Most people will agree with you if you say that stretch marks are annoying. They aren’t harmful in any way, shape, or form, but they do sometimes cause a lack of body confidence for men and women who can’t help but become fixated on them.
Stretch marks really fall into much the same type of category as cellulite. Not at all harmful to health, but can sometimes be harmful to confidence and body image levels. Some men and women aren’t bothered about cellulite or stretch marks at all, whilst others fixate on them to the point where they want to try everything to get rid of them.
In this article we’re going to talk about what stretch marks actually are, and then we’re going to show you a few ways for you to try and get rid of them, or at least reduce their appearance considerably. It’s also important to remember that whilst most people assume stretch marks are a woman-only problem, they can affect men equally too. That is also something we’ll cover.
First things first however, what are stretch marks, and what causes them?
What Are Stretch Marks?
Stretch marks are really what the name suggests – marks on the skin which are as a result of stretching. This type of stretching is usually due to rapid growth, e.g. weight gain and weight loss (when the skin stretched and then de-stretched), and is also often due to pregnancy, with the very same scenario. Stretch marks can occur anywhere on the body where the skin and to stretch, but are mostly common on the thighs, stomach, backs of the arms, and breasts.
Again, stretch marks can affect men just as easily as women, it’s simply that the main cause of stretch marks is pregnancy and that is why most people associate stretch marks with women. Having said that, both boys and girls may notice stretch marks during puberty, when the body is growing and changing.
Put simply, you are prone to stretch marks when changes happen within your body that are occurring far too fast for your body to adjust to. You might also hear stretch marks known by their more medical name, striae gravidarum.
We should point out once more that stretch marks are not dangerous to health at all, and doing something about them is more to do with body confidence than an actual pressing medical need. If you don’t feel the need to do anything about your stretch marks, that’s equally as fine as wanting to do something about them too!
How to Get Rid of Stretch Marks
The best approach to getting rid of stretch marks is by giving your skin some TLC both inside and out. By doing this, you’re strengthening the skin’s make-up and giving food and nourishment to the cells underneath the surface. By doing this, you’re allowing extra capacity for healing and also making everything more resilient to growth, which is what causes stretch marks in the first place.
Here are a few basic methods you can try.
1. Make Sure You Drink Plenty of Water
The first step is to make sure that you’re drinking plenty of water. Hydrating your entire body brings benefits, but hydrating your skin is a good starting point for reducing not only stretch marks, but also cellulite too.
2. Look at Your Diet
Do you think that you eat well? The chances are that you think you do, but you probably don’t in reality! You should make sure you’re getting a good variation to your diet, with plenty of fresh fruits and vegetables, and foods which are rich in antioxidant content, a wide range of vitamins and minerals, as well as fatty acids, and zinc too.
3. Use Regular Massage
We’ve talked about health on the inside, e.g. staying hydrated and making sure you nourish your body and skin’s cells with a high quality diet, but what about the outside? Massage is a good go-to. Regularly using topical oils, gels, and creams with a massaging brush is a good way to boost circulation and help to also boost the amount of collagen production in your body. Collagen helps to make your skin more elastic, and that’s what it needs to be able to stretch, e.g. during pregnancy, weight gain, and weight loss.
A few natural products to try include aloe vera and cocoa butter. These are both widely available in most healthcare stores and supermarkets, with no need to purchase expensive gels and creams which promise you the Earth!
Of course, that might sound very similar to you, but that’s how easy it can be! We now need to look at specific situations and how to reduce stretch marks in those areas, e.g. arms, in pregnancy, and in weight gain.
Stretch Marks as a Result of Gaining Weight
When you gain weight quite rapidly, your skin doesn’t have the capacity to stretch in certain areas quite as well as others. In this case, stretch marks are very common, and often appear on the thighs, over the bottom, and on the hips. These appear as purple lines at first, and then eventually fade to a silver line over time.
It’s best to start your treatment as soon as you notice the first sign of a stretch mark, rather than waiting until it has changed colour and become literally a part of your body. Massage is a good go-to here, with cocoa butter and aloe vera two easy to use choices, which won’t break the bank.
Of course, in this case you should also think about changing your diet and making sure that you’re cutting out the high fat foods and going with a more healthy way of eating. Identifying the reason for your weight gain is also the best option, as you can target a healthy weight, which is sustainable and acceptable to you.
Stretch Marks Due to Muscle Growth, e.g. Workouts
Another common cause of stretch marks is due to working out and building muscle. Yes, we’re told that working out is good for you, but if you build muscle too quickly, your skin might not be able to stretch fast enough to accommodate the new growth! In this case, you may notice stretch marks appearing many on the arms, especially the inner portion.
