Let’s get down to the real, honest truth about those tiger stripes.
Stretch marks: we’ve all got them. (Well, technically just an estimated 80% of Americans—i.e., the vast majority of us—but you get the idea.) Whether you’re pregnant or not, chances are you’ve heard a lot of conflicting information about stretch marks (or striae, as they’re medically known): where they come from, who gets them, how to minimize their appearance, how to “defeat” them (as if they can actually be defeated!). Here, the straight facts about striae:
- Stretch marks have to do with—yes—stretching. Why do stretch marks occur? Well, any time your skin rapidly changes shape, there’s the possibility of getting stretch marks. And when does your skin stretch the most drastically? You got it: pregnancy. To top it off, your hormones during pregnancy can make your skin drier and more vulnerable just at the moment when it’s growing the fastest.
- Stretch marks are basically just scars. Striae occur when your underlying tissues are growing too fast for your skin’s dermis (the middle layer of your skin), and tiny tears occur deep in the dermis. These tears form scars, which then show up in the top layer of skin as little indented lines or stripes.
- Nope, you don’t have to be pregnant to get them. Many people think only pregnant women develop stretch marks—but that’s not the case. Pregnancy is by no means the only time of life when stretch marks crop up; some reveal themselves during puberty after sudden growth spurts—or after weight gain or developing muscle very quickly.
- Think only women get stretch marks? Think again. There’s a persistent myth that only women get stretch marks. While it’s true that women are more likely to get them, men absolutely develop stretch marks too. Some estimates state that 40% of adolescent boys get stretch marks during puberty.
- They’re hereditary. There’s a strong association between your genetics and whether or not you get stretch marks—so if your mom or grandmother got them during pregnancy (or any other time, for that matter), the likelihood of developing them is higher, no matter how much lotion you slather on. (Though that lotion can still help minimize their appearance—more on that in a minute!)
- They can surface basically anywhere. While stretch marks on your stomach are most common during pregnancy, they can show up on your thighs, arms, breasts, back, butt, or legs.
- If you get pregnant at a young age, the chances are greater of getting stretch marks. At least one study has indicated that the risk of developing stretch marks is higher for younger expecting moms.
- Medication use can also cause stretch marks. Certain types of medications—primarily steroids—can increase the chances of getting striae.
- Moisturize, moisturize, moisturize. Straight talk: no cream can completely prevent stretch marks from surfacing—not when it’s written into your genetic code—but you can keep your skin in its most moisturized, supple state to help it bounce back. Applying moisturizers early and often helps to keep your skin elastic and soft as your belly grows—and diligent application (as in, three times a day during and after pregnancy, if you can remember) may help the most. Just make sure that what you’re using is free of potentially toxic ingredients, and talk to your doctor about skincare ingredients to avoid during pregnancy. Lucky for you, Pipette Belly Butter is 100% nontoxic and safe for expecting and postpartum moms–and contains a host of super-hydrating ingredients like hyaluronic acid, peptides, shea butter, squalane, and ceramides, all of which work together to nourish stretch mark-prone skin.
- They can itch. When you get those little tears in the dermis, your body immediately starts to repair them--and that healing process in the skin can register as an itching sensation. Dry skin can also exacerbate feelings of itchiness, and pregnant skin is more prone to dryness, too. Resist the urge to scratch if you can, and instead apply a moisturizer with calming properties. Our lightweight Pipette Belly Oil is formulated with plant extracts from calendula and winter cherry, which both work to quell those feelings of itchiness that come from skin quickly stretching. And, as with all issues during pregnancy, make sure to talk to your doctor about persistent itchiness to rule out any other possible medical issues.
- Stay hydrated. Making sure you’re drinking enough water will also help keep your skin elastic. When you’re dehydrated, your skin isn’t as pliable, and pregnant skin is already more likely to be dry.
- Stay calm. Cortisol—i.e., the hormone released when you’re stressed—is converted into cortisone, which can weaken the elastic fibers in your skin. Yet another reason to practice good self-care while you’re pregnant, and schedule that long-overdue prenatal massage.
- Don’t worry: they fade with time. When stretch marks first appear, they can be pink or red. With time (as with any scar), they usually fade to a subtler, more silvery-white color. Hydration helps after the fact, too: the sooner you start applying moisture to striae right after they show up, the better your chances of treating them. They won’t go away completely—there’s no cream that can vanish them entirely—but they will get less noticeable.
- Yes, there are dermatologist treatments to fade them, too. Laser treatments can help to treat the appearance stretch marks. According to the American Society of Dermatologic Surgery, each treatment is pretty quick (a half hour to an hour and a half), and scars can noticeably fade in a few months. But even multiple treatments won’t get rid of them completely, and lasers are mighty pricey: anywhere from $500 to $8,900. And nope, insurance won’t cover it.
- Stretch marks are evidence of the incredible things your body has accomplished. Just ask Reese Witherspoon (who’s been embracing them since 2004!). At the end of the day, your pregnancy stretch marks are proof of the mind-blowing, unbelievable feat of having created a person. We’ve been loving the movement to embrace those stripes for all that they represent—after all, you earned them in the most life-changing of ways. So if you’ve joined the stretch mark club: welcome! You’re in good company.
The information provided by Pipette is intended solely for educational purposes. The information is not to be used for medical diagnostic purposes and is not intended to serve as a recommendation for treatment and/or management of any medical/surgical condition. Most of all, this information should not be used in place of a physician or other qualified health provider. If you believe you or your child have a medical condition, please contact your physician immediately.