Stretch Marks Because of Weight Lifting

By Joachim Bartoll

Alternative names:
stria atrophica, striae distensae

Stretch marks are well known in the world of bodybuilding. I guess you've seen them in the pectoral/shoulder region on some bodybuilders. It's usually the result of obesity, having a baby or growing rapidly (adding muscle mass).

Our skin consists of three layers. Stretch marks occur in the middle layer, called the dermis. The dermis is the skin's elastic layer, allowing our skin to stretch and snap back into shape. When this layer is continuously stretched over a long period of time, its elasticity breaks down. The skin tries to reinforce itself by increasing the amount of strong, supporting fibers, known as collagen. The result is the scars we call stretch marks.

stretch marks
Photo showing how stretch marks can look like.

You can't eliminate stretch marks, except by cutting them out. This however, would leave an unacceptable scar and is therefore not an option. However, you can make some of them look a lot better. Proper early care seems to lessen their impact.

Early stretch marks are red. In this phase, they will try to heal (become white). Most scars heal better when massaged. However, massaging without lubrication can cause irritation. I would recommend cocoa butter or a hand lotion with cocoa butter. Regular brushing of the skin with a loofah/bath sponge before showering stimulates the circulation and might help a little.
But most of the stretch marks improve to some degree without treatment, they tend to fade with time.

Laser seems to be the newest attempt at stretch mark improvement. They usually use a pulsed-dye laser. The stretch marks that this might work for are those that are red or purple in color, that is the early ones. Filmy silvery ones (older) probably wouldn't respond. Keep in mind though, that this kind of treatment is expensive and that results vary. Laser treatment will not remove the scars, only make them fade to some degree.

Other options include camouflage with clothing or makeup. Even a moderate tan might help.

Can diet affect stretch marks? Maybe, collagen and elastin are strong fibrous proteins; elastin in particular improves the elasticity of the skin. The function and the health of the cells of these fibres depend on the supply of nutrients from the food we eat. A sufficient amount of amino acids and essential fatty acids must be supplied since these help comprise the cell walls. Vitamin A and E are also important to stabilize the cell walls. Vitamin C and Silica are essential to collagen formation and to maintain the elasticity of tissues. Zinc is also beneficial for the skin, and assists in the activity of other nutrients. So, it might be an idea to make sure that your diet isn't insufficient in any of these areas.

If you have a lot of stretch marks and you feel that they're a problem, you should contact a skin care/health doctor or professional to discuss any new techniques, such as laser treatment. Science tends to go forward and new treatments might pop up at the horizon.

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