Pregnancy stretch marks have a hard life! These totally natural, zebra-like marks, which forever mark the body of this fabulous adventure, are often associated with shame and embarrassment. Many women seek to reduce them, or even better, make them disappear. A subject that interests many: Elia takes stock!
What are stretch marks?
Stretch marks can appear at any stage of life: adolescence, pregnancyrapid weight gain or loss, etc. ssimply put, stretch marks are fine lines on the skin, giving the impression lof a scar with a slight relief, and can be several centimetres long and between 1 and 10 millimetres wide.
The mechanism? When skin is subjected to tension, it eventually "cracks", like a micro-tear in the dermis (the intermediate layer between epidermis and hypodermis), leading to the appearance of stretch marks. These tears are caused by the rupture of collagen fibers, which play an essential role in skin elasticity. They are mainly found on the stomach, but also on the thighs, hips and even the chest. And pregnant women dread them!
Pregnancy stretch marks can appear as early as the second trimester of pregnancy, but in general, they tend to appear at the end of pregnancy, or even after childbirth. Good to know: stretch marks affect 50-80% of pregnant women!
Red or purple stretch marks
Red stretch marks, also known as "immature" stretch marks, are recent and, in theory, easier to remove! They can be recognized by their red, pink or purplish hue. In fact, these stretch marks are in the inflammatory stage, and require rapid treatment to prevent them turning white. Red or dark stretch marks can remain this way for several weeks to several months, but in some women, stretch marks go straight to pearly white!
White stretch marks
White stretch marks, also known as "mature" stretch marks, are actually older traces of skin tearing, and are much more difficult to remove. However, certain procedures performed by a dermatologist can help get rid of stretch marks.
What causes stretch marks during pregnancy?
As you'll have gathered, stretch marks are caused by the tearing of collagen and elastin fibers in the dermis, which, when subjected to tension, cause the skin to crack. This tearing is visually manifested by long, thicker or thinner lines, like scars, called stretch marks . The causes of this tension in the skin are multiple (and still unclear ). It's worth remembering, however, that not all pregnant women are affected by stretch marks, despite the fact that they sometimes put on a lot of weight! Yes, we agree, life is unfair! And conversely, some women who have gained very little weight during pregnancy will find their skin streaked with stretch marks...
Weight gain during pregnancy
Weight gain during pregnancy is the primary trigger for stretch marks, at least for the women concerned. In fact, as the skin gains weight, it stretches significantly. It is this rapid and significant expansion of body volume during pregnancy that can be responsible for the appearance of stretch marks, whether on the stomach, thighs, hips or breasts. The tension exerted on the skin as it stretches can damage the dermis, causing the skin's collagen and elastin to break down.
Loss of skin elasticity
Since tears are caused by the breakdown of collagen fibers in the skin's dermis, it's logical to deduce that this loss of skin elasticity accelerates the process of stretch mark formation (and they are very difficult to reduce).
It would appear that hormonal changes in women are responsible for the appearance of pregnancy stretch marks! In particular, the stress hormone cortisol is responsible for the drop in elastin and collagen production. The body's production of cortisol increases during the second trimester of pregnancy, which may explain the loss of skin elasticity and hence the appearance of stretch marks. The rise in estrogen also leads to a drop in collagen and elastin production.
When do stretch marks first appear during pregnancy?
Variable mechanisms mean unequal distribution of stretch marks among women! As mentioned above, not all pregnant women are prone to stretch marks . Some women see these fine lines appear as early as the first few months of pregnancy, while others have to wait until the second trimester to see stretch marks appear on their skin!
The weeks following childbirth can also be a propitious time for the appearance of stretch marks in women. The body undergoes a significant change in volume, and the skin is suddenly under much less tension. This sudden discrepancy can lead to the appearance of stretch marks on the skin.
What areas are affected by pregnancy stretch marks?
It would be logical to imagine that pregnancy stretch marks would first appear on the pregnant belly, but no! In reality, all areas of the body subject to variations in volume, weight and tension are potentially affected by pregnancy stretch marks. Pregnant women with stretch marks generally see them appear on the hips, buttocks, thighs and breasts. In fact, these are the areas of the body where pregnancy kilos are most likely to be found!
However, there's no need to generalize: women with an "android" morphology may be affected by stretch marks on their arms or lower back. No matter how much weight you've gained!
Can stretch marks be prevented in pregnant women?
