As many as 90 percent of women will develop stretch marks during their third trimester, and these unsightly red or purple bands can be difficult to get rid of and may even feel itchy. They can show up on your tummy, breasts and thighs. Eventually, these stretch marks will fade to a lighter whitish-gray color, but they are still visible and even more resistant to treatment at this point.
Part of the reason that current treatments including creams or lasers aren't always effective is because no one knows exactly what causes stretch marks or what causes one woman (or man) to develop them over another. Theories do exist. Stretch marks may occur due to excessive skin distension during pregnancy, growth spurts and rapid weight gain or loss. In these cases, skin is stretched more than it can handle, and tears resulting in ugly stretch marks. Another possibility is prolonged exposure to the stress hormone cortisol. Now a growing body of evidence is pointing toward a genetic predisposition to stretch marks - a stretch mark gene or genes, so to speak.
The personal genetics company 23andMe is honing in on the stretch mark gene or genes. Reporting their findings in the Journal of Investigative Dermatology, researchers identified four gene mutations that may be associated with stretch marks--one of which lies upstream of the elastin gene. Elastin is one of the components that gives skin its supple structure, and it can tear; resulting in stretch marks.
It is unclear how these genes may be related to the risk of developing stretch marks, but the hope is that this work will pave the way toward better treatments.
As of today, there are more questions than answers about what causes stretch marks and how to prevent or treat them, says Ron M. Shelton, MD, a New York City dermatologist. "There are no proven treatments to prevent stretch marks, and theories of using good moisturizers, taking vitamin C, sunscreen all make sense and should be continued by most patients trying to avoid stretch marks," he says. "New stretch marks are quite visible when they're red and the Syneron Candela V-Beam laser helps minimize their appearance better than the more mature white stretch marks."
Along with vascular lasers, prescription retinoids are another option for new stretch marks that are red or purple in color. The earlier you treat them, the better chance of seeing some improvement. "Retinoids stimulate the skin to produce new collagen and speed up cell turnover, according to Beverly Hills Dermatologist Monika Kiripolsky.
Other treatments to try include Mederma® Stretch Marks Therapy that improves skin texture, reduces discoloration, and keeps skin supple with a combination of botanical extracts and hyaluronic acid and Bio-Oil® that contains PurCellin oil to help fade dark stretch marks.
Start early with aggressive therapy. Once your stretch marks mature and the pigment fades to white or silver color, they become much harder, if not impossible, to treat.
Additional reporting by Denise Mann
Wendy Lewis is President of Wendy Lewis & Co Ltd, Global Aesthetics Consultancy, author of 11 books, and Founder/Editor in Chief of http://www.beautyinthebag.com
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