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Fighting stretch marks

While often unwanted, stretch marks affect most Aussies. We explore the common causes and how to prevent and manage them.

While some people are proud of their ‘tiger stripes’, others will do anything to avoid the unwanted scars from occurring, or spend thousands of dollars on treatments to minimise their appearance. But what actually causes these dreaded stretch marks? And is there really anything people can do to prevent them? Let’s take a look.

Firstly, what are stretch marks and why do we get them?

Stretch marks are streaky scars that appear on overstretched skin — usually following rapid growth such as from puberty, weight gain or even body building. However, a vast majority of cases are typically found in pregnant women — most commonly in the last trimester, when the skin experiences the most growth.

Scars occur when collagen and elastic fibers in the skin snap, resulting in underlying tissue expansion. In some instances, they can even appear when skin has been exposed to excess amounts of the hormone, cortisol, which can cause skin to lose its elasticity.

What areas on the body are most affected?

Stretch marks can initially feel itchy and appear purple-red in colour, however rest assured — they do eventually become less noticeable over time. And while scars can occur almost anywhere on the body, they’re more commonly seen on the:

  • Stomach
  • Buttocks
  • Thighs
  • Hips
  • Breasts in women
  • Upper arms
  • Lower back — often seen on adolescent men after a growth spurt

So how can we prevent them from occurring?

While completely harmless, it’s normal to feel irritated by the appearance of stretch marks. And unfortunately, despite various products claiming to prevent them, the jury is still out on how effective these products are.  That’s right — there is no guarantee that cream, oil or ointment will prevent or eliminate them.  

However, there are some ways to assist the likelihood or severity of developing stretch marks. These include:

  • Maintain a healthy weight: While sometimes unavoidable, like during pregnancy, try to avoid rapid weight gain where possible. This can be achieved through a healthy diet and regular exercise.
  • Stay hydrated: Keep your body hydrated — inside and out — by drinking plenty of water and moisturising your skin regularly.
  • Seek professional help: If your stretch mark scars are truly bothering you, speak to you GP to see what other options are available.

For more information on how to keep healthy, go to livebetter.com.au.

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