Stretch marks are cutaneous marks that are characterised by the localised thinning and sinking of the epidermis, the most superficial layer of the skin, and by the differentiated violet, pink or pearly colour that they can present.
Why do stretch marks appear?
They appear due to the breakage and partial loss of the collagen and elastin fibres in the affected region, leading to a decrease in skin cohesion and tissue elasticity.
They are very common during pregnancy, especially after 24 weeks. While the causes of the appearance of stretch marks remain unclear, there are certain predisposing factors that have been identified during pregnancy. These include: susceptibility to developing stretch marks or a family history of stretch marks, increased weight gain during pregnancy, high body mass before pregnancy, and the newborn child weighing heavy. Younger mothers have a greater predisposition to developing stretch marks and they are more severe.
The hormones decrease the adhesion between the collagen fibres making them less resistant to stretching. In addition, the epidermis becomes thinner, which increases the visibility of the stretch marks.
In addition to pregnancy, there are certain situations where there is a greater predisposition to developing stretch marks: puberty, sudden changes in weight or height, treatment with corticosteroids, following strict diets, etc.
What are the most affected areas?
Stretch marks vary in quantity and severity. The most affected areas are the abdomen, breasts, buttocks, thighs and hips.
They appear as linear depressions that are reddish in colour that later acquire a violet tone. Finally, over time, they usually lighten until reaching a white colour.
Tips for preventing the appearance of stretch marks
The therapeutic intervention for stretch marks mainly focuses on prevention. It is therefore is recommended to follow this advice:
- Hydrate the skin: hydrated skin will be less vulnerable to stretch marks. It is very important to have the habit of drinking enough water during the day (especially during the hottest months) and applying moisturiser every day.
- Avoid sudden changes in weight: when a stretch occurs over a short time, the elastic fibres of the dermis can break and stretch marks appear. It is important that any changes in body weight take place gradually and stably over time.
- Prevent the appearance of stretch marks during adolescence: Due to the changes that take place during this stage of life, in both growth and development, it is important that young people learn and acquire the habit of maintaining well-hydrated skin.
- Avoid the appearance of stretch marks during pregnancy: pregnancy causes the skin to stretch rapidly, especially on the abdomen. Therefore, it is essential, from the first month of the pregnancy, to deeply hydrate the skin and apply an anti-stretch mark product daily. It is advisable to start using these products from the beginning of the pregnancy, but it should be essential from the 24th week and especially for new mothers, which is when there is a higher likelihood of stretch marks appearing.
- Treat stretch marks: the sooner the better. If an abrupt change in weight is expected, anti-stretch mark creams must be applied as a preventive measure that include moisturising and nourishing agents, and which stimulate the synthesis of collagen and elastin. Once they have appeared, treatment should continue to prevent them from growing and developing further. It should be considered that the evolution of the lesions will depend on the care that we provide in the early stages, known as “striae rubra”, when they still have pink or purple colouration.