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08 August 2015

How to Prevent Stretch Marks

It’s all about prevention when it comes to stretch marks, those deep, dreaded lines of scar tissue that develop as a result of pregnancy or shifts in weight. They’re much more challenging to get rid of than to fend off in the first place, as we can personally attest thanks to our multiple attempts at fading the ones we’ve had since puberty (how were we supposed to know?!).

We’ll try not to go into the science of how they come to be—basically, stretch marks are caused by a tear in connective tissue, which sounds way more violent than it is—but we will happily impart the wisdom of the best approaches for preventing those tears from occurring.

Add gelatin to your diet.Anything that increases your skin’s elasticity is a win in the battle against stretch marks, and collagen is the thing that keeps your skin supple. Gelatin, derived from the bones and joints of animals, isn’t a vegan-friendly ingredient, but if you’re a meat eater, it’s one of the best ways to encourage the collagen production that’s so necessary to maintaining youthful skin. Make an effort to drink bone broth, which is the most concentrated way to consume gelatin, every day—you can use it in soups, gravies, sauces, and more, and it’s pretty delicious, too.

What can’t coconut oil do? It’s a wonderful ingredient for promoting the healing of scars, which makes it ideal for addressing and preventing stretch marks, too. Stretch marks are visible on the outer layer of skin—the epidermis—but the scar tissue actually runs deeper than that, into the dermis of the skin. That’s why it’s important, when using topical treatments, that the things you apply are able to really absorb deep into the skin. Coconut oil is one of those ingredients: it absorbs better than most creams and oils, so it keeps skin hydrated, which makes it less likely to develop those marks in the first place.

Keep hydrated.And speaking of hydration, being vigilant about keeping your skin as hydrated as possible at all times is key for preventing stretch marks. The name is literal—when your skin lacks elasticity, it gets ripped apart as it stretches during pregnancy or weight fluctuation, so maintaining healthy, supple skin is your best defense. Moisturize frequently, especially after a shower or bath, and drink plenty of water to stay hydrated from the inside out.

Take zinc supplements.A zinc deficiency is another primary cause of stretch marks: the mineral is essential for encouraging the repair of skin tissue, as well as being used in the production of collagen. Zinc deficiency is actually common in women, so most could benefit from eating plenty of zinc-rich foods or adding a supplement to their diet—it’s found readily in various (delicious!) foods like beef and lamb, eggs, cashews, and even certain seafoods.

Eat well, and include plenty of fatty acids.It goes without saying that maintaining a reasonably healthy diet is a good idea in general, but it’s especially important when stretch marks are a concern—you should be eating for skin elasticity, which means including omega fatty acids, vitamins A, C, and E, and lots of protein in your diet.

Dry brush to improve circulation.We’ve sung the praises of dry brushing in the past, and we stand by it: the simple exfoliating method helps to get your blood flowing, and it also removes dead skin cells that prevent your skin from properly absorbing moisturizers. Dry brushing promotes the production of collagen by gently stretching and stimulating the connective tissues that are responsible for developing stretch marks in the first place.

When all else fails, try a retinoid.We slap retinoids on our faces regularly, but it has major body benefits, too. Once stretch marks have developed, it’s nigh impossible to treat them retroactively, which is why prescription-strength retinoids are a great fix—they accelerate the skin’s cell turnover and encourage better collagen production, which is a stretch mark-fighting double whammy if there ever was one. Just don’t use topical retinoids when you’re pregnant or nursing, as they’re unsafe for pregnancy.

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Post: coconut oil as a body moisturizer.

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