You can develop stretch marks anywhere – on your hips, butt, arms, breast, and abdomen. Stretch marks are normal. However, sometimes, they can itch. Itchy stretch marks are as normal and natural as the marks themselves. In this article, we have discussed the reasons for itchy stretch marks and how you can deal with the annoying itch. Read on.
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Itchy Stretch Marks: What Are The Causes?
You develop stretch marks when your skin stretches beyond its capacity, causing tears in the dermis (the second layer of skin right below the epidermis).
When the stretch marks are fresh and developing, they appear red, purple, or pinkish (depending on your skin tone). That’s when they itch.
Fresh stretch marks itch because the skin is thinner and has less collagen support. Moreover, dermal tear also harms the nerves. Once the skin starts healing, the damaged nerves are stimulated, which causes the itching sensation.
Also, if the skin around the stretch marks becomes dry, it may cause itching. In such cases, topical moisturizers can offer some relief. However, you have to be particularly careful when you develop itchy stretch marks on your abdomen during pregnancy.
Itchy Stretch Marks During Pregnancy
Stretch marks often develop during late pregnancy, when the baby is growing, and the skin on your abdomen stretches to accommodate the baby. Usually, you may develop stretch marks during the second trimester. Some may even notice them at the end of the third trimester.
During this time, the stretch marks or the skin around them may itch. This is because the skin starts healing itself.
However, some women may also develop a type of rash called the Pruritic Urticarial Papules And Plaques Of Pregnancy (PUPPP). This is the most common type of rashes that pregnant women develop during the third trimester of their pregnancy (almost at the same time as they develop stretch marks) (1).
PUPPP is an inflammatory skin condition, and if it develops on the stretch marks, it can add on to the itchiness and cause extreme discomfort. The doctor may prescribe topical corticosteroids and oral antihistamines for treatment.
Hence, it is better to be on the safe side if you are pregnant and get your skin evaluated by a doctor in case you develop an itch.
If your itchiness is caused due to the developing stretch marks and the dryness around them, here are a few ways to control it.
How To Treat Itchy Stretch Marks
Keeping the area moisturized while stretch marks are developing is important. Moisturization not only helps fade them but also relieves itching by reducing dryness (2). Here are a few things you may try:
1. Cocoa Butter
There is a lack of evidence supporting the use of cocoa butter as an effective skin moisturizer. However, one small study suggests that cocoa butter can improve skin elasticity (3).
It is also widely used in cosmetic formulations, especially in moisturizing lotions, for its skin moisturizing abilities. You may try massaging the area with cocoa butter to keep the skin moisturized and prevent itching.
2. Coconut Oil
Virgin coconut oil is widely used in traditional medicine for healing several skin issues. It is an excellent moisturizer that helps to reduce inflammation by improving the transepidermal water loss and skin barrier function. It also helps to keep the skin hydrated and moisturized (4). This property may also help to fade the stretch marks.
3. Vitamin E Oil
Vitamin E oil (the liquid squeezed from the softgels) is an extremely popular home remedy to keep the skin moisturized. However, there is no scientific proof of its moisturizing effects. Vitamin E is a potent antioxidant and can keep the skin healthy (5).
In addition to the above-mentioned ingredients, you may also use almond and jojoba oils or moisturizing creams.
You may also consult a dermatologist. They may suggest anti-itch ointments and topical creams or lotions to keep itching at bay. Here are some more tips that may help reduce itching on your stretch marks.
A Few Tips To Prevent Itchy Stretch Marks
1. Apply Moisturizers Frequently
It is crucial to keep your skin moisturized. You may layer both creams and moisturizers for intense hydration. Apply moisturizers at least thrice a day, always on damp skin. This will help prevent dryness.
2. Go For Oil Massages
Massaging the stretch marks with oil can help reduce itchiness. It also helps improve elasticity and hydration levels of your skin. Oil massages during pregnancy not only keep the skin healthy and fade stretch marks but also help relieve pregnancy-related stress and anxiety.
However, always consult a doctor before massaging your abdomen. Also, be mindful of the pressure that is being applied.
3. Use A Moisturizing Cleanser For Shower
Avoid soaps for bathing as they may make your skin dry. Use moisturizing body washes. This will help prevent the tightness or dryness of your skin. Also, use lukewarm water for showers.
4. Use Topical Ointments And Creams For Itchy Stretch Marks
If your doctor has recommended any anti-itch cream or ointment, make it a point to apply it regularly and as directed.
Usually, you get stretch marks:
- when you lose or gain weight rapidly
- during puberty
- if you are weight training for building muscle mass
- if you have a family history of stretch marks
- if you have certain medical conditions (like Marfan’s syndrome, Cushing syndrome, and Ehlers-Danlos syndrome).
Stretch marks may be itchy in the beginning, but proper treatment can ensure that the itch goes away. However, if it doesn’t subside with home remedies, consult a doctor immediately.
Expert’s Answers for Readers Questions
What is the best cream for itchy stretch marks?
Aquaphilic ointment works best on itchy stretch marks. However, it is recommended to consult a doctor before using any creams. Avoid self-medication.
Do stretch marks itch when gaining weight?
If you have gained weight and developed fresh stretch marks, they might itch.
Why are my stretch marks purple and itchy?
Purple stretch marks are fresh stretch marks. They can be red, purple, or pinkish, depending on your skin tone. Fresh stretch marks tend to itch.
Why do stretch marks become dry?
This happens due to lack of moisturization. The skin around the stretch marks may become dry, and it might cause itching.
- Chouk, Chourouk, and Noureddine Litaiem. “Pruritic Urticarial Papules And Plaques Of Pregnancy (PUPPP).” StatPearls [Internet]. StatPearls Publishing, 2019.
- Wollina, Uwe, and Alberto Goldman. “Management of stretch marks (with a focus on striae rubrae).” Journal of cutaneous and aesthetic surgery 10.3 (2017): 124.
- Gasser, P., et al. “Cocoa polyphenols and their influence on parameters involved in ex vivo skin restructuring.” International journal of cosmetic science 30.5 (2008): 339-345.
- Varma, Sandeep R., et al. “In vitro anti-inflammatory and skin protective properties of Virgin coconut oil.” Journal of traditional and complementary medicine 9.1 (2019): 5-14.
- Keen, Mohammad Abid, and Iffat Hassan. “Vitamin E in dermatology.” Indian dermatology online journal 7.4 (2016): 311.