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What are Stretch Marks?
The term stretch marks or striae have been used in dermatology to define a form of scarring on the skin with an off-color hue. Basically these stretch marks are caused by tearing of the dermis and the may diminish but not disappear completely over time. There is a general misconception about stretch marks and them being a result of the rapid stretching of the skin, which is associated with rapid growth or weight gain, especially during pregnancy or muscle building. Due to these factors the skin overcomes the dermis's elasticity but it has been seen that stretch marks are influenced by hormonal changes. These changes are mostly associated with puberty, pregnancy, muscle building and rapid muscle growth.

Appearance of the stretch marks on the skin is like a reddish or purple line that tends fade gradually and the areas that were affected appear empty and are soft to the touch. These stretch marks occur in the dermis and they cannot form support within the dermis. These marks can appear anywhere on the body but they occur mostly in places where fat is stored like breasts, upper arms, underarms, thighs and the butts.

The causes of Stretch Marks:
The causes of stretch marks are the glucocorticoid hormones that affect the epidermis by preventing the fibroblasts in forming collagen and elastin fibers. Both of these are required to keep rapidly growing skin taut and this leads to lack of supportive material. Hence the skin is stretched and there is dermal and epidermal tearing. Often the epidermis and the dermis may be penetrated and thus the laser surgeries also don’t help to remove the stretch marks. Since the skin is subjected to more stretching force the hormonal changes and genetics influences, along with diet and exercises are the major causes of this problem.

Prevention and Removal of Stretch Marks:
It has been seen that a lot of women develop stretch marks to some degree during pregnancy with the stretch marks appearing during the sixth or seventh month or the 3rd trimester. At this time the skin is subjected to higher levels of stretching forces. In this reference the use of oils or creams can prevent the development of stretch marks. The creams that contain Centella asiatica extract, vitamin E, and collagen-elastin hydrolysates result in fewer stretch marks during pregnancy. Even the use of cocoa butter has been suggested in preventing these marks. In this reference prevention of these marks is easier than trying to treat them.

There are various kinds of laser treatments and prescription retinoid that can be used for treating this problem. Surgical removals of stretch marks have also been suggested in this reference and they have proven to be effective in many cases. It should be remembered that professional help should be taken if these stretch marks don’t fade away with creams and oils. Treatments and remedial solutions for these stretch marks are available over the counter and through renowned physicians across the country.

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