Stretch marks or striae distensae, are scar tissue in the skin’s dermal layer that results from rapid weight gain. These lesions, also found crisscrossing the breasts, hips, buttocks, and thighs, can appear on the abdomen region.
Common causes of stretch marks include obesity, puberty, pregnancy, and also rapid muscle growth. In a few cases, extended use of topical steroids also triggers the skin condition.
In women, stretch marks typically appear during or after pregnancy. These marks could also be due to heredity issues. During pregnancy, your body doesn’t produce elastin and collagen rapidly enough to cater to the expansion of other cutaneous layers.
These marks, i.e. striae rubra, appear red, pink, or purple in the beginning. Between 50% and 90% of pregnant women, get stretch marks after or during childbirth.
There are three layers of the skin. However, stretch marks form in the middle layer of the dermis. The connective tissue stretches beyond the limits of its elasticity, generally owing to rapid weight gain. If you don’t treat the lesions, their texture can change from swollen to moderately depressed or flattened white marks or striae alba.
Most common causes of abdominal striae:
Common causes of abdominal striae include:
• Rapid weight gain
• Medical conditions such as Cushing’s syndrome and Marfan syndrome: Cushing’s syndrome results in excess production of cortisol, leading to skin fragility and rapid weight gain. Marfan syndrome results in decreasing the elasticity of the skin tissue.
• Corticosteroid use: Prolonged use of corticosteroid lotions and creams diminish collagen levels in the skin. Since collagen promotes the skin’s firmness, lack of collagen leads to the appearance of stretch marks.
• Genetics: If you are not overweight or pregnant, one of the reasons why you are having stretch marks is due to your genetic make-up.
• Ethnicity: Individuals who have dark skin are less susceptible to stretch marks.
• Weight Gain and Weight Loss: Rapid weight gain or weight loss can cause abdominal stretch marks.
• Weight lifting: Quick development of muscle mass stretches the skin beyond its limits.
• Corticosteroids: Continual use of oral or topical corticosteroids which can also trigger stretch marks.
In worst cases, abdominal stretch marks reach up to your upper arms, shoulder, and breasts. It is interesting to note that stretch marks can become more severe if the levels of circulating cortisone increase. Cortisol refers to the stress hormone, which the adrenal gland produces. Your body converts this hormone into cortisone. It affects the skin negatively as it weakens elastic fibers present in the skin.
How to treat abdominal striae
Retinoids encourage elastic and collagen production. When you regularly massage retinoids into striae rubra, the lesion’s textures and appearance greatly improve. However, pregnant or breastfeeding women should avoid using retinoids.
Moisturizers with shea butter or cocoa butter or Centella asiatica a main component are great for treating stretch marks. For increasing their efficacy, these formulations work best when you massage them deep into the troubled area.
Moreover, treatments offer quick and long-term results when abdominal stretch marks are identified early. Dermatologists recommend that patients should seek immediate treatment to get rid of unpleasant abdominal striae. When your stretch marks are purplish, pink or red; you have a higher chance of treating them with in-office peels and at-home products.
However, once they turn white or silver, the chances of removing these unwanted stretch marks significantly decrease.
Striae rubra generally responds to the glycolic acid present in several over-the-counter brands. If you want to treat your stretch marks with glycolic acid, you can receive higher doses in a clinical facility.
Patients observe prominent results after four or five visits and are sure to observe a slight change in the intensity, length, and width of abdominal striae.
In-office glycolic peels are great for all skin types, even though lower concentrations are best used for patients who have darker skin tones. Moreover, the combination of a retinoid with glycolic acid can prove to be very beneficial. Several prescription-strength retinoids are frequently applied as grounding for a glycolic acid peel.
Some people also report relief by consuming Vitamin C. Since, it has the capability of promoting collagen production, Vitamin C can be used individually or in combination with glycolic acid. If you are looking for a potent treatment to treat abdominal stretch marks, you should take daily supplementation with oral vitamin C twice a day. Make sure you consult with your doctor first.
There is a plethora of advanced lotions, creams, and essential oils that are specially formulated for taking care of abdominal striae. A great way of diminishing the appearance of stretch marks is to massage the affected area, using premium quality oil such as olive oil.
There are a few self-tanning lotions that improve the appearance of abdominal stretch marks. Cocoa butter is also a strong agent with miraculous anti-aging capabilities.
All these elements are great ways to take care of abdominal stretch marks and do not cause any side effects. Using creams and lotions that have a good mix of Vitamin E and Vitamin C are incredibly useful for treating abdominal stretch marks.
Another way to successfully treat abdominal striae is to use vascular lasers. Since these lasers work with dilated blood vessels, which are typical of striae rubra, this type of laser therapy offers an effective treatment option.
You can also try out other popular methods such as microdermabrasion and microneedling.
Once stretch marks appear on your abdominal region, you may not be able to make them disappear forever. But owing to the advancements in various treatment techniques to minimize the appearance of abdominal striae, anyone can benefit from these methods. Apart from that, a regular exercise regime and vitamin-enriched diet can help you treat these unpleasant marks.
Pregnant women or adolescents undergoing hormonal changes should moisturize their belly area regularly. Hydrated skin has fewer chances of becoming vulnerable to abdominal striae.