Stretch marks form as a result of rapid stretching from growth by muscle gain, fat gain, or pregnancy. The most common areas in which they develop are the abdomen, buttocks, arms, hips, thighs, breasts and calves. There is a strong genetic component, which means if you are predisposed to forming stretch marks, the more apt you are to develop them if a rapid gain in mass occurs.
However, even if your genetic blueprint dictates that you are more prone to getting these pesky marks, there are a number of things which you can do to minimze their formation.
1. Drink plenty of water daily. Aim for at least eight 8-ounce cups of water each day to ensure adequate hydration.
2. Increase protein intake to optimize collagen formation.
3. Decrease the amount of weight lifted at the gym to prevent very rapid increases in muscle mass. A 12-15 rep range is advised. I can already sense some readers balking at this, but there is a tradeoff: either have a more modest increase in mass over a longer period of time or gain mass rapidly and run the risk of developing stretch marks.
4. Take certain supplements. Make sure to take fish oil, flaxseed oil, zinc, and vitamins A, C, and D.= on a daily basis.
5. Eliminate sugar from your diet! Refined sugar breaks down the elastin in your skin, making you more vulnerable to stretch marks, early aging, and increased risk of scar formation from cuts.
6. Exfoliate your skin regularly. This sloughs off the dead skin cells, thus minimizing the appearance of stretch marks which may already exist.
7. Moisturize skin thoroughly and regularly. For many years cocoa butter cream has been used by pregnant women to prevent stretch marks, but there is no final verdict on whether it has any benefit. However, I love cocoa butter’s emollient effects and believe it should be added to an anti-stretch mark regimen. Vitamin E oil is another excellent moisturizer which can be applied to stretch marks or areas which are the most prone to their formation.
8. If you develop new stretch marks, you can use prescription tretinoin on a once daily basis with decent results. Just make sure that the stretch marks you are treating are less than six weeks old. Other topicals such as Tri-Luma and Stri-Vectin also may be used with some benefit.
9. As a last resort for existing lesions, you may consider laser skin resurfacing or micro-needling.