What are stretch marks?
Stretch marks are red, purple or white streaks on the skin.
They whiten over time like scars that fade but never completely disappear because they are actually tears in the dermis.
There are two main causes for the appearance of stretch marks:
1/Large and rapid weight changes
When gaining weight quickly and significantly, the skin does not have time to grow and develop more tissue surface. This is when the collagen and elastin fibers break down, making way for tears like on an overstretched tissue. The quantity and quality of collagen fibers play a big role, which is why some people are less affected than others. Globally 90% of women will see stretch marks appear on their skin but also many men on different areas of the body.
Stretch marks in women appear on :
- Back of legs
Stretch marks in men appear on :
2/ Hormonal causes
Excess cortisol, the stress hormone, lowers elastin and collagen levels, which leads to the appearance of stretch marks.
In case of high stress, overwork and burn out this can happen.
There is even a pathology of the adrenal glands, Cushing’s syndrome, which causes an excessive secretion of cortisol and patients have a lot of stretch marks all over the upper body. Adolescence is also a critical period with the influx of hormones and growth that stretches the tissues in all directions and very quickly.
Pregnancy is a very risky period to develop these skin tears because the weight gain is important and fast. The belly in particular will be stretched to the maximum, but also the breasts, thighs and hips will gain volume in preparation for breastfeeding. Not to mention all the hormonal changes that take place during this period and the increased use of collagen for the manufacture of fetal tissue. In all cases, stretch marks appear red or purplish and quite large, then with time and certain skin treatments they become white and thinner, and are much less visible. However, tanning can make them stand out because they do not tan.
How to prevent stretch marks?
1/ Avoid rapid weight changes
It is important to control your weight in order to avoid large variations and yo-yo effects. The faster the weight accumulates, the more distended the skin is and the more likely it is to crack.
2/ Avoiding intense or chronic stress
The more stressful your life is, the more pressure you have at work or at home, the longer your commute, the harder your schedule. The more you secrete cortisol, the stress hormone. This hormone favors the appearance of stretch marks on the body in both men and women.
3/ Improve collagen production through diet
Collagen is a structural protein. It is therefore necessary to produce it, to bring enough proteins in the food. You will find them in meat, fish, eggs and certain plants. The synthesis of collagen requires vitamin C to be done. It is therefore necessary to have a daily intake of raw fruits and vegetables to cover the needs.
4/ Moisturize the skin on the surface but also with nutrition
In order to make the skin supple and silky, it is important to moisturize it well by applying sweet almond oil regularly or shea butter if the skin is very dry.
It is important to know that the skin is the reflection of the nutritional state of a person, therefore to nourish it it is necessary to drink 1,5l of water per day but also to have sufficient contributions in essential fatty acids, omega 3, 6 and 9.
A contribution in antioxidants, vitamins A, C, E, Zinc is essential for a good quality of skin.
5/ Have a healthy lifestyle
A healthy lifestyle will therefore be beneficial in the fight against the appearance of stretch marks. Drink a lot of water and avoid sugar, sodas, industrial foods, tobacco and alcohol which pump out antioxidants and deteriorate the quality of the skin and the synthesis of collagen.
What can be done to reduce the appearance of stretch marks?
- Massage with creams and oils such as shea butter, avocado oil, sweet almond oil, rose hip essential oil (except during pregnancy).
- Lose weight and give the skin more room to breathe, to prevent it from being too tight.
- Do sports to firm up the tissues.
- Improve blood circulation to bring nutrients to the last corners of the dermis.
- Don’t forget that the skin is the last organ to receive nutrients! Increase your antioxidant intake to nourish the skin.
- Laser treatments in dermatological institutes can help fade the marks
This worsens the quality of the skin and collagen (structural protein of the skin) :
- Sun abuse because too much exposure dries out the skin and destroys antioxidants
- Age reduces collagen synthesis
- Lack of protein
- Lack of vitamins and antioxidants
- Hormonal changes
- Chronic stress
- Chemical or toxic products, perfumes, unnatural creams
You now have all the keys to better understand and control stretch marks through nutrition!
Article written by Elsa Orivel, dietitian-nutritionist at Foodvisor