Stretch marks (striae) are relatively common, even in males. It is not completely understood how they form, but there are several theories. One is that stretch marks form simply when the skin is stretched to the point of breaking and a scar is formed. Another interesting theory is that stretch marks are caused by an increased level of glucocorticoids (cortisol). Glucocorticoids prevent connective tissues from forming the collagen and elastin fibers need to keep the skin tight, and dermal layer then tears. Some people may be more genetically prone to stretch marks than others. Skin type may be a factor; dryer skin has less elasticity than oily skin, and is more prone to stretch marks.
TREATING STRETCH MARKS
There are several extra steps you can take for the reduction of your stretch marks. Consider your skin care regimen, and fine-tune it to meet the needs of skin that is damaged, requires cellular repair and the stimulation of collagen and elastin production.
Nutrition: An adequate amount of water, vitamins E, C, selenium, and alpha lipoic acid, as well as enough monounsaturated fats (olive oil) and gamma lineolic acid (borage oil) are vital for keeping your skin strong and healthy and able to repair itself.
The basic treatment for the reduction of the appearance of scars is to regularly 1) remove the overgrown scar tissue with brisk exfoliation and then 2) encourage the regrowth of normal tissues with use of nutrients and conditioners.
If stretch marks have formed because of weight gain, reducing bodyfat stores (losing weight) can help reduce the appearance of stretch marks by releasing pressure from the skin.
Exfoliation: Stretch marks are similar to scars, there can be either a build up of scar tissue, which results in a raised stretch mark, or tearing and obvious depressions in the skin. Stretch marks respond well to vigorous exfoliation with both mechanical and chemical means. Your goal is to break down the malformed collagen and have it slough off, while new, properly constructed collagen and skin cells are formed below. You may wish to perform at least a light exfoliation on the stretch marks on a daily basis. You can use a massage tool to improve the breakdown of scar tissues. Applying alpha hydroxy peel products, such as retinol, glycolic or lactic acid, has shown to be effective for the improvement of stretch marks.
Protection: After exfoliating, apply antioxidant formulas with A, E, C, and alpha lipoic acids to protect the new skin cells from damage. If skin is to be exposed to the sun, apply a sunscreen to prevent further breakdown of newly formed skin cells.
Moisturizer: After exfoliating skin and applying antioxidants, moisturize the area thoroughly. If you are prone to stretch marks, remember to moisturize your body skin daily to avoid developing more stretch marks with weight changes. Aloe Vera should be used to improve skin microcirculation, followed by a layer of lipid-based cream or lotion.
Sleep: Get plenty of sleep to help your skin regenerate.
Milk Bath: You can soak your entire body with softening lactic acid by adding a cup or two of skin milk powder to your bath and soaking for 15 to 20 minutes several times a week. For extra enjoyment, add a few drops of your favorite scent to the bath. Rinse the milk bath off under the shower, but do not use soap. If you’re sweaty or dirty, take a quick shower with a mild soap before your milk bath. Moisturize your body skin thoroughly afterwards.
You can prepare your own tinctures and creams, or look for commercial products that contain ingredients known to improve the appearance of stretch marks.
The following nutrients may be helpful in the treatment of stretch marks:
Natural Internal Treatments for Stretch Marks
Alpha Lipoic Acid
Flax Seed Oil
Natural External Treatments for Stretch Marks
Natural Exfoliation Agents
Apricot kernal scrub
Dead Sea Salts
Dessicated Milk Powder (lactic acid)
Brown Sugar (glycolic acid)
White Willow Bark, ground (salicylic acid)
Vitamin A Oil
Natural External Rejuvenation Agents
Aloe Vera Gel
Alpha Lipoic Acid
Grape Seed Extract
Sunflower & Safflower Oil
Vitamin E & Vitamin A oil
Remember that the reduction of stretch marks is a two step process. First, the malformed collagen cells must be broken down by mechanical or chemical means. Secondly the new underlying skin layers must be encouraged to grow properly and with proper nutrition and hydration. Body skin can take as much as 80 days or more to replace itself completely, so diligence and patience are required.
With a little diligent effort, the appearance of stretch marks can be reduced and improved.
Fawn Bales has studied and practiced alternative and herbal medine for 25 years. She has also studied aesthetic technology and cosmetology. She is the co-author of two natural beauty books and is a managing partner of Botanical Beauty Lab, a women's free resource for natural health and beauty information at http://www.botanicalbeautylab.com