There are no two ways around it - stretch marks suck! The cold reality, however, is that nearly everyone gets them. We know... that doesn't really make you feel any better about them. It's okay, MOST people feel the same way. Those lines and defined ridges can definitely be an embarrassing eyesore.
Don't get too gloomy on us, though - there is light at the end of the tunnel. Today we're going to talk about the causes of these annoying blemishes, the actual science behind them, and, of course, steps you can take to start erasing them from your skin.
Stretch marks are caused by a multitude of things. The most common cause? You guessed it... pregnancy. Second biggest trigger? While there isn't really any scientific data to prove it, it's safe to assume that rapid weight loss or weight gain are pretty high up the list.
In addition to those there's also puberty, muscle growth, and even extreme fitness.
Pregnancy is the single most common cause of stretch marks (for women, of course). Why does it happen? Well, your hormones are going crazy, your body is growing to accommodate another human being developing inside you, and your entire way of life is being radically transformed.
All that said... it's pretty understandable that during this time your body is completely and utterly stressed out. This includes your skin.
Think about what's going... your stomach is expanding like a balloon. In most cases, so are your breasts, your thighs, your buttocks, and just about every other part of your body. Unfortunately, our skin is perfect and isn't capable of handling such rapid expansion very well.
It holds up... but it not without some suffering of its own - generally in the form of... yup... stretch marks!
Another big culprit behind the formation of stretch marks is weight loss and weight gain. If you put on weight slowly it tends not to be an issue. If you gain 5, 10, or 15+ pounds in a relatively short amount of time, however, your skin will react much in the same fashion as it does for women going through pregnancy - it's being stretched too thin so those nasty lines are likely going to appear.
On the flip side, if you're losing weight too quickly your skin is going from being stretched out thin to shrinking rapidly. This forces the skin to attempt to shrink back too fast which can also cause marks to appear in certain spots.
During the teenage years the body is growing at an alarming rate. You're getting taller, your muscles are growing, and maybe you're even getting a little wider. All of these things can lead to the development of stretch marks.
Don't be alarmed if your teen is starting to get them, though.
The good news is that because they're so young, these marks will often completely disappear on their own after a few months or a year or so because their skin is still in the development phase and it will repair the stressed areas in due time.
As stated above, there are a number of other things that can cause these bothersome blemishes to pop up. In most cases, though, the core reason is the same - rapid growth of an area.
If you're 21 or older and you've developed stretch marks it's still possible that they'll fade away on their own, but the process is much, much slower than for kids in their early to late teens. Your body is pretty much done with its natural development and the healing process is a tad lengthier now.
This is especially true once you get to 35 and beyond. The older you get... the longer it takes for your body to bounce back from anything... it's just how it is!
Don't get too down in the dumps, though. That does NOT mean you have to wait years before your skin clears up and you can confidently strut around the pool again.
There are a few different things you can do to help speed up the recovery process and get your skin back to normal in as little time as possible. We've outlined some of these methods below.
For those on a tight budget the best way to go is using a stretch mark removal cream. These are generally pretty affordable and are often a good choice for people that are looking to prevent stretch marks from forming during pregnancy or get rid of marks that are less than 6 months old.
Creams like TriLastin-SR (read our Trilastin-SR review here) work by helping to rebuild the skin's natural elasticity, smooth out existing dips, and fade the discoloring created by the marks. This gives your the skin the ability to bounce back to its natural state quickly and start looking normal again.
Results from products like this can usually be seen within 4 weeks but, depending on the severity of the stretch marks, it can take 2 months or a bit longer to completely remove the lines and coloring. Yes, it takes a bit of time, but it's faster than waiting on your skin to repair itself naturally and it's far, far cheaper than getting laser treatments or surgery.
Generally speaking, stretch marks that are older than 6 months are usually deeper and more developed. Most of the time a simple cream won't be able to tackle these. If you have mature marks, you'll likely have to save up some cash and schedule an appointment at your local medical spa or plastic surgeon.
Are your marks a little too aged or too defined to be solved with a cream? Don't freak out just yet - there's still hope! The next level of treatment would be to seek out laser therapy. These kinds of treatments are often available at med spas.
The most common and effective one for stretch marks is a fractional laser. These lasers are able to help stimulate the growth of collagen and elastin in the area - both of which are necessary for the recovery of the skin. It may, however, take more than one treatment to get the job done. Nevertheless, the results come pretty quick and fractional lasers have been proven to work well for treating stretch marks.
The downside to this option is that the cost can be a bit high. A single session will often cost a bare minimum of $500. Depending on where you get it done it can cost as much as $1500 per treatment.
Finally, we come to the mac-daddy of all treatment methods - surgery. This is always the last resort for any skin-care need, but it's also by and large the fastest and effective of them all.
The most common surgery associated with stretch marks is a tummy tuck. It's pretty obvious why, considering most people develop stretch marks via pregnancy or weight gain. This procedure involves making a cut, stretching the skin taut, and sewing your back up. It's basically the equivalent of cutting out the damaged skin.
The pros are obvious. It's an instant fix.
The cons? Well, there are a lot - major downtime, significant cost (typically $3,000+), missed work, etc.
But, as we already said, it's the single fastest and most effective option available. So, if you've got the money to invest in it - go for it. If you haven't already, though, it's highly recommended that you attempt using creams and laser treatments for a bit before you opt to spend such a huge amount on surgery.