Stretch marks are one of the most common complaints shared by people who have had children, gained and/or lost weight, and even by some weight lifters and body builders. A big portion of the spa industry (particularly the medical spa and laser center settings) and skin care industry is devoted to hiding, zapping, or otherwise attempting to permanently erase or improve the appearance of stretch marks.
Of course the best way to deal with stretch marks is to not get them at all. Prevention is everything. This is not always possible, since we are not always aware we are getting them. They typically occur from stretching of the skin due to rapid weight gain or an increase in muscle mass which is why they are so commonly associated with pregnancy and body building.
If you are pregnant or are a body builder and don’t want stretch marks you have the luxury of knowing you are about to overstretch the skin so you can usually take preventative measures to reduce or in some cases totally prevent stretch marks. However if you experience a rapid weight gain that is due to other factors and you are not in tuned with what is going on with your body, you might not be able to prevent them. And if that is the case, I would prefer that people focus more on being aware of the fact that they are gaining weight and start looking for the cause of that weight gain and address it instead of waiting until has become an emergent situation.
I certainly have my share of stretch marks.
My first stretch marks appeared after my first pregnancy. I was fortunate that I hardly got any on my belly, hips, or other typical pregnancy-related stretch mark places at all, and I attribute that to how obsessive I was with slathering stretch mark prevention creams and oils on twice a day. I did however get lots of them on my inner thighs during that pregnancy. During the pregnancy I could literally feel the skin stretching and they showed up bright red like flames at first and totally freaked me out. I actually went to the doctor to see what the heck these things were and she laughed at me and said they were just stretch marks and why didn’t I use the cream or oil to prevent them?
I said “but I did”! On my belly, hips, and other areas I thought women got stretch marks from being pregnancy. Of course the skin there was smooth like butter without a mark in sight. It then occurred to me that even though I was ?all belly?, I still had gained weight in my thighs and didn’t think to bother applying the products there so now I’d be scarred forever. Still, I was happy with the idea that I could still wear a bikini in the summertime without worrying about stripes on my belly and could just wear a sarong on the bottom.
During my second pregnancy, I have to admit that I did not do much to prevent the stretch marks. I already had a young toddler to chase after and did not devote as much time to self care as I did with my first pregnancy. Plus my weight gain happened after that pregnancy and I wasn?t listening to my body enough to address it before it got to the point where it was out of my control. As a result my stomach, hips, buttocks, breasts, and sides are full of stretch marks. I tried lots of creams, oils, serums, magical potions, etc. to get rid of them but to no avail. The stretch marks are here to stay.
The stretch marks looked worse after my weight loss.
I mentioned before that I wish I had focused more on exercise when I was losing my weight. I really was just focused on nutrition and learning what worked best for my body. I also just didn’t prioritize exercise because I didn’t think I liked it. As a result I did lose the weight I wanted to lose (and then some), but probably not as quickly as I wanted to. Also, I was left with a lot of loose, droopy, saggy skin that was marred with stretch marks.
I tried all of those same creams and potions again, now paired with top of the line body-firming products, and while these did temporarily improve the appearance of the stretch marks, nothing lasted and nothing got rid of them. Some people go for aggressive exfoliation treatments or laser sessions to resurface or zap the stretch marks away, but I truly believe that while this might solve one problem, it causes others. Repeat treatments are necessary which I feel compromises the body?s immune defenses by keeping the skin in a constant state of inflammation. This not only puts us at risk for burns and other conditions, it also prematurely ages the skin. It just wasn?t worth it to me. I mean, I’m vain?don’t get me wrong?but not vain enough to risk further irreversible damage to my skin or my health. And I would never consider plastic surgery.
So what now?
Well as you know I did set a goal to incorporate exercise and movement into my body. The only non-invasive way to fix saggy, loose skin is to support it from inside by building muscle. Plain and simple. No magic potions. I found ways to fit speed walking, jogging, dance class, and at-home DVD workouts into my weekly routine and I have gotten great results in a short period of time. You can still see the stretch marks on my belly, but the skin is much more taut and not as crepe-y and droopy anymore. You can see muscle tone. I noticed the same improvements in the other areas as well. My inner thighs have proven to be the most challenging, since it is where I have the most damage to my skin?s elasticity and therefore the most sagging skin and stretch marks (which thankfully have faded from red to white). I am confident though that this area will improve too, once I build more muscle there.
Make sure you get the pure, real natural oils and butters; not the watered-down brand name ones that have preservatives and other junk in them. Mountain Rose Herbs sells very high quality, pure oils and butters in different sizes for really great prices.
You can even get some of your favorite essential oils (just check with an aromatherapist?or herbalist?to make sure they are safe if you are pregnant or nursing) and use them to fragrance your oils and butters. Don’t worry about preservatives either. These natural substances are quite stable and have a pretty long shelf life on their own. As long as you take the necessary usage precautions to prevent contamination, they should last as long as you need them (provided that you actually use them!). Continue to use these as moisturizers even after your weight has stabilized.
I love using my homemade body moisturizers which I make from some of these substances and my other favorite natural ingredients on a daily basis. Remember, properly hydrated skin will always look more attractive than dried out skin. If the skin is dry, the stretch marks will become much more prominent.
It is also very important protect your skin from prolonged exposure to the sun (regardless of whether or not you have stretch marks). Use a safe and natural sunscreen (I like zinc oxide-based ones like Kabana?s Green Screen), otherwise your ?stripes? will be very visible during the summer.
I’ve come to peace with my stretch marks.
There is a really popular picture going around on Pinterest of someone with really taut abs who also has stretch marks. The caption reads: ?Your body is not ruined. You’re a goddamn tiger who has earned her stripes.? I say that’s right. I am.
Even though I compared myself to a mere serval just the other day.