Battle Scars: Major Stretch Mark Myths Debunked

By Amy Lee, Parent Herald July 13, 02:52 pm

Much as you might try to conceal them under heavy makeup or clothes, or you wear them as a badge of honor after childbirth, chances are you have some stretch marks like most people. Stretch marks have become a part of our lives it seems. Whether it can be treated, avoided, or eliminated entirely, the debate on this condition is never-ending. And while it may seem like women are starting to be more tolerant about it in a similar way they are more accepting of their natural appearance, stretch marks still remain a sore point for some. In fact, it normally takes some people a long time before they can embrace the squiggly lines showing on their thighs and chest. 

Despite stretch marks being an obvious cause for concern, only a few individuals know about the condition at an in-depth level. What the marks are and how measures can be put to prevent them completely is still a matter of debate.

Stretch Marks: Debunking the Major Myths

Below we shall examine some of the most common myths often associated with the condition, including some useful forms of treatment that could possibly remedy the situation. Like any other bodily conditions, you might have heard of, the need to shed light on the myths surrounding stretch marks is crucial to know the truth and manage the condition in a better way. So, here are the most common myths linked to the condition.

1. Stretch Marks: A Sign That You Must Lose Weight

Despite that amount of overwhelming evidence available, this myth has stuck around for quite some time now. It really does not matter how much an individual weighs; virtually anyone can get these marks. Whether you're a man, woman, old, young sedentary, or active, the marks can show on your body. Stretch marks develop when the skin is forcefully caused to thin and hence stretching happens. The thinning that occurs exposes a deeper skin layer in the form of tributary-like tears ranging in color from purple to red and white. Ultimately, the fluctuation in color depends on the ethnicity and ancestry of an individual. Note that none of the colors are an indication of a problem. Stretch marks pose no threat to your health in any way.

2. Stretch Marks Only Affect Women

Stretch marks tend to naturally occur immediately after pregnancy and consequently believed to affect only women. During pregnancy, approximately 90% of women exhibit signs of stretch marks that typically occurs between the sixth and seventh months. However, men also get stretch marks as well. When men develop stretch marks, the cause is normally medical therapies, weight shifting or body image shifting. 

It is important to note that stretch marks often develop when the elastin fiber underneath the skin break as a result of the rapid stretching that occurs in a short time. Therefore, besides pregnancy, these marks can also show when an individual experiences sudden weight loss or gain. What's more, growth spurts occurring during puberty can also be attributed to the condition.

3. Stretch Marks Only Occur Due To Stretching Of the Skin

Even though stretching of the skin is one of the most obvious and common reasons for developing the marks, it isn't the only reason for their occurrence. The dermis is a strong layer of skin and boasts of having a good protective and supportive material. Even so, hormonal factors have a tendency to decrease or prevent the formation of collagen and elastin fibers in the dermis. As a result, the ability of the skin to withstand forces associated with rapid stretching is reduced significantly, meaning you become more likely to develop stretch marks. The increased levels of glucocorticoids, as well as numerous other hormones, can be attributed to this. The adrenal gland produces more of the hormone during puberty, pregnancy, bodybuilding, and quick weight loss or weight gain.

4. The Condition Only Affects the Stomach

Even though the most commonly affected location is the stomach, especially during pregnancy, the marks also appear in other body parts including the breasts, buttocks, calves, lower back, elbow, knee creases, and upper arms. Note that stretch marks are capable of forming in any location having an excess amount of fat storage, which explains why the condition mostly develops in the abdomen region. Also, any part of the body where the dermis is forced to stretch over time is at risk of developing the dermal tears. Consequently, the condition can exhibit itself in these areas.

5. Stretch Marks Disappear Even Without Remedial Intervention

This is false. While it's true that the purple and red color disappears over time, you'll still be left with some white marks. Therefore, the marks might eventually fade with time, but they do not disappear without remedial intervention. If you ignore the condition, then it is highly likely that it'll stay with you for a long time.

6. Stretch Marks Can Be Treated or Eliminated Completely

Stretch marks are a permanent feature and hence cannot be treated. The existence of dermatological procedures and topical solutions may improve the appearance by lightning the affected areas, but they don't eliminate these marks. Some of the widely recommended solutions either boost collagen production or repair damaged skin cells. Other forms of treatment minimize the level of discoloration, improve skin softness, and strengthen the structure of the skin.

While some remedial measures and treatments can help lighten or fade the marks, they can't be eliminated completely, regardless of costly the treatment or remedial alternative might be. Instead, most individuals with the condition resort to stretch mark removal creams to lighten the appearance and make them seem almost invisible. According to Amy Tribe of O.G.L.F., there is a broad range of stretch mark removal creams that can fade the marks over time with regular, consistent use. Each one has a different formula, as is the case with everyone's skin and depending which type you prefer, some of the creams are formulated using lightening agents to lighten or fade the appearance of the condition. 

