Stretch marks are unsightly and can be very difficult to remove. They can cause self-consciousness and can occur at any point in a person’s life, whether they are male or female. Stress can contribute to stretch marks in different ways. Prevention is much easier than trying to get rid of already present stretch marks, so understanding what causes them is important in order to prevent their appearance, or prevent them from getting worse.
What Are Stretch Marks?
Stretch marks occur when the skin is pulled too tightly, too quickly, whether it is over muscle, fat or a developing fetus. The middle layer of skin, or the dermis, develops microscopic tears. It becomes inflamed and this causes the red or purplish color of fresh stretch marks. These eventually heal, leaving silvery scar tissue that is usually a few shades lighter than the surrounding skin. The outer layer of skin, the epidermis, is also stretched and becomes translucent, making the underlying marks easier to see.
Stretch marks occur more easily in people with a lower production of collagen, as collagen contributes to skin elasticity. Collagen can also help reduce the appearance of stretch marks in the long run, as it is involved in skin pigmentation and can reduce the lightening of the scar tissue. People who are most prone to stretch marks include those who put on a lot of weight, particularly through a sudden weight gain, pregnant women, adolescents who are growing quickly (although their stretch marks tend to fade quickly) and body builders.
How Does Stress Contribute to Stretch Marks?
Stress can contribute to the development of stretch marks in several ways. Stress can be a trigger for weight gain, particularly sudden weight gain, as many people relieve stress by eating. Stress also causes the body to release the hormone cortisol. Cortisol has been linked to weight gain. It causes people to eat more and to retain fat more easily, particularly around the middle. Any sudden weight gain can lead to stretch marks that last long after the weight has been burned away.
Cortisol also contributes to the breakdown of collagen in the body, and affects the body’s ability to make more collagen. This reduces the skin’s ability to repair itself, as well as its elasticity, making it much easier for people to develop stretch marks with even a relatively small weight gain.
How Can You Prevent Stretch Marks?
Reducing stress can help to prevent stretch marks as it will reduce the levels of cortisol in your body and increase the levels of collagen in your skin, as well as help to prevent overeating and weight gain. Stress can be reduced through meditation, healthy nutrition, exercise and getting enough sleep. If you are worried about your levels of cortisol, you can ask your doctor to check them with a blood sample. Trying to gain or lose weight, whether it is muscle or fat, as slowly as possible can also help reduce the chances of developing stretch marks.
Stretch marks are one of the many unpleasant effects of stress. Reducing stress will help to improve your health and appearance in many different ways, including preventing unsightly stretch marks.