Stretch Marks

Written by Stacy Chbosky
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Stretch marks can affect all of us. Many people assume the cause of stretch marks (also known as striae) is pregnancy, and so only pregnant women and mothers are affected. This simply isn't true.

Body builders often suffer from striae, and the majority of these body builders are men. People who gain a great deal of weight are also susceptible to stretch marks. Teens are often afflicted with striae during the "growth spurts" of puberty. In short, anytime skin is stretched quickly or dramatically, striae are apt to appear.

Not only can striae affect both men and women, but they can affect children, teens, and adults. They affect people of every race and ethnicity, as well. What are striae, and why do they occur?

How Stretch Marks Occur

Skin is a remarkable organ. It's the largest organ in the entire body, and one of the most complex. Skin protects our internal organs, helps us eliminate wastes, and processes external elements, such as sunshine, for our benefit. One of skin's most remarkable abilities is its ability to stretch.

Elastin and collagen are two of the building blocks of skin. Collagen and elastin are both proteins, in the form of elastic fibers. Collagen is a binding agent in skin. It's the building block of connective tissue. Elastin provides skin with, you guessed it, its elasticity.

And the skin is phenomenally elastic. However, at certain times, skin is over-stressed, stretched beyond its ability to give. At these times, the skin actually tears. These little tears and tiny rips heal, resulting in scar tissue. The scar tissue that accompanies these small rips in the skin are known as stretch marks.

How Stretch Marks Can Be Prevented or Repaired

A popular home remedy for stretch marks is cocoa butter. There's a grand tradition of husbands rubbing their pregnant wives' bellies with cocoa butter, every night before bed. Certainly moisturizing helps to improve the skin's elasticity, and the ritual of the nightly cocoa butter rub is purportedly very pleasant. However, it's effectiveness in preventing stretch marks is rather limited.

People who are intent on preventing striae should look for a product that provides the body with the very elements that are being taxed: collagen, and elastin. Pregnant women, body builders, or growing teenagers can rub in an ointment of elastin, collagen, and other proteins to help prevent tearing, and subsequent scarring. These proteins, ideally, should be complete proteins, delivering all essential amino acids.

Fortunately, these same ingredients also aid in the repair of stretch marks. The proteins promote cell regeneration, which improves the scars' appearance. Then they thicken the epidermal layer, creating a smoother top layer of skin. This further improves the look of striae, even striae that are quite old.

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