Tiger stripes. Baby love bites. You earned them but you may not want to keep them. That’s right, stretch marks. Between 50 to 90 percent of women are affected by them, but little research has been done on the topic because they are not a medical concern. These marks are neither painful nor harmful, but for some, it is an aesthetic concern.
What are stretch marks?
In scientific terms, stretch marks are line-shaped lesions known as striae. What we do know about stretch marks are that they appear when a person grows or gains weight rapidly such as during pregnancy. Commonly found on the breasts, hips, thighs, and torso they start as red-ish, glossy skin and over time may turn more whitish with a different texture than the surrounding skin. (1)
An article published in the British Journal of Dermatology, took a microscopic look at striae and found the elastic fibers in skin that give it the ability to “snap back” after stretching remain disrupted in the area where a stretch mark forms. (2) Compounding this effect, it is also thought that the hormones that help soften pelvic ligaments and increase their flexibility during pregnancy also work to soften skin fibers. (3)
Prevention during pregnancy is key
Many creams, gels, lotions, and cosmetics are advertised to prevent or reduce the appearance of stretch marks. However, several studies have found little to no evidence that these interventions work. Creams and oils can help with dryness and itchiness but have not shown promise of treating stretch marks. (3) (2)
While you may not be able to prevent stretch marks completely, there are way to reduce your risk. During pregnancy, eating a healthy diet and maintaining a healthy weight are the top ways to prevent the formation. Aiming for slow, steady weight gain will also help prevent the tearing of your skin’s elastic fibers. For those with a normal BMI, it is recommended you gain 1 pound per week during your second and third trimesters. (4)
Stretch Marks Diet
Eating a well-balanced diet loaded with vitamins and minerals can be a good defense against striae. Focusing on antioxidants that are good for your skin – such as beta-carotene and vitamins C, E, and A – not only helps you but also meets the nutritional needs of your growing baby. These vitamins work to aid in skin cell creation and collagen formation. Incorporating the following foods into your diet can help prevent stretch marks:
Zinc is another nutrient that can help when it comes to stretch marks. It is a necessary mineral found in foods and helps produce collagen. Foods high in since are:
The final component is hydration. Drinking enough fluids throughout pregnancy is important for many reasons but when you boost your skin’s hydration it can keep your skin elastic and maintain normal production of collagen.