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If you have stretch marks, then take some comfort. Nearly 70 percent of women have them, with it being more likely if they've produced a bundle of joy. And men don't escape either. Statistics show that as many as 40 percent are scarred.

What Causes Stretch Marks?  

Appearing as off-colored marks that can be pink, red or purple, stretch marks are not caused just by skin stretching. They may appear on any part of the body, but are common in areas such as the breasts, thighs, abdomen, upper arms and buttocks. Stretch marks are associated with rapid stretching as found in:

•Rapid growth (puberty for example)
•Weight gain
•Body building

While stretching of the skin does contribute to a stretch mark, it's not the only contributing factor. Release of the hormone cortisol, which is often elevated during the instances above, affects the skin by preventing skin cells (fibroblasts) from forming collagen and elastin fibers that are necessary to help keep rapidly growing skin taut. The lack of a supporting structure formed by these two components leads to skin stretching and tearing of the dermis and epidermis. It's thought that genetics, diet and possibly exercise may also play a role in the development of stretch marks.

Stretch marks can cause a lot of anxiety, but they aren't serious unless associated with a medical condition (in which case have your doctor rule one out). They tend to fade over time without treatment.

Stretch Mark Treatments  

While you may never be able to completely eradicate stretch marks, you can help to minimize their appearance. Beware of creams, lotions and other potions that claim to prevent the development of stretch marks as there aren't any scientifically proven therapies available. Maintaining a healthy weight can go a long way to minimizing your chances of developing stretch marks. And, following the rules to maintaining great skin (link) may help to minimize your chances as well.

If despite your best efforts, you find yourself with stretch marks, (remember you'll be in good company) here are some treatments to consider. Keep in mind that a combination approach (using treatments that contain [Link Removed] Never use a retinoid and an alpha hydroxy acid together – alternate use as the combination is too irritating:

1.Tretinoin cream or retinol– Research shows that tretinoin cream (prescription only Retin-A, Renova) can help to improve the appearance of stretch marks less than six weeks old and still pink or red in color. It works by boosting collagen production, making the stretch mark resemble normal skin. Retinol, as found in Green Cream is an excellent non-prescription alternative. Tretinoin and retinol should never be used during pregnancy or when breastfeeding as they have serious side effects in developing babies.
2.Vitamin C - This ingredient has multiple benefits. It not only boosts collagen production but can also help to brighten skin tone and minimize the appearance of scars. Consider products such as [Link Removed] combined with Vitamin E (alpha tocopherol) and collagen-elastin hydrolysates may help to prevent the formation of stretch marks, but more research is needed before giving it a firm thumbs up. However, if you are interested in exploring this option you may want to consider La Roche Posay's Cicaplast, which can help to speed skin's healing process post surgical procedures.

New research is being conducted all the time and while we now have a number of treatment options, you can be certain that others will be added as time goes by.

Sharmani Pillay is a Registered Pharmacist who specializes in anti aging skin care and women's wellness. She owns and operates an online skin care store at [Link Removed]
For a limited time, Fabulously 40 members save 5% off all purchases. Code fab40 at checkout.

Pharmagirl, Your links have been removed, please consider upgrading to premium membership.

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