7. Diet Has No Effect on Stretch Marks

Eating a highly inflammatory diet means your metabolism will cause you to be overweight and chances are, the inclination for the hidden trait for developing stretch marks is increased tremendously thus making them more visible.

Dermatologists and dieticians suggest a balanced, nourishing diet comprising of Vitamin A, C, and E. These help by keeping your skin healthy and repair damaged skin. They are found in foods including berries, avocados, oranges, bell peppers, nuts, and carrots. A diet having an abundance of Omega-3 fatty acids and antioxidants are effective enough for preventing the occurrence of the marks to a certain extent. Therefore, be very selective when it comes to your food intake. By taking precautionary measures, you can prevent the condition even if you are genetically predisposed. 

8. Constant Scratching Causes Stretch Marks

Scratching any part of your body that is expanding rapidly due to weight gain or pregnancy does not cause the condition to develop. Instead, the marks show up due to the constant pressure applied to the skin through the rapid stretching that occurs. When skin stretching combines with the body's hormonal changes, collagen fibers become vulnerable to breakage. Since sudden weight loss and weight gain is one of the most common causes of the condition, it explains why 90% of women in their pregnancy have higher chances of exhibiting these marks. The hormones, which soften ligaments within the pelvic area, are the same ones that make collagen more inclined to breakage. When it does break, tiny microscopic tears occurring in the dermal skin layer develop into stretch marks.

9. Stretch Marks Disappear With Weight Loss

You are gravely mistaken if you've always thought that losing weight rapidly will lead to the disappearance of the condition. It is just a myth considering no factual evidence has ever been presented in support of the same. Therefore, even if you resort to losing weight excessively, you'll still have stretch marks showing. Nevertheless, they will fade after some time. In the initial stages, the marks will look either red or pink in color and are easily seen. However, after a period of time, these marks become lighter, giving the illusion that they are disappearing. In actual sense, they are only less visible.

10. Drinking Water Prevents the Formation Of Stretch Marks

While drinking water is essential for keeping the body hydrated, it doesn't do anything much to remedy or prevent the formation of the marks. No correlation exists between stretch marks and drinking water. However, staying hydrated improves the overall skin appearance and is something everyone should consider adopting as part of your daily skincare regimen.

11. Skinny People Are Immune to the Condition

This isn't true. Skinny people like everyone else also have hormones. Whether someone possesses a naturally skinny physique or opts to work out daily to maintain a slim physique, the possibility of getting stretch marks is real. Genetic and hormonal factors are the main contributors to the development of stretch marks. Teenagers and pre-teens alike are highly susceptible to getting these marks because of the hormonal changes they undergo, regardless of weight. Even if a skinny individual becomes pregnant or never puts on weight, hormone imbalances or puberty could potentially make the marks appear.

12. Tanning Covers Them Up

Tanning your body actually makes the marks appear more prominent. If you find this hard to believe or understand, then you should think of them as scars. It is worth noting that scars have no functional melanocytes the same way that non-scarred skin does. Skin damaged by stretch marks has no reliable skin-repair mechanism. Therefore, the affected area of your skin cannot tan and resemble the rest of your skin. Therefore, the idea of tanning as a form of remedy isn't quite a good idea. In fact, tanning only makes the situation worse, as it darkens the surrounding skin, thus making the condition look more obvious.

13. Medicines Do Not Cause Stretch Marks

The fact is taking certain forms of medication and steroids actually expose you to the risk of developing stretch marks. Taking drugs incorrectly, or abusing them causes rapid weight gain that initiates stretching of the skin, which causes the development of the condition. Before you take such medicines for any compelling illnesses or health condition, it is important that you consult a physician on how best you can minimize or prevent the development of the condition.

14. Laser Resurfacing Treats Stretch Marks

In an effort to eliminate the marks, some people may also resort to laser resurfacing as a remedial measure. However, we hate to be the bearer of bad news, but this treatment does not eliminate the marks. While the affected area might seem or appear improved after the procedure, it does not treat the condition.

15. The Treatments for Stretch Marks Are Covered By Health Insurance

The marks are only classified as a cosmetic concern, meaning they don't pose any health risks to the affected individuals even in severe situations. Therefore, the supposed treatment options offered today, including Microdermabrasion, laser surgery, and other cosmetic procedures aren't covered by any form of health insurance. 

16. Exercising Eliminates the Condition 

The truth of the matter is that no amount of gym time will ever make the already existing marks vanish. On the other hand, having a firmer, better-toned body is a helpful move, especially if you would like to conceal the marks. Therefore, you might want to consider exercising as a way of minimizing the effects of the condition.

Only few individuals have an in-depth understanding of the condition and this partly explains the frustrations most people experience while trying to treat the condition using different remedies without any success. Furthermore, common misconceptions and myths about stretch marks make it extremely difficult for many people to gain a deeper, better understanding of the condition and how to reduce the effects. However, if you're equipped with the correct knowledge and information regarding this problem, you can easily find better ways to remedy the condition. For this reason, the myths discussed above debunk the myths thus enabling you to know how best you can deal with the condition in the most appropriate way.

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