Stretch marks, which are also known as striae, typically appear on the breasts, thighs or abdomen after skin in the area stretches substantially in a short period of time. These streaky, stripe-like marks are a type of scar created after elastin fibers and collagen in the skin tear, usually after weight gain. Although there are a myriad of anecdotal remedies and prevention tips, there is no scientific proof that stretch marks can be altogether avoided. There are, however, several ways to support skin health and minimize stretch marks if they appear.
Causes of Stretch Marks
Stretch marks are most closely associated with rapid weight gain, which often happen during pregnancy and puberty. Although it seems most likely that the stretching of the skin is the root cause of these marks, they're actually caused by a more complex hormonal process. During weight changes, your adrenal glands produce higher levels of glucocorticoids, which makes the collagen and elastin fibers in your skin more likely to tear as the skin stretches. Most doctors believe that it's not possible to prevent stretch marks. Instead, they advise you look to your family members to determine whether you're going to develop marks, as genetics appear to be a major factor.
Role of Diet and Exercise
While it won’t outright prevent stretch marks, eating a nutrient-rich diet and regularly exercising helps maintain a healthy weight; it also maximizes circulation and aids in preserving your skin's elasticity. Exercise helps improve muscle tone to prevent skin from over-stretching; likewise, eating a balanced diet can help maximize your skin's elasticity and overall health. Aim to eat a diet that's rich in protein, which aids in tissue repair. Also include vitamins, such as A and E, which protect and repair the skin, as well as zinc -- a key mineral responsible for collagen production.
Natural Skin Treatments
Just as diet and exercise aren't a guarantee against marks, neither are topical treatments, although they can improve your skin's resilience and make stretch marks less noticeable. Rosehip seed oil contains naturally healing vitamins along with essential fatty acids that help smooth and soften skin to improve the appearance of stretch marks, scars and other imperfections. Dry-brushing your skin is another tactic for improving its appearance. In addition to exfoliating your skin, brushing with a natural-bristle brush is reputed to increase your skin's circulation while helping to eliminate toxins. It plumps the skin temporarily, which decreases the prominence of existing stretch marks.
What Your Doctor Can Do
If you notice stretch marks on your breasts and there aren't any obvious reasons, check with your doctor to rule out any other causes. Underlying medical conditions such as diabetes can interfere with your skin's formation of collagen and potentially cause marks. Additionally, new stretch marks may benefit from topical treatment with prescription retinoids, although this can't be used while pregnant. This derivative of vitamin A helps build skin's collagen levels to improve the appearance of stretch marks.