Stretch marks are the seedy underbelly of pregnancy. We wish they didn’t exist, but they do. And almost every pregnant woman will have to deal with them. The joy of watching your torso rapidly expand can be dented with the arrival of these tiger-striped, textured marks that take over your skin and dampen your self-esteem. It’s a natural occurrence that affects 8 out of 10 women during pregnancy. When you’re carrying a baby, it might seem insignificant to allow vanity to seep through and grab your attention. But we’re only human. And life doesn’t stop when your baby is born. While there is absolutely no shame in wearing our stretch marks as badges of honour, there is also no judgement is trying to figure out ways to prevent them, and if all fails, to lessen their appearance.
The science of stretch marks
When you get pregnant, your skin starts to expand to accommodate your new inhabitant. Ordinarily, your skin is quite capable of stretching without hampering its elasticity. But the rate of expansion during pregnancy is so high, the fibres in the middle layer of your skin are unable to cope, and they begin to split. Also, the hormones produced during your pregnancy can weaken these fibres. This causes the pink, purplish or white uneven stripes to spread out across your skin like cracks in a frozen pond. Genetics plays a role as well. If your mother or grandmother got stretch marks during pregnancy, you could be next in line to get them (even if you’ve taken every possible preventive measure in the book).
How to keep stretch marks at bay
If your skin feels very dry or itchy, it could be the first signs of stretch marks (but not necessarily). It’s best to start moisturising and caring for your stomach skin when your stomach is still relatively flat, and the elasticity is still firm. While prevention is always (always) better than cure, the following remedies can be used before or after the formation of stretch marks. As long as you diligently follow them on a daily basis.
And do remember, even with the best preventive care, you may get stretch marks. But even if you get them, these measures (even post appearance) should help with fading them over time.
Home Remedies for reducing stretch marks
1. Stay hydrated:
Drink 8 to 10 glasses of water through the day, daily, to keep your skin’s moisture levels intact. Water plays a huge role in the preservation of your skin’s elasticity.
2. Eat a balanced diet:
Swift weight gain affects all parts of your body, not just your belly. So if you want to avoid these marks on your arms, legs and breasts, stick to a healthy, wholesome diet, and keep your weight under control.
Topical applications that prevent or lessen the appearance of stretch marks
Whether you’re trying to avoid them, or whether you’re dealing with stretch marks after pregnancy, these remedies can help. Apply these ointments twice a day, every day till you see results.
1. Coconut oil:
This oil has Vitamin E and other antioxidants to help nourish your skin and keep it supple. Apply generously over your skin after a bath. Gently massage or rub the oil for a few minutes, so it gets absorbed into your skin. You can start even before you get pregnant and continue long after you deliver, as this exceptional oil is a fantastic moisturiser for all ages.
2. Aloe vera:
A good quality gel or even aloe freshly extracted from the leaf can help keep the marks to a minimum. The gel hydrates and moisturises your skin, and can be used directly or with a few drops of vitamin E for extra nourishment.
3. Castor oil:
This thick, viscous oil is packed with healthy fats that offer your skin deep conditioning. If it’s too sticky to apply, you can mix it with almond oil or coconut oil.
This oil has earned a reputation for healing skin ravaged by pregnancy, and it has been recommended to apply in your second trimester to prevent pregnancy stretch marks. It works best on newly formed stretch marks.
5. Customised Stretch Mark oil:
Specially formulated for stretch marks, an oil like a ‘Forest Essentials Stretch Mark’ oil, can be applied during pregnancy. And it can also work for post-pregnancy stretch marks. It‘s packed with highly nourishing oils like coconut oil, jojoba oil and olive oil to deliver intense hydration to your skin.
6. Cocoa or shea butter:
These rich and creamy butter are better used for preventing stretch marks during pregnancy. They are loaded with fatty acids that deeply moisturise the skin, and prevent the fibres from tearing.
Note: For any new oil that you try, always do a patch test on your arms/legs first.
Interventional therapy for removal of stretch marks
Laser therapy has shown a reduction in the appearance of stretch marks for some women. However, this treatment can have side effects. Do consult with an experienced dermatologist from a reputed clinic. It is also an expensive therapy, so it’s not for everyone.
Stretch marks arrive with a bang. When first formed, they are highly noticeable and deeply textured. Over time, they naturally fade to tiny silver lines. Take care of your skin and moisturise it daily. But also, love your body as it has helped you make a tiny, little miracle.
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