While bringing a baby into this world is one of the most satisfying experiences, a pregnancy usually leaves several reminders on a woman’s body that look far from flattering. Stretch marks are among the most common niggling problems that new moms deal with and if you are looking to get rid of them naturally, here are a few tips to get you started.
What causes stretch marks?
Once you have a better idea about what factors cause stretch marks, you will be better prepared to deal with them. The most obvious cause is the body increasing in size during pregnancy – the skin on your tummy, breasts and thighs stretch to cover the additional body mass. And while it adapts to continuous movement by expanding and contracting, during these periods, the skin has insufficient time to adjust. As the body expands faster than the skin covering it, the skin tears. The resulting scar that forms from this tear is what we know as a stretch mark. The second factor, which is still a subject of debate among experts, involves the priming of the skin by increased levels of hormones in pregnancy. Together, these hormones attract more water into the skin, which relaxes the bonds between collagen fibers. This makes it easier for the skin to tear when it is stretched and for stretch marks to form. Also genetic factors may also play a role. Basically, if your mother had them, you're probably going to have them. Interestingly, stretch marks don't look the same on everyone. The appearance of stretch marks depends on the color of your skin; they can start out pink, reddish brown, brown, or dark brown, and fade over time to a more silvery color.
The most effectively way to treat stretch marks is to start as soon as they show up. Research shows that the early stages of stretch marks, when they are still red or purple and most readily, respond most readily to treatment. Once stretch marks pass the initial stage, when they are red or purple, to the later stages, where they become white or silver -- often with deep indentations -- they are much more challenging to treat. So if you are lucky enough to spot stretch marks during your pregnancy, start moisturizing. Three or four times a day, use products that contain cocoa butter or shea butter as a prime ingredient to rub into parts of your body which are more prone to stretch marks. With this, skin becomes more pliant, more plasticized and better able to stretch when it's well hydrated.
However if you are battling post-pregnancy stretch marks, you may have to take recourse to specific ingredients to lighten them naturally. Most of these home remedies work by including an ingredient with mild acidic action; for instance juice of lemons and tomatoes as well as yoghurt helps lighten skin tone with their acidic properties. Some of these products are rich sources of vitamin c which may also increase collagen production and help early-stage stretch marks. Some dermatologists believe that vitamin c supplements may also be effective and an appropriate dosage would be 500 milligrams three times a day. However if you are breastfeeding, it would be best you discuss any oral supplements with your doctor.
Glycolic acid is an alpha hydroxy acid and commonly figures in cosmetic formulations applied to treat stretch marks. It most likely works on stretch marks by boosting collagen production. However if you wish to keep things natural, you could apply a paste of products which contain glycolic acids or other alpha hydroxy acids in their natural form. Glycolic acid it occurs as a trace component in a limited number of foods, including sugarcane, sugar beets and grapes. Papayas, apples, lemons and pineapples are other fruits which contain different types of alpha hydroxy acids. Thus you can prepare skin packs with any one of these ingredients and then adding a base like sandalwood powder or orange peel powder. However while preparing skin packs from natural ingredients, you need to keep your skin type in mind; for instance if you have oily skin, you can make a lightening pack from finely ground orange peel powder, a pinch of ground turmeric and a few drops of lemon juice. However if your skin is already dry, large doses of acidic ingredients will strip away precious moisture; in such cases you can make a skin lightening pack of yoghurt mixed with honey and sandalwood powder. Cucumber juice and green coconut water are also believed to offer a mild bleaching action and which you can try if you have sensitive skin. One tablespoon each of tomato juice, gram flour, raw milk and ground turmeric is a hugely effective skin bleach made from natural ingredients. However never forget to try out a preparation on a small area of skin first since this will help you to avoid products to which you are allergic.
Take care of problem areas
Sometimes it is not enough to use skin-lightening preparations in a diffuse sort of way. Certain areas may have particularly entrenched stretch marks and need more intensive treatment. If you want natural remedies to treat these areas, you can make a scrub by applying one tablespoon granulated sugar on each half of a lemon; then rub the affected area with each hemisphere until all the sugar has melted away or approximately for ten minutes. Rinse it off with cold milk and then water. Doing this regularly will help to lighten skin naturally but in some delicate areas, like on the breasts, this preparation is may be too strong to be used.
Have a balanced diet
Finally no matter what you apply on your skin, there is no alternative to nourishing it from within. Consuming the right foods will impart a glow to your skin that even the best natural ingredients or makeup will find it hard to replicate. Ensure that your diet includes ample amounts of fresh fruits and vegetables. Foods which are red, green, purple and orange in color like bell peppers, tomatoes, berries, spinach, pumpkin are particularly good for your skin. The more colorful the fruits and vegetables you eat, the higher your intake of anti-oxidants which combat harmful free radicals responsible for the damaging effects of aging, pollution, sunlight on the skin. Thus the vitamins, minerals and anti-oxidants in your diet are essential for a healthy skin, without which a beautiful, glowing skin is well nigh impossible.