The heavy influences of the media has regular people striving for an apparent ‘perfection’. Any deviation from the look of the models has one feeling insecure about their bodies. However, this glimpse of perfection is a façade – everything from clear, bright skin to minimal body fat. One of the best metaphors describing our bodies is a canvas – when we are born, our bodies are spot-less and ‘perfect’. The evidence of having lived life is manifested on the canvas of our bodies – representing our childhood in scars, the greying of the hair as having lived a productive life and having stretch marks as a proof of growing up.
Stretch marks, also called STRIAE, have a scar-like appearance on the skin with a different hue of the skin tone. They are usually found on the breasts, thighs, belly, and the lower back, both in women and men. They appear as streaks on the skin, ranging from purple to light grey. When one moves their finger over their stretch marks, they would feel a slight indentation. While these are not harmful to the person at all, most people are embarrassed by these marks and try various techniques to get rid of them.
How are stretch marks caused?
Stretch marks are caused due to the sudden expansion or the contraction of the skin on the parts where the fat is most likely to be stored – like the navel, thighs, and breasts. During situations where the skin is required to stretch – such as PREGNANCY and PUBERTY – the skin is unable to catch up with the increase in mass. The middle layer of the skin, DERMIS, is unable to stretch itself to the necessary extent, which causes a TEAR in the layer.
The tear is made visible due to the circulation of a hormone called CORTISONE that is released from the ADRENAL GLANDS. As the skin is unable to expand any further, cortisone is employed to make it possible. Cortisone makes the skin elastic, but the tear in the dermis still exists.
However, excess cortisone causes the skin to lose all its elasticity, giving it a ‘loose’ appearance. Eventually, the stretch marks fade to look grey due to the visibility of the fat underneath instead of the blood vessels (which would have made them look purple or pink). After several years, they may appear as narrow scars at the same regions but never permanently disappear.
When can stretch marks appear?
Logically, stretch marks can come up anytime in a person’s life but it is crucial to understand that they appear due to rapid expansion or contraction of the skin. Since the skin is unable to cope up with the stretching of the skin, the tear in the dermis occurs. However, there are certain situations where the skin is highly likely to undergo this tear – pregnancy and puberty.
During puberty, a rapid GROWTH SPROUT is noticed, particularly during the development of breasts in females and the males becoming taller and muscular. This growth sprout is rapid and causes stretch marks. During pregnancy, the belly expands to accommodate the growing baby inside and again, the dermis is unable to catch up to it.
Usually, women are more prone to getting stretch marks than men – particularly on the breasts and navel. A family history of having stretch marks also causes a higher chance of having them. People at the risk of being obese have a higher number of stretch marks than those who are of the medium built.
Can stretch marks be removed?
Several brands claim to remove stretch marks – especially those which appear around pregnancy – but none of them are known to have errorless results. Usually, the restoration of COLLAGEN and ELASTIN helps in reducing the visibility of the stretch marks. Most creams and cosmetic treatments are known to use this technique. Laser therapy is an expensive and painful technique which works effectively at reducing or even removing the stretch marks.
Still, people have become more aware of the reasons behind the appearance stretch marks and have stopped treating it like a malice. The stereotypes associated with them are also being broken down in the media as celebrities have started embracing their imperfections as well. At the end of the day, stretch marks are not harmful and their existence is not the testimony to someone’s health or beauty.