Stretch marks are a common skin condition, which some people are more prone to than others. They are not harmful to physical health, but they can cause heightened body awareness, which may lead to loss of confidence and self-esteem. The marks often fade over time, but they can also be treated to make them less noticeable.
What causes stretch marks?
They are the result of scarring as the skin stretches or shrinks in a short space of time. The collagen and elastin in the skin can be ruptured when the body changes rapidly during pregnancy, for example. They can also occur when a teenager shoots up rapidly in height, or a person gains or loses weight very quickly.
The appearance of the stretch marks will depend on your natural skin colour. They can be pinkish red, purple, reddish brown, or dark brown, and will look like a series of streaks across the skin. The colour may fade or change over time.
Can they be prevented?
There is no guaranteed way to prevent stretch marks developing. It is advisable to avoid becoming overweight, or losing weight too quickly, by following a healthy balanced diet. Some retinoid creams may help, but these should not be used if you are pregnant.
Can they be treated?
It’s not possible to completely remove stretch marks, as they are permanent scars. However, there are certain cosmetic procedures which can minimise their appearance. These include microdermabrasion, chemical peels, and laser therapy.
Microdermabrasion works by removing a thin layer of skin with fine crystals and a vacuum. Once all the dead skin cells are removed, the layer of skin underneath looks smoother and clearer. A qualified practitioner will apply a hand-held device to the affected area. It takes between 30-60 minutes, and a course of three treatments is recommended.
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