by Max Bellamy
Human skin is an organ in itself, considering the many functions it performs. It protects from internal infection, warns of possible physical damage by means of sensory pain signals and cools the entire body via sweat glands. And, of course, it is the main canvas of physical beauty.
Despite being extremely flexible, there is a certain limit to its elasticity. When that limit, for whatever reason, is reached or exceeded, stretch marks unfortunately result. They are normally associated with the often drastic weight changes and physical growth of puberty, but various other factors can cause unsightly stretch marks on the skin.
As with most other cosmetically related problems, women are most traumatized by this perfectly natural phenomenon. Unfortunately, the structural changes associated with womanhood also make them the most susceptible. Normally, growing girls will find stretch marks developing on their breasts, thighs, hips, and buttocks. Older women will almost certainly develop typical stretch marks during and after pregnancy.
But the problem is by no means limited to females alone. For instance, obese people of both sexes will sport stretch marks at certain locations of the body, and the problem is certainly not solved by abrupt weight loss, either. If anything, stretch marks can become even more visible with it.
The problem is, of course, far worse for people whose skin retains or highlights stretch marks more than is usual. The skin pigment melanin is the operative factor in such cases, but garden-variety stretch marks are caused when the supply of a protein called collagen is disrupted. This causes minute but eventually visible fissures in the connective tissue. In some cases, the problem resolves itself naturally. Others require external (artificial) intervention.
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