Women tend to get a bit hung up about stretch marks in pregnancy. They worry whether they’ll get them, if they can remove them, and how to hide them afterwards.
Recently there’s been something of a sea-change, with more women embracing their stretch marks as a badge of honour. Model Chrissy Teigen posted photos of hers on Twitter – and women everywhere were delighted to see someone so high-profile showing it was ok to have ‘flaws’.
Still, there’s no denying most of us would avoid them if possible. Here’s what you should know.
What are stretch marks?
Stretch marks are fine lines that are technically scars. They appear on the skin’s surface when it’s been torn, usually by rapid growth or stretching – as in pregnancy. They’re usually a red/purple colour at first. Stretch marks can appear wherever the skin is stretched – in pregnancy, this is most commonly on the tummy, breasts and thighs. (There are other causes of stretch marks too, such as sudden and significant weight fluctuations.)
Will I get stretch marks?
You can’t predict who will get stretch marks and who won’t. It doesn’t depend on what size you were to start with or how much weight you gain during pregnancy. It’s believed around 90% of women will get them during pregnancy, though, so chances are you’ll find a few. You’re also more likely to get them if you’re young – firm, taut skin is more likely to tear than older skin that has lost some of its firmness.
Can I get rid of them?
Left to their own devices, stretch marks fade over a period of 6–12 months and become much less visible. They’ll eventually turn a white/silvery colour and in many cases you’ll barely notice them.
There’s no end of products and body lotions that promise to remove your stretch marks, but the truth is they don’t work. They might help shrink them and speed up the fading process, but that’s all.
Some people are very conscious of their stretch marks and camouflage them with cosmetics. Others turn to laser therapy and cosmetic surgery. While it’s not possible to remove stretch marks completely, there can be a drastic improvement in their appearance.
Then what can I do to prevent them?
There’s no sure-fire way to guarantee you’ll avoid stretch marks. But there are a few steps you can take to make it less likely, or to make sure they are minimal.
- Stay hydrated. It seems like the answer to everything is ‘drink more water’, but in this case it really can help. It will maintain the natural moisture levels in your skin, making it more elastic. This means less strain on it as it stretches – so fewer stretch marks. Keep a bottle of water with you at all times and sip from it regularly.
- Tummy massage. As well as feeling good, massaging your belly will keep the skin supple and make it less likely to tear. Make sure you use a body lotion or other massage product that’s safe for pregnant women; there are certain essential oils that should be avoided during pregnancy, such as basil and sandalwood, for example. Hypoallergenic formulations can be soothing if your skin is feeling sensitive.
- Eat well. Leafy greens like spinach and kale are packed with vitamins A and E, plus plenty of other nutrients that are good for your skin. Avocados, almonds and whole grains should also be on your pregnancy diet sheet. (If you’re worried about the risks associated with consuming too much vitamin A during pregnancy, talk to your medical professional. It may also reassure you to know that research has shown that vitamin A from natural food sources is unlikely to cause any problems.)