Stretch Marks

What are Stretch Marks?

Anything that stretches your skin, from growth during puberty to pregnancy, can result in stretch marks. These marks are a specific form of scar tissue that form when the skin stretches faster than it can handle.

The thin marks or stripes that appear are actually bands of collagen, a type of scar tissue, that form as the skin heals. Aside from mechanical causes like gaining or losing weight, these marks can develop due to corticosteroid cream use.

What are the Symptoms of Stretch Marks?

Stretch marks first appear as red or light brown marks on the skin. As time passes and they heal, the color fades to a slightly lighter shade than the rest of the skin. Some people develop stretch marks that are bright white or which remain red for longer than expected.

There should be no distinct pain with stretch marks, although a general soreness and tenderness may develop. They’re most commonly found in areas of the body like:

  • The armpits
  • The groin
  • The stomach, especially the lower region
  • The thighs
  • The hips
  • The buttocks

Stretch Marks Causes

Stretch marks can appear for a number of different reasons. Some of the most common causes of stretch marks are pregnancy, sudden weight loss or gain, and having a family history of stretch marks. When a woman becomes pregnant, her skin stretches in several ways as her stomach grows. She may get stretch marks on and around her stomach. Rapid weight loss often causes stretch marks but teenagers can often experience stretch marks as a result of a sudden growth spurt.

Corticosteroid creams, pills and lotions can also cause stretch marks. They do this by limiting the skin’s stretching ability. Adrenal gland disorders such as Marfan syndrome, Cushing’s syndrome and Ehlers-Danlos syndrome can cause stretch marks because the amount of cortisone in your body decreases.

Caucasians are more likely to have stretch marks than non-Caucasians.

How are Stretch Marks Treated?

There’s no medical need to treat common stretch marks. Extreme skin damage that is painful or accompanied by bruising may need treatment, but even in those cases treatment is mainly based on pain killers and any necessary surgery to handle how the scar tissue forms. If the stretch marks hurt the patient’s self-esteem, it’s possible to lighten them with topical bleaching creams or hide them with self-tanning creams. Traditional tanning only highlights these marks because they change color more slowly than the rest of your skin.

Stretch Marks Prevention

There are numerous ways to prevent stretch marks at any stage of pregnancy or weight loss. Just some things you can try include eating more gelatin (increases skin’s collagen levels), drinking plenty of water (about eight to 12 glasses per day), rubbing your belly with coconut oil, taking extra vitamin C, using Shea butter or cocoa butter, and taking zinc.

You can also try oil treatments using castor oil, essential oils, olive oil and Vitamin E oil. Some companies even sell stretch mark cream, but you can also make one yourself using just almond oil, vitamin E oil and mandarin essential oil.

Your diet has a tremendous impact on whether you’ll get stretch marks or not. Try to eat foods that improve your skin’s elasticity, such as foods high in vitamin A, C, and E, and omega 3 fatty acids. By eating organic, locally grown fruits and vegetables and foods rich in collagen (like bone broth) you can prevent stretch marks.

Last Reviewed:
October 10, 2016
Last Updated:
November 22, 2017