June 2008 Ageless herbal newsletter
You often see adverts for one or other ‘magical oil’ that is going to make stretch marks disappear like mist before the sun – yet the sad truth is that it will not happen – all it means is that multi-national brands have advertising dollars to dupe customers into buying nearly worthless oil.
Most people are still under the impression that it is only females and pregnant women that are prone to this ugly skin condition yet there are many instances where stretch marks will appear. If you are gaining weight rapidly, busy with intensive bodybuilding to bulk-up muscles or even just growing too fast in puberty – all of this can cause stretch marks to appear.
The size of the striae can vary a lot and can differ from short thin small marks covering a whole area, to broad, long and very pertinent blemishes. After the initial stages they normally lose their reddish color and go white or silvery.
Although the medical fraternity does not see striae as a problem – and correctly so – since it has no negative side effects on the body – it does however impact on the mental state of the person affected by striae.
We have had countless e-mails from both males and females, who inquire about removing stretch marks, as they refuse to swim or go to the beach, as they don’t want to expose these ugly welts that have formed on the skin.
We can go into a highly technical discussion of collagen and elastin and the skin structure to explain the formation of stretch marks (striae) – but in essence what happens – is that with the expansion on the body part – be that the breasts, tummy, hips, thighs etc – the skin is unable to manufacture enough collagen and elastin to keep the skin elastic and pliable – which then results in the skin actually ‘tearing’ in places.
Have you ever taken a cheap plastic bag, and stretched a small part between your fingers to the point just before breaking, and the plastic gets distended? Now that is exactly what happens with your skin – it tries its best to allow for the increase of body mass – but then, as not enough collagen and elastin is available in the dermis of the skin (middle part of the skin structure) – this supportive layer tears and the stretch mark is formed.
The people most at risk of forming striae are pregnant mothers – where you have rapid growth and distention of the belly to accommodate the growing fetus, in people that have rapid weight gain – where the excess fat builds up body mass at a rapid rate, in bodybuilders – where they go on intensive “bulking-up” regimes (especially before competitions) – where the actual muscles expand at a very rapid rate, and in teenagers – where it is not excess weight or excessive body mass creating the problem, but the rapid expansion of the entire body. (This normally happens when children go through extremely accelerated growing phases – and where they normally also suffer from actual "growing pains")
When stretch marks are formed they normally appear as red or purplish marks – which over time will fade to a white mark. After some time has passed they will feel softer than the rest of the skin and less elastic, since they do not have the same support as the rest of the skin, and on close inspection can have a slight ‘sagging’ appearance.
Some medical people also blame the natural secretion of cortisone as the culprit, since natural cortisone is produced by the suprarenal gland during the last months of pregnancy and the onset of puberty - both periods when striae are often formed.
We have however, seen striae appearing at far earlier stages of pregnancy – and all the blame cannot be placed on hormonal imbalances.
As mentioned previously – if you believe advertisers, then you will find a variety of oils, creams and potions that will promise you that they will magically make your stretch marks disappear – and base their claims on using ‘biological’ oil (but on investigation it is not much more than wheatgerm oil) or is simply a concoction of coconut oil, while some others include potentially dangerous and cancer forming ingredients like sassafras oil.
For more information on Sassafras oil please visit:
Some good results have been achieved by using medical laser (and we stress MEDICAL laser – not the willy-nilly lasers used in cosmetic applications). So you would need to see either a qualified and licensed plastic (cosmetic) surgeon to surgically remove the marks, or see a qualified and licensed skin specialist (dermatologist) to treat it with a medical laser. There are many general practitioners that like to dabble in such work – but they are neither qualified NOR licensed to do such specialized work – so rather spend the money and see a specialist.
Some people believe that sun tanning makes stretch marks look better, but it is a very temporary solution, as it just make them go a bit red, and after the sun induced redness disappears, they will go back to their original colorless state.
It also happens that older striae are red after a very warm bath or shower, but it also loses the color within a short period of time.
But getting back to potions and lotions – although most of them are good moisturizers, they do NOT address the problem. The problem is NOT an under-moisturized skin – but is the skin’s inability to manufacture enough elastin and collagen.
The answer luckily is yes – if you use a topical treatment that will address the problem of sluggish collagen and elastin manufacture, and have added moisturizing properties – it can help to stem the formation of excessive stretch marks.
In tests done by Prof. Chastruse and medical research colleagues at the Central Hospital at Pellegrin-Tondu, based on stretch marks induced by pregnancy, they found that the plant based formula, on which our treatment gel was created, proved 92% successful in preventing these blemishes forming.
One other very important point to keep in mind is the fact that the body requires vitamin C (ascorbic acid) for collagen formation. If vitamin C is lacking in the body, the skin cannot form collagen (the structural foundation of the skin) - so it would also be wise to ensure that you have an adequate amount of vitamin C in your diet or by daily supplementation.
It contains 6-8% tannins, mainly oligomeric gallotannins, and flavonoids, which are the components responsible for its anti-elastase (preventing the degradation of elastin) and free radical scavenging activity.
It furthermore has an astringent effect on the skin, and helps to protect the elastin fibers, which are extremely thin - between 1 and 3 Tm in diameter. Elastin is required for skin elasticity, and is a protein in the skin, which together with collagen and glycosaminoglycans, make up the connective tissue. All these elements originate in the fibroblast. It is a very specialized herb, and is used specifically where elastin needs to be boosted and the tensile strength increased.