Again, massage is the best choice here and making sure that you remain hydrated at all times, especially during your workouts. Try and find a vitamin A product which will help your skin to remain supple and boost healing.
Stretch Marks on The Breasts
The skin around the sides of the breasts are very susceptible to stretch marks, especially in pregnancy and during adolescence. This can also occur as a result of weight gain, as some of that weight is likely to go towards the breast area. This can cause distress for women, as these marks can look quite obvious, but over time they will dull down to that silver colour.
Again, vitamin E products are good here, as they help to increase the elasticity of the skin, and you can try massaging it into the area using circulation motions. Try shea butter as one good option also. It’s best to do this twice per day, once in the morning and once at night time.
Stretch Marks Due to Pregnancy
An overwhelming percentage of pregnant women will be left with some kind of stretch mark once they have given birth. These marks are more likely to appear during the last few weeks, as the bump is at its largest and has stretched as far as it needs to go!
This isn’t the only reason however, as hormones also have a part to play. In this case, hormones affect the collagen bonds, helping them to relax so that there is extra room for the baby to grow. This helps with the whole pregnancy process of course, but also makes room for stretch marks to appear.
During pregnancy you can help reduce the amount of stretch marks you’re left with by starting your skincare routine early. You’ll find countless pregnancy-targeted products for this time, but always check carefully that they are indeed suitable for pregnancy by reading reviews and double checking with your midwife if you’re not sure. Any product which contains Retin-A should be avoided at this time.
How to Get Rid of Stretch Marks For Men
Stretch marks are certainly not a woman-only deal, and there are several situations in which men may start to notice the same purple lines, which eventually turn a silvery shade. The two main situations here are during weight gain, and also during body building and working out.
Men are most likely to noice stretch marks on their upper arms, particularly on the inside, if this is as a result of building muscle, and on the stomach if it is because of weight gain.
The treatment methods are exactly the same for men as for women, e.g. making sure you drink plenty of water and eating a healthy and varied diet. If you are working out, make sure that you drink plenty during your gym sessions and that you perhaps start to use massage and vitamin E products early, to try and do your bit to prevent marks appear (more on that shortly!).
Stretch marks can greatly affect a man’s body confidence, mainly because it’s simply not something we consider to happen to the male body. We focus so much on pregnancy and hormonal issues that we just assume stretch marks are for women to deal with, but it’s simply not the case. Any type of change within the body, male or female, which causes a difference in size, which the skin can’t keep up with, is going to be a fast-track situation towards stretch marks appearing. For men, weight gain or working out are the two main areas.
In terms of weight gain, ensuring you eat a healthy diet is the key point. We’ve all heard and seen the famous ‘beer belly’ which some men seem to develop. In this point you’re more likely to get stretch marks on the sides of the stomach, because this is where the main stretching growth is occurring. By drinking a large amount of alcohol and eating a high fat diet, you’re going to gain weight all over, but you’re also going to see that it sits on your midriff area, the belly, and it will be extremely hard to get rid of once it’s there! Focusing on a healthy diet is the single best way to avoid it, and if you feel that you are putting on weight and need to lose it, being aware sooner rather than later will make the situation far easier to deal with.
Can You Actually Prevent Stretch Marks in The First Place?
In some ways, yes. This means you need to identify a situation which is going to cause skin stretching, e.g. working out or pregnancy, and you need to give your skin the vitamins and general nourishment it requires, in order to be able to be elastic enough to do the stretching.
Prevention is always better than cure if at all possible, and whilst you might not be able to get away with no signs of stretching at all, e.g. in the case of pregnancy, by taking action, you will be able to reduce the effects, compared to what you would have developed otherwise.
It’s also better to try and target stretch marks when you first notice them, rather than wait until they have turned the silvery shade. These types of lines are still treatable, but they’re far harder to actually improve, and will take longer. When the stretch marks are a purple or pink colour, they’re new.
The best course of action is to consider whether you’re going to be in a situation which makes stretch marks more likely, e.g. you’ve just found out you’re pregnant, you’re noticing weight gain, or that you’re going to start working out or body building. Remember, even losing weight can result in stretch marks, because your body is suddenly aware of extra laxity, and that can also create a rippling effect which may look very much like a stretch mark.
Being aware of a situation and then doing your best to hydrate your skin, improve your diet, and use high quality products with massage is the best way forward.
Writer, Product Tester.
Adele is a budding content writer with a passion for all things health and fitness related. In her time off Adele enjoys reading, travelling and exploring Sydney’s culinary delights.