Any sudden change in body like puberty, sudden weight gain and pregnancy can lead to stretch marks in different parts of the body. Almost all the women (about 90%) who get pregnant end up with these marks usually around their abdomen, thighs and heaps. Another unfortunate, and now proven, reason is heredity. It means if a mother has such marks then there is high probability that her children will get them too, regardless of gender. However, they are not necessarily inevitable or untreatable.
Before moving on to the cures, it is better to get a clearer idea about the different causes.
Pregnancy is the dominant cause for this condition and is usually developed quite rapidly during the last month or so. For pregnant women, in addition to rapid stretching of skin, various hormonal imbalances also play a vital role.
Rapid weight gain and puberty
These two reasons are somewhat connected because in both cases body mass, both in height and width, increases disproportionately to skin elasticity. Consequently skin tears and recovers rapidly and causes these marks. Male children risk these more during puberty compared to female children.
Medication and diseases
In addition to natural conditions like pregnancy and puberty, various medications like corticosteroid cream are among the common causes. Frequent and unmeasured consumption of steroids is a dominant reason among body builders. Adrenal gland diseases and some hereditary conditions like Ehlers-Danlos syndrome seems to be equally potential as well.
Treating Stretch Marks
What Does NOT Work
Naturally, there are “ideas” dominant quite persistently about products/items that help to treat this condition while in reality, they do not at all. Some such products are:
Cocoa butter does not work in reducing or curing marks in any way even though it is one of the most popular products among pregnant women.
Any repair serum/cream that claims to be peptide based will not work.
What DOES Work
All known working methods in this case are topical and externally applicable. Some of them are mentioned below:
Using anti stretch mark cream would be definitely worth it, because a quality cream also has moisturizing properties, which ensures better skin elasticity. This means skin can stretch more without risking tear and break. Moisturizing daily makes the skin naturally more capable of trapping necessary moisture within skin cells and thus makes it more flexible. Some people hesitate to use over-the-counter products regularly since they contain various chemicals that could react abnormally due to personal conditions. In that case, they can make up their own herbal moisturizer using measured amounts of aloe vera, wheat germ oil and olive oil. Not only does this mixture have no side effects, it is also one of the fastest working treatments there is. However, moisturizers only, commercial or DIY, cannot get rid of those marks even though they do improve the appearance.
Retinoic acid (aka Retin-A) or thuja occidentalis based creams are a sure way of reducing, if no curing completely, new and emerging marks. These creams are great at boosting collagen production which develops better tear resistance by making the skin more flexible. They do not appear to be much helpful at treating existing marks. However, these chemical based creams have a massive downside: under no circumstances should they be used during pregnancy because there is extreme probability that the mother would suffer during childbirth and the child will be born with some form of defect. Since they also make the skin less resistant to sunlight, it is better not to go outside with one of these creams on.
Alpha-hydroxy acids, especially glycolic acid, are good at boosting collagen production. This means they make the skin more elastic and tear resistant. Glycolic acid is somewhat more effective than retinoic acid and it is also usable during pregnancy. However, like retinoic acid, it also temporarily makes the treated skin vulnerable to sunlight and heat. So it is a good idea to use them in parts that usually remain covered when one goes outside. There is a popular method of using glycolic acid by combining it with Retin-A since the mixture is more potent than they are individually. The combination is actually extremely effective and takes no more than 2 weeks to completely get rid of tear marks. But as one can guess, it is not usable by pregnant women.
Two other mark-resistant items are vitamin E and egg oil. Mixing vitamin E with unscented moisturizers work great although that seems to be especially effective for women who have already given birth at least once for no known reasons. Stretch and similar marks can be completely avoided with the help of egg oils. Women who use this from the eighth week of pregnancy to the sixth month after childbirth can completely avoid these marks.