Home Remedies For Stretch Marks
Have you ever been self conscious about those annoying light colored lines around your arms, thighs, hips, or breasts?
Many women (and men) are plagued by stretch marks and are not sure where to turn for a solution. There are plenty of resources on the internet suggesting the “cure” for stretch marks with home remedies.
Are these too good to be true? Do home remedies really work for reducing or eliminating stretch marks from the skin?
To answer this question, we need to first investigate what it is that causes stretch marks, and what is happening at the cellular level.
What Exactly Are Stretch Marks?
The actual name for stretch marks that doctors and dermatologists use is called “striae”. These are strips that form on the surface of the skin.
They are the result of weight gain, or pregnancy as the skin is literally stretched faster than it can handle. In normal circumstances, as the skin is stretched, it multiplies and divides quickly, giving it more surface area and able to accommodate the added mass below.
Stretch marks generally form around the abdomen after recent weight gain or pregnancy, but can also form around the thighs, waist, hips, lower back, breasts, and arms.
How are stretch marks formed?
There are 3 basic layers of skin. The outer layer known as the epidermis, the middle layer which is called the dermis, and finally the hypodermis which is the deepest layer. Each layer has slightly different types of cells that play different roles in the body.
The outermost layer consists mainly of keratinocytes which are tough fibrous cells that protect us from the elements.
The hypodermis (the bottom layer), is the most vascular and can handle the fasted growth. This is where a lot of the body fat is stored, which can swell many times their size, pushing up on the upper layers and ultimately cause stretch marks to form.
The dermis (middle layer) is the layer that has the most to do with the formation of stretch marks. This is where the connective tissue lies, and the elastin and collagen are found.
Collagen is a hard protein that is used to connect cells together. It is the most abundant protein in the entire human body.
Elastin on the other hand does the opposite. It stretches like an elastic band and gives the skin its stretchability.
As the skin is stretched, either by swelling fat storage cells in the hypodermis, muscle tissue, or the growth of a baby, it is the middle layer that tends to struggle keeping up with the added surface area.
Since the dermis contains a lot of connective tissue and has a much slower growth rate than other tissues in the body, the skin will begin to stretch. The elastin present will accommodate this stretch for a while, but will eventually stretch beyond their limits.
Collagen will now begin to build up around the cracks in the connective tissue in an attempt to keep it together. Over time, this collagen will begin to pull apart as well,leaving behind white scar tissue. This is what we now see visibly as a stretch mark.
What Causes Stretch Mark?
There are many different causes that can lead to stretch marks on the skin. All of them ultimately have the same effect on the skin tissues.
The stretching and rapid growth of the contents under the skin is what is going to cause stretch marks to appear.
- Sudden weight gain
- Steroid use
- Rapid muscle gain
- Hormonal changes at puberty
- Genetic skin disorders
- Cushing’s syndrome
The symptoms of stretch marks are generally very easy to notice.
They involve the appearance of small pink lines forming in the skin.
These will worsen over time if the skin continues to stretch, and will eventually remain as small-medium white strips on the skin surface resembling that of a scar.
In the initial stages of stretch marks, the skin will have a thin, pinkish-red mark, and will be soft to the touch.
Over time, this will begin to lighten and eventually form hard white or discolored lines in the skin.
Stretch Mark Treatment Options
Currently there are 3 main market solutions for stretch marks. Laser, retinoid creams, and microdermabrasion.
Each have their own strengths and weaknesses. The reason they are so popular today is because for the most part they do work. Not every case is the same, and what works on one person might not work on another.
These treatments are very popular, and work by stimulating the growth of collagen, or elastin within the skin.
Retinoids are derived from vitamin A. It is best used within a few months from developing the stretch marks. It works by rebuilding the damaged collagen in your skin.
This will make the marks look more like your normal skin, but will not remove them completely.
In some cases retinoids have been found to irritate the skin, so for anybody who has not used them before it is advised to try a sample before using more than a few drops.
It is also important to avoid using retinoid if you are pregnant or nursing, as retinoids may give young babies skin irritations.
Microdermabrasion involves a handheld device that blasts the skin with tiny crystals.
The idea behind this is that it works to remove the top layer of skin, to promote the production of new skin underneath.
This new skin will likely have more elastin and collagen to help reduce the visibility of stretch marks and increase the skin’s resistance to developing more with increased elastin contents.
Home Remedies For Stretch Marks
Home remedies involve anything that can be bought and applied at home, safely.
There are plenty of home remedies that can be found for stretch marks on the internet that claim to “cure” stretch marks.
As with the market products, everybody is different. Our skin varies greatly from person to person and as such what will work for one person may not do the same for another.
If you aim to try home remedies for your stretch marks, be prepared to try a few different options to see what works for you.
Below we will investigate some of the more popular ones in more details.
Aloe vera gel
Aloe vera has a natural ability to soothe and repair damaged skin. It helps to promote skin regeneration including the collagen and connective tissue in the dermal layer.
Aloe is also high in antioxidants which can further reduce damage caused by reduced vascular flow to the damaged skin.
The soothing action of aloe makes it great for repeated applications during pregnancy, while simultaneously acting as a preventative for stretch marks. It is especially good for new stretch marks that have not yet developed rigid scar tissue.
Olive oil is naturally high in monounsaturated fatty acids, which are perfect for the health of the skin. All cells in the body have an outer membrane made of fatty acids.
As the cells divide and grow to accommodate weight gain or pregnancy, they will need plenty of new fatty acids to build up new membranes. When there is not enough available, the skin will tear and begin to form stretch marks on the skin.
This oil is best used as a preventative for stretch marks by giving the cells the materials they need to grow and divide quickly to help them accommodate for the stretching skin. This will result in fewer and less noticeable stretch marks.
Lemon juice is suggested to lighten the stretch marks to make them less noticeable on the skin. Whether this is true or not is hard to say.
What is known, however, is that lemons contain a rich source of alpha-hydroxy acids which are well known to support collagen growth and formation.
This would lend to the the idea that lemons are a great way of reducing the appearance of stretch marks, and may even offer preventative support as well!
Cocoa butter is taken from the chocolate plant (Theobroma cacao). The seed of the chocolate plant has some of the highest concentrations of antioxidant polyphenols in the world.
The oil is squeezed from the seed itself, and as such contains a high level of antioxidants. These antioxidants give the butter its long shelf life.
On the skin, the antioxidant chemicals promote the health of the skin by reducing free radical damage. This gives it more opportunity to heal itself through collagen synthesis, and by producing more elastin to prevent the problem from worsening.
Cocoa butter also offers the cells the building blocks they need to grow and divide, by including a rich source of saturated, and unsaturated fatty acids (Source).
Water is by far the most important remedy for stretch marks.
A well hydrated body will recover from nearly all damage faster than a thirsty one. It makes up over 60% of our body, the majority of which is contained inside our cells.
In situations like stretch marks, the cells in the area are not able to grow and divide fast enough to accommodate the expansion of the layers underneath.
Providing the skin with adequate nutrition, and adequate water, will allow them to grow and divide faster, thus reducing the chances for stretch marks to appear.
It also works in the opposite direction, helping the body repair and replace the cells damaged by the rapid expansion.
Calendula is a flower contained within the same family as dandelions or sunflowers. The oil itself contains many chemicals that have a high affinity for the health of the skin. Some of which are antioxidants.
Others include resins, flavonoids, and saponins noted to increase the fibroid and wound healing in damaged skin (Source).
Calendula also offers potent anti inflammatory actions, and has been shown to increase the speed of healing in damaged skin (Source).