renae in her article The Truth About Stretch Marks discourages people from going for extreme methods which may often harm their bodies. She strongly believes that any sudden weight loss would have similarly negative impact on your skin as the sudden weight gain would.
The authors of The New Harvard Guide to Women’s Health say that there is evidence which shows that eating some types of foods and the use of some supplements can help in prevention or reduction of the stretch marks.
The foods we eat need to be rich in vitamin and mineral with enough quantities of vitamin C and E.
Minerals such as silicon and Zinc are required in adequate quantities as they play a significant role as far as development and the health of the skin is concerned.
In terms of fluids, one should take enough water, its intake should be regular and at no time should you allow the body to get dehydrated.
Stretch marks are known to affect the quality of life of people who like to engage in outdoor activities. This is especially the case when these activities require light clothing, such as beach volleyball, tennis, swimming and jogging.
Many feel embarrassed by their stretch marks and as a result shy away from outdoor activities. This has an emotionally and physically negative impact on your life style.
As a result, you end up forced to exercise indoors or just avoid any sports activities altogether. This creates a closed loop where your avoidance of sport activities may lead to weight gain and cause more stretch marks subsequently.
Pregnancy and weight are the two main causes of stretch marks, although rapid growth during adolescence and the presence of some medical problems such as Cushing’s syndrome are also known to cause scars on the skin.
There is little which can be done to avoid stretch marks especially during pregnancy and puberty but checking weight and more so what we eat can go a long way in ensuring that stretch marks are avoided or their intensity reduced.
Q: What are the top causes of stretch marks?
A: Weight gain, weight loss, rapid growth, hormone changes and pregnancy.
Q: Can stretch marks be prevented?
A: Yes, with appropriate diet management, stretch mark cosmetics and vitamins.