Stretch marks; almost everyone has got them in some form or another and they’re a completely normal and natural part of growing up and life in general. But if you’re being honest, you’d rather not have them. Pregnancy and weight training are two of the most common times when stretch marks will appear so we’re going to take a look at why they happen and the best ways to prevent them.
What are stretch marks and what causes them?
Stretch marks come in many different shapes and sizes and can affect anyone, but usually women are more likely to get them than men. Unfortunately, if someone in your family has stretch marks, you’re more susceptible to them (sorry).
They will appear as streaks or stripes that can be varying hues from red to purple, pink and even dark brown depending on skin colour. These new stretch marks occur when, as their name suggests, the skin stretches or contracts rapidly and the collagen and elastin in the second layer of skin (called the dermis) are ruptured. Stretch marks will eventually fade into a less noticeable white or silver colour but this can take years.
Stretch marks are most common on the breast, hips, thighs and bum and whilst they’re not a cause for concern health-wise they can definitely negatively affect an individual’s self-confidence. Luckily, there are many ways to prevent and treat them!
Here’s a few of the most common times stretch marks occur:
- Puberty (growth spurts)
- Weight gain or loss
- Rapid muscle growth/bodybuilding
Stretch marks can be treated with creams, gels, oils, lotions and cosmetic procedures. These can be costly and won’t always be 100% effective so it’s best to consult a dermatologist before trying out any kind of new treatment.
How can I prevent stretch marks during pregnancy?
Whilst stretch marks might seem like a small worry compared to the process of growing a baby inside your body, it may be a concern for some new mums. Considering how much the body has to expand in order to accommodate bub, it’s no surprise that around 50% to 90% of women will experience stretch marks at some point in their lives, with pregnancy being at the top of the high risk list.
Whilst there’s no ‘one size fits all’ when it comes to stretch marks (and sometimes stretch marks are unavoidable), there’s a huge range of remedies and strategies that are easy to try out. Here’s a few great ways to help your body prevent stretch marks during your pregnancy:
This seems like an obvious one, and it is, but it’s so often forgotten in the hustle and bustle of everyday life and preparing for your bundle of joy to come into the world. Water will keep your skin hydrated and soft meaning that stretch marks are less likely to occur as they take to dry skin easier.
As a general rule, about 8-10 glasses of water or around 2.5 litres a day is ideal, however, this may be more depending on the individual and their lifestyle. A doctor will be able to advise the best water intake for staying hydrated during your pregnancy.
Manage your weight
We know, you’re eating for two, but that doesn’t mean you need to over-indulge at every meal. Weight gain is the most common cause of stretch marks and putting on around 11-16kg whilst creating new life is inevitable – but this doesn’t spell doom.
Eating a healthy diet and staying active will mean that your weight gain will be gradual (about 1.5 kilos a month in the first trimester and 2 kilos a month after that) to allow your body to adjust and expand without causing stretch marks. Your doctor will be able to advise you on the best diet and meal plan for you and bub during your pregnancy.
Eat a healthy diet
Another obvious one, but you can use this to assist your gradual weight gain mentioned above. Aim for a balanced diet full of fruits and veggies with lots of unprocessed, colourful food to make sure you’re getting as many vitamins and minerals as possible. Protein, zinc and vitamins C, D and E are all essential for keeping your skin supple, elastic and collagen-rich to prevent stretch marks.
Moisturise your belly twice a day
As mentioned earlier, hydration is key because stretch marks won’t affect soft skin as much as they do dry skin. Getting into the habit of moisturising your belly, hips, chest, bum and thighs morning and night is so crucial for preventing stretch marks.
You can choose from oils, balms, lotions, creams and so much more! Some of the most popular, natural ingredients for stretch mark prevention are shea butter, avocado, beeswax and vitamin E. Make sure to choose a product that’s safe for pregnant women!
Realistically, you won’t always be able to prevent stretch marks, they’re natural and for some people they’re inevitable. Keeping on top of them when they do appear by having a stretch mark remedy, like popular BioOil, ready will mean you give yourself the best chance at fading those marks before they become permanent scars. New stretch marks are much easier to fade than white, older ones that have really settled into the skin.
How can I prevent stretch marks during weight training?
Pregnant women aren’t the only ones who are at high risk of getting stretch marks. Bodybuilders and gym-goers that are weight training and striving their best to sculpt their perfect physique are at risk of their muscles expanding so quickly that stretch marks appear. And there’s nothing that will put a dampener on your progress more than noticing red or purple lines all over your brand new muscles.
The first step to preventing stretch marks whilst weight training is to be aware that they can occur, this means you can take the necessary measures ahead of time to stop them in their tracks. Here’s a few of the best ways to prevent them:
Round out your workouts
The biggest mistake you can make when weight training that will put you at high risk of getting stretch marks is only focusing on one or two of your favourite muscle groups. We know you want biceps the size of tree trunks, or a chest Hercules would envy, but not spreading your workouts across all your muscle groups will put you at serious risk of stretching your muscles too far too quickly.
Break up your workouts and spread them out to give your muscles time to recover and grow at a steady rate. You could also try moderate resistance in the range of 10-15 reps instead of doing your maximum weight for a few reps less. Remember, slow and steady wins the race (it’s true).
Speaking of growing too fast, chronic use of steroids will definitely increase your chances of getting stretch marks – by a lot. You’ll definitely put on muscle mass fast but think about how great your new biceps or pecs will look with obvious purple and red lines streaking across them, not the best look. Besides, they’re illegal, increase chances of baldness and liver disease and kill off your sperm and sex drive. In short, just don’t do it.
Reduce fat mass
Stretch marks like to pop up on fattier areas of the body, places like your upper arms, thighs, bum and abs. So putting a little more focus on reducing your overall fat mass can lower your chances of getting stretch marks.
Moisturise and hydrate
Just like pregnant ladies, weight trainers need to drink enough water and moisturise their bodies to keep everything supple and elastic. Be sure to drink enough water to cover your minimum daily intake but also to compensate for your workouts, around a cup of water (250ml) per 15 minutes of moderate exercise.
Keeping hydrated is the first step for making sure your skin is elastic enough to ward off stretch marks, but it’s essential to go one step further and add more moisture to your skin for best results. A good quality stretch mark oil or cream applied day and night will keep your skin hydrated and enhance collagen and elastin production so it’s ready to accommodate your new muscles.
Stretch marks are a normal part of life and the majority of the population will get them at some point. There’s no need to stress about them but taking the preventative measures that we’ve mentioned above will mean you give your skin the best chance at expanding and growing without the extra strain that stretch marks indicate.
Whilst we’ve specifically explored avoiding stretch marks during pregnancy and weight training, you can apply most of the strategies to all situations where you might be at risk of them. Moisturising your body and staying hydrated along with consuming a diet full of essential vitamins and minerals are crucial for supple skin that’s able to stretch without damage. Keeping your skin healthy from the inside out with our steps above is the key to preventing stretch marks throughout life’s great adventures.