It seems like a new stretch mark cream or home remedy hits the market every three months, doesn’t it? Pinterest is packed with stretch mark preventatives, and mommy bloggers test one cream and ointment after another in an attempt to find the perfect solution.
With so many preventative measures on the market, why is it that around 90% of all mothers still get stretch marks during their pregnancy?
Here’s the truth:
The Skinny on Stretch Marks
Stretch marks happen when your skin can’t keep up with your growth, whether that growth is from weight gain, muscle gains, puberty, or pregnancy. Your skin’s elastin fibers break, leaving you with red marks that eventually fade like a scar.
The biggest factor that determines whether or not you’ll get stretch marks during your pregnancy is whether or not your mom had stretch marks.
That’s right. They’re genetic.
That means that you can’t prevent them with cocoa butter or coconut oil.
Understanding how stretch marks work can help you minimize them, though, and it is possible to fade their appearance after the fact.
Mitigating Stretch Marks During Pregnancy
During a healthy pregnancy, a woman gains between 25 and 35 pounds during those 9 months.
In terms of stretch marks, though, the amount of weight you gain isn’t nearly as important as the rate at which you gain it. Slowly and steadily putting on pregnancy weight can help give your skin time to grow with you.
That means that your stretch marks will likely be more manageable if you start at a healthy weight and maintain healthy habits during pregnancy.
While some weight gain is healthy, using the “eating for two” excuse to consume far more calories than necessary can lead to an unhealthy amount of extra weight that’s not your pregnancy’s fault.
A study done by the CDC estimated that 47% of all pregnant women gained too much weight during pregnancy, especially among women who were already overweight when they became pregnant. The truth is that you don’t need many extra calories during pregnancy – you probably need less than 500 extra calories per day, the equivalent of an extra snack.
Staying well hydrated also helps your skin adapt, which is the idea behind all those shea butter lotions.
Lotion doesn’t actually hydrate your skin, though. It can help your skin hold onto the moisture it already has, but the only way to actually hydrate your skin is to drink plenty of water.
Your skin is the last organ to benefit from increased hydration, so drinking plenty of water is a habit you’ll have to stick with.
Cocoa butter and lotions can help ease the itching and tight feeling as your skin stretches, though, so if you find that using topical moisturizers helps you feel more comfortable, keep using it. Just don’t expect it to save you from stretch marks.
Fade Stretch Marks After The Fact
Your stretch marks will naturally fade over time, especially if you continue to take care of your health and your skin.
The best time to start treating your stretch marks is when they’re still in that red stage. Ask a dermatologist for good treatment options.
Using treatments that promote collagen growth can also reduce the appearance of stretch marks over time. Some ointments have been shown to be effective at fading the marks, and laser treatments are available to reduce their appearance, too.
The bottom line is that you’re very likely to end up with stretch marks, and the healthier your habits, the less obvious they will be.
Many women embrace their new body – and their new skin – as a proud symbol of their motherhood. Remember, 90% of pregnant women get stretch marks. You’re just joining the club.