Yes, pregnancy is miraculous, but it certainly takes a toll on the body. As a mother of three, I’ve experienced the hardship of trying to get my body backafter spending the previous nine months coming undone.
Stretch marks are one of the wonderful after-effects of growing a baby, and they don’t discriminate. “Tiger stripes” can appear anywhere from the chest to the knees, but are most common on the belly. Desperate for a cure, women load up on lathers, creams, and oils.
Unfortunately, says a new study from the University of Michigan Health System, topical treatments designed to improve the appearance of stretch marks are “not evidence-based.”
“Most of the existing products aren’t based on solid scientific research,” said Frank Wang, M.D., assistant professor and dermatologist at the University of Michigan Health System. “Very few to none of the items touted to prevent or fix stretch marks really work.”
Past, present, and future pregnant women should thank Wang, who has been studying stretch marks for more than eight years, something unfounded since stretch marks aren’t considered medically dangerous.
Wang found that the elastic fibers of the skin separate as the belly expands and then don’t return to their previous form and position once the skin retracts. The description reminds me of stretching Silly Putty – it starts as an intact ball, but turns into a long string when stretched. You can move your hands back to their original position, but it won’t become a ball again.
Elastic fibers give skin its elasticity, or the ability to “snap back,” after stretching. The skin tries to repair the disrupted elastic network but it does not appear to be effective, which in turn promotes the lax, loose skin seen in more mature stretch marks. — uofmhealth.org
What does all that mean? That topical creams won’t do anything for your stretch marks.
“It may, therefore, make more sense to focus on preserving the elastic fibers you have rather than repairing damaged ones within stretch marks,” Wang said. “Regardless, it’s more complicated than just rubbing something on your stomach.”
It’s not what women want to hear. We want to believe there is a magic formula to ward off evil stretch marks. Thankfully, Wang isn’t stopping with this research. His team will continue looking into this problem, researching collagen and stretch marks that have been established and are fading.
“Because stretch marks may compound the stress of new motherhood for many women, it’s important to learn more about them,” Wang said. “Some women feel like their self-esteem, quality of life and willingness to engage in certain activities are affected.”
The moral of the story: before you shell out money for expensive (or inexpensive) topical creams that claim to reduce the appearance of stretch marks, recognize that you’re probably being sold a bunch of malarkey.
Your best bet is to prepare yourself for the changes that may occur and do your best to appreciate the reason they’re there.
For a longer list of the stretch mark cream read our article: Which are stretch mark pregnancy cream are preferred