Stretch marks can only occur on some body parts like the breast, hips, butt, arms, and abdomen. While these marks are harmless and may fade away after some time, some people struggle with the question: why do stretch marks itch? Rest assured, the itch is as natural and normal as the marks. In this article, we explained why stretch marks itch and how to treat these itchy marks. Continue reading.
In This Article
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 and creates inflammation in the skin, which causes itching. 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
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. Apply ice or use cold (refrigerated) calamine lotion to relieve itching.
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 can be itchy because they are fresh, and the skin is thinner with less collagen support. In some cases, the skin around stretch marks also becomes dry, resulting in itchiness. One of the best ways to manage this itchiness is moisturization. You may moisturize your skin with cocoa butter, coconut oil, or vitamin E oil. In addition, use topical ointments and creams to soothe itchy stretch marks. However, if you have itchy stretch marks during pregnancy, it is better to consult your doctor before trying any of these remedies.
Frequently Asked Questions
Does itching make stretch marks worse?
Scratching the itching area may make the stretch marks worse. The stretch marks may deepen and leave behind scars.
Does an itchy belly signify stretch marks?
An itchy belly does not necessarily signify stretch marks. However, you may start your stretch mark prevention routine if your belly starts itching. Also, pregnant people often experience an itchy belly when the skin starts adapting to the growing baby inside.
- Stretch marks happen due to lack of moisturization, though they may fade after some time.
- They can occur on body parts like breasts, abdomen, and hips – and their thin skin may itch as it has less collagen support.
- However, there are some effective ways to control the itchiness caused by stretch marks.
- 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.