I’m very worried because I noticed some reddish striations that have been appearing where my deltoids and biceps connect above my arm pit. What exactly are they and will they continue to get worse if I keep working out with weights?
It sounds like you have stretch marks. This is common in the shoulders and biceps area when you experience quick muscle growth. Your skin stretches from the growth and stretch marks develop. Here are some photos:
Stretch marks, medically known as “lineae albicantes”, are often an aftermath of weight training. These are probably the most common side effects associated with bodybuilding, weight training and even weight loss. While working out tones up your muscles and makes them firm and muscular, it also leads to stretching of the dermis (skin). The elasticity of the skin is the main reason why stretch marks occur. Some interesting facts associated with stretch marks and weight training along with tips on how to prevent them are included below.
Gently massage the affected area with vitamin E, which is available in most grocery stores in the form of oil or available in oil filled capsules. If using the capsules, squeeze the capsule and mix the vitamin extract in some olive oil. Then massage the area containing the stretch marks with the oil in circular motions twice a day for a few months. My personal experience with this has been great. A couple of years ago, I lost 30 pounds but developed extensive stretch marks. I was even embarrassed to wear short dresses but by using vitamin E, the stretch marks gently faded away in a couple of months!
Use a good moisturizer daily after showering and before heading to the gym for weight training is another great tip. When the cells are properly hydrated, the collagen fibers in the dermis are quite healthy. So, the chances of overstretching the dermis leading to stretch marks are greatly reduced.
Try to gain muscle gradually over a period of time. Lifting heavy weights in an effort to develop muscles overnight, which is often seen in people who are newcomers in the world of fitness, accentuates the problem. As a result, stretch marks and weight training go hand in hand. Start with lighter weights and slowly increase the weights by working at a slow but steady pace. This will not only help you develop an awesome physique but it will decrease the development of stretch marks. It’s always great to progress quickly and pack on muscle mass in a short amount of time but remember that the faster you gain muscle, the quicker your skin will need to stretch in order to accommodate for the new growth. The faster the skin stretches, the greater chance you will develop stretch marks.
Glycolic acid and alpha-hydroxy acid (AHA) are products which are highly effective in reducing ugly stretch marks. They are available in the form of creams and lotions. One can easily find them as they are sold over-the-counter at most grocery stores. Although for a stronger dose you should consult with your doctor before using them.
Laser treatments, especially a fractional laser, will help to remove the stretch marks completely. Several sessions using the fractional laser have resulted in miraculous results for most people. But the high cost of the treatment and multiple sessions with the cosmetologist can be a big negative for people with a strict budget.
Take ample amounts of vitamin C from natural foods or from supplements. Vitamin C is found naturally in citrus fruits like lemon, oranges and limes. This will not only keep your skin soft and supple but will also help to flush out the toxins from your body. Vitamin C also improves your immunity or resistance of the body to fight diseases. The easiest way to get your vitamin C requirements is through supplements which are very inexpensive and provides a high amount of vitamin C per serving.
Another great tip to reduce stretch marks is to drinks lots of water as it will replenish the loss of liquids during exercise. Eat foods rich in healthy fats that contain omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids like fish, almonds and walnuts. Zinc is a mineral found in mushrooms and fish which is helpful in reducing the appearance of stretch marks as it improves the skin’s texture. Vitamin A, zinc and vitamin E rich foods like pumpkins, wheat germ oil, carrots, mangos and peaches are very good for overall skin tone and elasticity.
Try out several of these recommendations for 2-3 months and see if they help. If you do not see any benefit from them and they have not helped to reduce your stretch marks, you might want to contact your local dermatologist to see if they can help you further.