Exercising on a regular basis is extremely important and beneficial. If you work out regularly, you have the ability to gain lean muscle mass, lose body fat, improve cardiovascular fitness and feel better through stress reduction.
While there are many clear benefits that come with regular exercise, there are some disadvantages as well. One drawback that some people develop when they workout is exercise-induced stretch marks. There are several reasons why stretch marks form, but the good news is there are ways you can reduce or eliminate their appearance, and possibly even prevent them.
What are Stretch Marks?
Stretch marks are common marks that can appear on your skin. Of course, the way these appear vary considerably from one person to the next, but you can recognize them from their hallmark lines on your skin running parallel to each other.
The color of the stretch marks normally vary based on the color of your skin. They can take on the colors of:
- Light gray
While these stretch marks don’t normally hurt when they form, they are noticeable when you touch them as they will create a slight ridge or drop in your skin.
In most situations, stretch marks don’t cause you any physical pain. However, there are situations when they feel itchy and cause some minor irritation. If your stretch marks are itchy and you scratch them too much or too hard, it could cause them to bleed or be painful. While all people are susceptible to stretch marks, the likelihood that you will get them is based largely on genetics.
Why Do Stretch Marks Form Before and After Workouts?
The prevalence of stretch marks is typically associated with weight gain. While they can develop due to gaining body fat or being pregnant, if you work out on a regular basis, you can also get stretch marks.
The main reason why you can develop stretch marks before and after workout is that you’re gaining muscle mass. And, if you are gaining muscle mass quickly, you might not be able to build new layers of skin to compensate for this increased muscle mass. This will then create stretch marks as your body compensates for the additional mass.
Overall, stretch marks are one of the most common side effects that come with lifting weights and building muscle mass. While stretch marks are common for bodybuilders, there are ways to treat and prevent stretch marks from forming.
Treatment of Stretch Marks
There are several ways to get rid of them —or at least help to reduce their appearance. They include:
- Tretinoin (Retinoid) cream: Tretinoin cream may increase the production of collagen beneath your skin to help fill in stretch mark. It can also help to lighten redness in stretch marks. You need a prescription from your dermatologist for tretinoin cream.
- Laser therapy: Non-ablative laser therapy can help to remove stretch marks. In this procedure, a pulsed dye laser warms the deep layers of tissue to stimulate collagen and elastin production. Laser procedures that stimulate melanin (your skin pigment) to recolor the appearance of stretch marks are also available. You may need several laser treatment to receive the desired outcome.
- Microdermabrasion: In this procedure, crystals blown onto the skin by a hand-held device gently remove a fine, top layer of skin. This promotes the growth of new, and more elastic skin.
- Silicone gel: University of Manchester scientists conducted a study finding that individuals who massaged silicone gel daily for six weeks into their abdomen, showed reduce pigmentation on their stretch marks.
Other Alternative Treatments
- Castor oil: This is a natural oil used to treat a range of different skin conditions and issues. The oil is often used to help remove wrinkles, moles, dark spots and can also be used to reduce the prevalence of stretch marks. Castor oil can be tried to reduce the coloring effect.
- Other topical solutions: Other topical solutions that people apply to treat stretch marks includes lemon juice, potato juice, and even white sugar. All of these have properties that can encourage improvement in skin quality, though little evidence supports their effectiveness on eliminating stretch marks.
Depending on how long you’ve had stretch marks and your skin type, it may take some trial and error of different treatment methods, or you may require a combination of therapies to achieve your desired results. Work with your doctor or dermatologist to find the best option for you.
Prevention of Stretch Marks
While there are ways to treat stretch marks, you should also look for ways to prevent them entirely.
- Gain muscle mass slowly: One of the best ways to prevent stretch marks is to gain mass in a controlled fashion. If you are able to control your weight gain, and keep it balanced across your body, it will give your skin time to develop naturally and become more elastic. This will then prevent excessive stretching and stretch marks from growing on your body.
- Use bitter almond oil: Turkish scientists at the Inonu University conducted a study of 141 pregnant women with stretch marks. They found using bitter almond oil along with massage decreased the development of stretch marks.
- Watch exposure to UV rays. Over time, the color of stretch marks will lighten — going from brown or red, to silver and white, and eventually become less noticeable. However, they may turn a darker color if exposed to UV rays. Therefore, cover up until they have faded or wear sunblock.