If you're not yet concerned by these little marks of life (let's be crazy and call them stretch marks), it's perfectly possible to adopt daily gestures to prevent them from appearing, even during pregnancy. Even if there are no concrete studies to guarantee that no stretch marks will appear on your skin, when in doubt, prevention is still the best thing to do!
First thing to do: massage the skin! Using a moisturizing cream or rose hip oil, this activates blood microcirculation and stimulates cell renewal. A little tip: Daylily products are specifically designed for the skin of mothers-to-be, and in particular for the prevention of pregnancy stretch marks (in the form of oil or melting milk)!
Another advantage is that it keeps the skin well hydrated (whether on the stomach or elsewhere).
LHydrating the skin also means drinking enough water(and not the bare minimum, we see!). So make sure you drink at least 1.5 liters of water a day! And this hydration also comes from your diet: focus on water-rich fruit and vegetables, as well as unsaturated fatty acids such as Omega 3 and 6, found in vegetable oils (rapeseed, linseed, walnut). Also focus on foods rich in Vitamins C and E, which contribute to skin suppleness (kiwi, lettuce, peppers, oranges, lemons, mandarins, grapefruit, melons, legumes, oilseeds, vegetable oils and animal proteins).
Finally, weight gain during pregnancy should ideally remain within the range of what is "expected" in relation to your baseline weight, and be gradual, to avoid sudden, major distension of the skin, and hence stretch marks. But remember that, for the same weight gain, lthe appearance of stretch marks will be highly variable!
What are the solutions for making stretch marks disappear?
As stretch marks are scars in the dermis, it is unfortunately impossible to make them disappear completely, but they can at least be greatly reduced! Lhe ideal solution is to act on red stretch marks, which are in the inflammatory stage. Once they're white, stretch marks are much harder to reduce...
Care creams and oils
In terms of creams and oils to attenuate stretch marks, we recommend Vitamin A-based creams, to be applied to red stretch marks. It activates collagen synthesis in the skin, and is highly effective on stretch marks! Beware, however, of using it after pregnancy, as it can cause developmental abnormalities in the foetus. This type of cream is only available by prescription. Ideally, it should be combined with a moisturizing cream to limit its irritating effect and help reduce stretch marks!
During pregnancy, it's also possible to use creams concentrated in active ingredients reputed to support collagen production in the skin and bring suppleness to the skin. The Mustela, Weleda (organic brand) and Daylily brands remain our favorites when it comes to stretch mark care!
Finally, to maximize the effect of anti-stretch mark skincare during pregnancy, we recommend exfoliating the skin once a week. This frees the skin from dead cells accumulated on the surface, allowing it to "breathe" and regenerate more easily, helping to reduce stubborn stretch marks.
The laser stops the inflammation of the skin and limits the evolution of the red stretch mark towards a white one. This type of treatment is performed by a dermatologist, and only after pregnancy! You'll then need to top up the treatment with appropriate creams and oils to reduce the remaining mark on the skin and make the stretch marks almost disappear. In terms of price, it's a small investment, but a really effective one if you want to reduce stretch marks.
Stretch marks and pregnancy: the Body Positive trend
Now that we've covered the subject of pregnancy stretch marks, isn't it time to remember that, after all, a woman's body is constantly changing? Pregnancy is such an upheaval for women, such an adventure, that the path of acceptance is one to consider.
And in the context of the "Body Positive" trend, Elia encourages all pregnant women to celebrate themselves, and accept, as best they can, the traces of time and life's events. Including pregnancy stretch marks!
FAQs on stretch marks during pregnancy
Do stretch marks disappear after pregnancy?
Stretch marks never completely disappear, even after pregnancy. These scars, which particularly affect pregnant women, can s'fade over time, without disappearing altogether. The smallest stretch marks, however, can become almost invisible with time and appropriate care - but only for a while!
Is it possible to avoid stretch marks during pregnancy?
Not all pregnant women suffer from stretch marks during pregnancy! In fact, some pregnant women are not affected by stretch marks during pregnancy. This injustice is partly due to heredity, weight fluctuation (gain or loss) and hormonal factors.
Does losing weight make stretch marks disappear?
As we all know, sudden and significant weight gain or loss during pregnancy can lead to the lappearance of stretch marks, and logically, slimming down or losing weight won't make them go away! They can only be reduced by skin care or laser treatment by a dermatologist.