It is an extraordinary re-mineralizer of the skin and has haemostatic properties, providing natural silica to the skin. The flavonoids and saponins in horsetail have great cell rejuvenating and regenerating properties and also have a stabilizing effect on the connective tissue, thereby increasing the firmness and elasticity of the skin.
Its extraordinary effect on the skin even prompted the Commission E to approve it, as treatment for wounds. It is the flavonoids that are responsible for its unique wound healing and tissue repair actions.
Extracts of the plant are mostly used in cosmetics and for external use, for healing skin as well as treating burns, warts, impetigo, skin eruptions, neuralgia, swollen joints, and cellulite. It has topical anti-fungal, molluscicidal, anti-mutagenic, as well as anti-inflammatory properties. Its other major topical action is that of being a circulatory compound, which helps other ingredients to be absorbed by the skin, as well as assisting with the removal of waste products from the skin.
It has three major benefits – Firstly, it is a powerful antioxidant, thereby reducing free radical damage in the skin. Secondly, it is a potent anti-inflammatory agent, thereby reducing inflammation in the skin. And thirdly and most importantly, it has an inhibitory action on collagenase (an enzymatic action in the skin, where the collagen is broken down), resulting in firmer and more elastic skin. The flavonoids and catechols in green tea provide it with vitamin P properties. The tannins in its chemical composition give it astringent properties, whereas the polyphenolic compounds act as an astringent, also protecting the skin, causing vasoconstriction and reducing inflammation in the affected area. Cell regeneration is caused, as well as a wound healing activity.
It contains a host of beneficial compounds, but in essence it acts on the horny layer of the skin to reduce the cohesion between the corneocytes, which affects the thickness of the skin and also increases skin moisture. This results in an improvement of skin flexibility and a higher moisture level. Hibiscus also contains anthocyanocides, which have astringent, anti-inflammatory, antioxidant (free radical scavenging activity) properties, as well as inhibition of the enzyme that causes elastase and hyaluronidase, while at the same time enhancing the retention of the skin’s hydric content.
It has very beneficial effects on skin problems and diseases and helps in healing wounds, burns and irritation. Marshmallow not only has good anti-inflammatory properties, but also seems to boost immunity at cellular level. It also has an inhibitory effect in hyaluronidase, which is an enzymatic action in which the hyaluronic acid and other muco-polysaccharides in the connective tissue are degraded. An inhibition and reduction in hyaluronidase leads to better moisture levels in the skin, as well as boosting the dermal structure and improving wound healing processes, while at the same time reducing skin aging and diminishing inflammation.
One of its main functions is to increase circulation, but it has also been known for centuries for its great wound healing properties. It stimulates the fibroblast and collagen in the skin, yet prevents excessive proliferation of fibrous tissue in wound healing. Centella is particularly helpful in healing damaged and injured skin and maintaining healthy skin tone and elasticity. The triterpene components are principally responsible for fixing amino acids (alanine and proline) onto the collagen structure.
It is a botanical compound that is often used, as it has excellent properties for skin care and helps with cell rejuvenating, wound healing, reducing inflammation and soothes and softens the skin. Calendula is particularly helpful with cracked and damaged skin and has a humectant action on the skin, which helps with dry and dehydrated skin, while the cell rejuvenating properties are most useful in older as well as damaged skin. Furthermore, it has a slightly antiseptic and bactericidal effect and also helps with re-mineralization, with the oligoelements contained in the compound.
One of its main actions is to prevent collagenase (destruction of the collagen) in the way it stimulates protein synthesis and inhibits proteic enzymatic degradation in the fibroblasts. The plant is also responsible for increasing phospholipids synthesis in the blood. Studies have shown that it also has a strong antioxidant effect - thereby neutralizing free radicals, which are more considerable in derivatives of protapanaxatriol than in other fractions of the plant, and it acts by optimizing the cutaneous metabolism of the whole body. It is specifically helpful in capillary products, to stimulate growth and increase tensile strength.
It has excellent anti-edema and anti-inflammatory effects, due to the a-adrenergic stimulation of the blood capillaries. Application of it stimulates the cutaneous circulation, which makes it suitable for any application where water retention and a slow lymph flow is present, and it can be used on ultra-sensitive skin. The powerful venous vaso-constricting properties are further enhanced by the liberation of noradrenalin in the adrenergetic terminations of the blood vessel walls, which increase the tone of the venous and lymphatic wall and improve the venous return.
It is high in saponins which have a healing and soothing effect on the skin and is used with great success on rashes, itchiness, eczema, psoriasis, hemorrhoids, varicose veins, inflammations and other skin complaints. The vulnerary properties of this herb help to prevent tissue degeneration and it helps to arrest bleeding in wounds.
We hope this newsletter gave you a good overview of stretch marks, and although we manufacture a Stretch Mark Gel we cannot claim to remove or cure stretch marks, yet the gel is most effective in preventing them – and using the gel on already formed marks will greatly improve the appearance of the marks – but will NOT remove them.
Therefore – if you are in a situation where you may develop stretch marks, rather be pro-active and prevent them, for to remove them will involve surgery and high cost – keep on remembering the old saying “a stitch in time saves nine” – so rather prevent than to fix afterwards.