Stretch marks in the skin are a common problem whenever the tissue beneath the skin grows so fast that the skin can’t keep up. Since the fastest growing tissue for most of us is our belly fat, stretch marks across the belly are a frequent complication of rapid weight gain and rapid weight loss. There are some very easy ways to deal with belly stretch marks-but they work best if the treatments are begun even before the stretch marks are noticeable.
There are situations in which rapid weight gain is predictable. Women may gain up to 50 pounds during pregnancy. Both women and men gain weight rapidly when they are put on steroid medications for breathing problems, or when they are put on Actos or Avandia for diabetes. Actors may gain weight to play roles, and bodybuilders working too hard on their six-pack abs may unfortunately develop a six-pack of stretch marks.
If you are in any of these circumstances, take special care to prevent stretch marks by moisturizing the skin. Using a lanolin-based cream, like Mother’s Friend, or a shea butter cream, like Palmer’s Stretch Mark Cream, keeps the skin supple. The more moisture there is the skin, the farther it can stretch without making more collagen, and the more likely it is to keep up with the belly’s growth beneath it.
Another method of keeping stretch marks in check is a regular belly rub. Circular motions around the navel relieve tension under the skin stretching across belly fat. This can be done by you, your partner, or by a professional massage therapist, but once a day is ideal.
The use of a steel massage roller also stimulates the growth of collagen in the skin, but it is not necessary to “get rough” with your belly fat to stop stretch marks. It is never helpful to draw blood with a steel roller during massage sessions. If you need a numbing cream to use the roller, you are rubbing far too hard. The most helpful steel roller massage is uncomfortable, but not painful.
All but women who are pregnant or breastfeeding can fight existing stretch marks with creams that stimulate the growth of the skin. The vitamin A-based cream Revitol works on the same principle as Accutane, Retin-A, and Differin, but without their toxic levels of vitamin A derivatives. The widely popular stretch mark product Mederma stimulates the production of collagen with asiaticides. These are not chemicals that toxic to Asians, but rather plant compounds from Centella asiatica, also known as gotu kola, that revive the antioxidants that recharge vitamin C. Any skin cream containing ascorbyl palmitate, the form of vitamin C that can be absorbed through the skin, has the same effect.
Home microdermabrasion kits are useful for the very ambitious, but it is better to start off by using exfoliants. These products remove dead skin that keeps the skin around stretch marks tight. If you have black, brown, or yellow skin tones, however, be sure not to use products that make your skin sting. The sting is a sign of tissue destruction that can cause age spots to replace stretch marks-which is not the desired result!
Dermatologists sometimes prescribe Accutane, Retin-A, and Differin to stimulate rapid growth of the skin that fills in stretch marks. These products typically only work on new, red or purple stretch marks. They are expensive, and usually not covered by health insurance. They require careful monitoring with regular blood workups, and they are not safe for use during pregnancy. However, these pharmaceutical treatments often get good results and get those good results quickly. Laser and intensive light therapies are the next step.
By far the best way to handle stretch marks on stomach is to stop them before they ever occur. Regular use of moisturizers is your first line of defense. The sooner you start your skin care routine, the easier and the less expensive it will be.