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Stretch marks occur when the skin is stretched very quickly over a short period of time. Unfortunately, once stretch marks appear, they're usually there for life. Luckily, there are a few clever tips and tricks that will minimize and reduce stretch marks.

Stretch marks first appear when the skin is literally stretched very quickly over a short period of time. Most commonly, stretch marks appear in the later stages of pregnancy, when a person gains a lot of weight or during puberty.

Stretch marks are also more common in those with a history of stretch marks in the family, in those with certain health conditions such as Marfan Syndrome, and in those who use corticosteroid medication.

Why Do Stretch Marks Appear?

When skin stretches too quickly, the middle layer of skin (the dermis), snaps and tears.

The dermis is usually very strong, made up of lots of fibers that are all interconnected. These fibers are designed to accommodate growth and usually, they can expand. When growth occurs very quickly - or when the skin is more prone to breakage due to pregnancy hormones or a medical condition - these fibers can snap apart. This means that when the fibers break, tears appear in the skin, which means that the deeper layers of skin and blood vessels can be seen beneath the surface of the stretch marks.

This is why stretch marks generally appear to be red/purple in color when they first appear.

Over time, when the blood vessels underneath the skin contract and shrink, the layer of fat beneath the skin can be seen instead - and this is why older stretch marks tend to be silvery/white.

How Can I Reduce the Risk of Stretch Marks?

The best way to treat stretch marks is generally to reduce the risk of them - and to prevent them - in the first place.

Although that's not good news if you already have stretch marks, luckily, you can help to prevent further stretch marks by making a few lifestyle changes. Eat a wide range of fruits and vegetables in lots of different colors - the wider the range of color, the wider the range of nutrients. These nutrients will keep you healthy and will improve the suppleness of your skin.

It's also a good idea to include plenty of omega-3s in your diet, from sources like oily fish, nuts and seeds, as this could improve skin texture. Above all, try not to gain weight too quickly. If you do need to gain weight, be sure to do it slowly under the supervision of your doctor.

If you need to diet, do it slowly and steadily.

Losing weight too quickly doing a crash diet means that you're more likely to pile it back on again - and yo-yo dieting is a leading cause of stretch marks and sagging skin.

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