Stretch marks are a very common and dreaded side effect of pregnancy and as many as 9 out of 10 pregnant women get them! Pregnancy increases the risk of developing stretch marks due to the combination of rapid abdominal growth and hormonal changes. Hormones that are produced by the body during pregnancy help to soften the ligaments in the pelvis and increase their flexibility. However, these hormones also soften the skin's fibres, increasing the likelihood of stretch marks forming. Fortunately, the possibility of developing stretch marks can be reduced by following these guidelines:
START A NEW SKIN CARE REGIMEN
Hydration: The American Academy of Dermatology and other studies have confirmed that adequately hydrating the skin will significantly reduce the risk of stretch mark formation. This is because hydrated skin has improved elasticity and pliability and is thus able to stretch without tearing. Therefore, a great way to prevent stretch marks is to ensure that the skin maintains its maximum elasticity throughout pregnancy by keeping it well-hydrated. Using hydrating skincare products rich in humectant, emollient and occlusive ingredients will boost your skins hydration.
Active Ingredients: Active ingredients that effectively treat stretch marks should reactivate dormant fibroblasts to synthesize the extracellular matrix (ECM) components of the dermis, including elastin, fibrillin, collagen and fibronectin. Ingredients that have been proven to reactivate fibroblast activity include Centella Asiatica Extract, Olive Oil, Tocopherol, Tamanu Oil and Flower Bulb Extract. Early and regular application of stretch mark prevention creams and oils that contain effective levels of active ingredients will renew the skin’s resilience, firmness and elasticity.
Click here for more about active ingredients proven to reduce stretch marks.
Although ingredients such as Vitamin A (Retinol; Retinoic Acid) are excellent for the reduction of stretch marks, Doctors and Medical Professionals recommend against their use in pregnancy.
Click here for a list of the most toxic ingredients found in personal care products that should be avoided during pregnancy.
Exfoliation is vital in preventing stretch marks for several reasons. Firstly, it aids in the removal of dead skin cells which improves the penetration of hydrating and active ingredients. Secondly, it stimulates the cell turnover rate, thereby accelerating the regeneration capacity and boosting the natural repair processes of the skin. Lastly, exfoliation increases the circulation of blood in the area which improves oxygen and nutrient delivery to the cells, allowing enhanced wound repair and tissue growth.
Gentle Massage: Studies have shown massage to be beneficial to reduce the occurrence of stretch marks. As with exfoliation, massage increases blood circulation in the area which improves oxygen and nutrient delivery to the cells, allowing enhanced wound repair. When massaging the stomach, use light, gliding rhythmic continuous motions and avoid applying too much pressure.
It is important to start looking after your skin at the first signs of pregnancy in order to prepare your skin for any potential changes and until at least one month after you give birth to heal any damage that has been done to your skin.
MAINTAIN A HEALTHY LIFESTYLE
Eat a skin-nourishing diet: Incorporating foods into your diet that are especially beneficial for the health of your skin can improve your skin's elasticity, which helps prevent stretch marks from forming. Look for foods rich in antioxidants, Omega 3 and Vitamins A, E and C.
Gain weight gradually: Gaining weight at a slow, steady rate is a great way to prevent stretch marks, and the same applies to losing weight. Any sudden weight changes can affect your skin as it struggles to keep up with the stretch, so when you’re losing weight, keep in mind that slow and steady wins the race.
Exercise: Exercise helps your skin maintain its elasticity, regulates and increases circulation in the body and helps you breathe in more oxygen – that is great for your skin and for your baby. More oxygen and increased blood circulation helps make your skin more able to stretch, therefore reducing the appearance of stretch marks. Another benefit of exercising during pregnancy is that it helps your body gain weight gradually.
Do you suffer from stretch marks? How do you deal with them? Let me know in the comments section below.
Thanks for reading. If you have any questions or queries please feel free to leave a comment below. For more tips and advice on maternity skin care check out the Expert Advice section of the Natralogic website.
All the best
Lauren Lamont - Natralogic Founder
MSc Chemistry, Dip.Cos.Sci (SA)