The idea of prevention has got a great significance in all health related problems. The old dictum, “Prevention is better than cure”, is fully applicable to every cosmetic lesion including stretch marks. We all know that modern treatment methods like cosmetic surgery and laser therapy are beyond the reach of ordinary man; hence, preventive measures have got greater importance.
The idea of prevention of stretch marks is still a topic of debate. Since there is a limit for the elasticity of skin, enormous stretching for a long time results in stretch marks. In case of pregnancy the abdominal wall has to keep stretching for a prolonged period to accommodate the enlarging uterus, and hence stretch marks during pregnancy are the most common among all types. However some preventive measures help to reduce the severity. But one thing is clear; prevention of stretch marks is much easier than its treatment.
However in the market, there are wide ranges of products available which are supposed to prevent stretch marks when applied on the skin throughout pregnancy. But most of the products have not been scientifically proved so far; yet people spend a lot of money.
There are some general guidelines to be followed by every person to prevent stretch marks.
- Balanced diet: Balanced diet is most essential for the skin to maintain its quality. The diet should contain adequate amounts of carbohydrates, proteins, vitamins, lipids, minerals etc. Most important among them are proteins, vitamins like A, C, E, K and Zinc.Proteins: Main sources are meat, fish, egg, soybeans nuts etc.Vitamins: Among vitamins the most important are Vitamin A, Vitamin C, Vitamin E and vitamin K.
Vitamin A: Sources are Carrots, Vegetables, Rice, Pumpkin, Sweet Potato, Apricot, Spinach, Mango etc.
Vitamin C: Sources are Citrus fruits, Guava, Papaya, Strawberries etc.
Vitamin E: Sources are Almonds, Vegetable oils, Seeds, Sunflower, Oats, Peaches, Avocado etc.
Vitamin K: Green leafy vegetables, Cabbage, Liver, Milk products etc.
Zinc: Zinc is very essential for the formation of collagen. Mostly found in nuts, bananas, raisins, legumes and fish.
- Water intake: Adequate amount of water should be taken every day to maintain the water balance of the body. When the skin becomes dry it is prone to stretch marks.
- Controlled weight gain: Sudden increase in the body size is the main cause for stretch marks. Hence a controlled weight gain can reduce the chance greatly.
- Exercise & relaxation techniques: Regular exercise and relaxation techniques can increase the blood supply to the skin and keep it intact. Exercise also helps to maintain the tone of muscles to prevent a big belly. It also helps to prevent excess of fat deposition. Exercise should be done regularly in a gentle manner. Rigorous exercise can be harmful and hence aerobic exercises are much useful for ordinary people. Similarly, walking, swimming, meditation, yoga, etc also help.
- Habits: Avoid junk foods, over eating, tobacco, alcohol and excess use of steroids.
- Life style: A healthy life style should be maintained.
- Sleep: Sound sleep is very essential for the maintenance of good health. However, sleeping with snoring should be avoided.
- External applications: These are not 100% effective. External application of cocoa butter, olive oil, almond oil, fish oil, lavender oil, aloe vera extract etc during pregnancy and controlled weight gain are useful. Similarly ointments containing Vitamin A & E are also widely used with some benefits.
- Milk bath: Milk is a major ingredient in a few cosmetic creams due to its skin softening properties. In this method the entire body is soaked in a bathtub containing a cup of skimmed milk powder and sufficient quantity of water. By repeating this procedure the skin becomes soft and elastic. This method may be utilized as a preventive and curative method for stretch marks. Use of soap is contraindicated while having a milk bath.