Stretch marks appear as thin, long flowy lines on the skin. They may develop when the skin is stretched during puberty (growing years), you gain or lose weight, and during pregnancy. They may appear reddish initially and become white (old stretch marks) gradually. While stretch marks are permanent, you can improve and lighten the appearance of fresh stretch marks. In this article, we explain how stretch marks appear, their types, and how to manage them. Scroll down to know more.
Table Of Contents
What Are Stretch Marks And How Are They Formed?
Stretch marks appear when the skin is stretched and ripped at the dermis level, the second and the thickest skin layer, beneath the epidermis (top layer) (1). They are also known as striae distensae. They appear as reddish-purple and white lines and often lead to collagen and elastin (fibers responsible for skin elasticity) loss (2). These marks are mainly found on the thighs, breasts, abdomen, knees, calves, and hips in women. They can be classified into two types – striae rubrae (the acute stage) and striae albae (the chronic stage) (3).
Types Of Stretch Marks
1. Striae Rubrae
This is the acute stage of stretch marks and the early indication of overstretched skin. It is characterized by red flares and stretched lines developing perpendicular to the direction of the skin tension. These early stretch marks often itch.
2. Striae Albae
his is the chronic or mature stage of stretch mark development. The lines appear faded, pale, wrinkled, and hypopigmented. The stretch marks develop a scar-like appearance and become more prominent at this stage. They are permanent.
The causes of stretch marks are associated with tissue stretching. Several factors may increase your likelihood of developing them (3). Let’s take a look at them below.
Causes Of Stretch Marks
Anyone can develop stretch marks at any point due to the following factors:
- Weight Gain Or Loss: Sudden and extreme weight loss or gain may affect skin elasticity and lead to stretch mark formation.
- Adolescence: Sudden growth spurts may occur during puberty and adolescence. This may stretch the skin in specific areas and leave marks.
- Family History: If you have a family history of stretch marks, you too may develop them.
- Chronic Steroid Use: Corticosteroids help reduce inflammation and are often used to treat conditions like dermatitis and eczema. However, steroids may affect the skin’s collagen levels and lead to stretch marks.
- Cushing’s Syndrome: Health conditions like Cushing’s syndrome increase your body’s cortisol levels and lead to stretch marks.
- Marfan Syndrome: This condition weakens the skin tissues. As a result, the skin loses elasticity and develops stretch marks.
- Pregnancy: The weight gain and loss during and after pregnancy leads to stretch marks.
Now you know the causes, let’s look at how you can manage stretch marks. However, remember that medical treatment and home remedies may work on early stretch marks (the reddish and purple marks) and not on white stretch marks.
How To Manage Stretch Marks
1. Medical Treatments
Medical treatments like laser therapy, acid peel treatments, collagen injections, laser lipolysis, radiofrequency techniques, and microdermabrasion are suggested for fading stretch marks. These targeted treatments reduce deep discolorations on the skin or remove the top layer of damaged skin. They may reduce the appearance of stretch marks but not eliminate them. Using topical creams may increase skin elasticity and boost collagen production and help fade stretch marks.
2. Natural Remedies
You may try natural remedies to reduce early stretch marks. Moisturizing ingredients like plant oils (shea and cocoa butters, coconut, almond, and olive oils) may boost skin elasticity and collagen production to reduce stretch marks. However, the efficacy of natural remedies for stretch marks is purely based on anecdotal evidence. Many have claimed that almond oil, aloe vera, sugar, coconut, and castor oils prevented stretch marks formation and improved early stretch marks.
Here are some general care tips for you to follow to reduce the appearance of stretch marks.
General Care Tips To Reduce Stretch Marks
- Use topical vitamin A (retinoid) creams and hyaluronic acid to hydrate the skin. Moisturization is crucial to maintain skin elasticity and decrease the chances of developing stretch marks.
- Use anti-stretch marks creams. They contain moisturizing ingredients and are easily available. For best results, use them as instructed on the package.
- Avoid crash diets or heavy binges. Crash diets may cause extreme weight loss, while binges can cause immediate weight gain.
- Try to work on stretch marks when they are at their initial stage and appear reddish-purple. Early stretch marks respond well to treatment.
- Avoid using topical creams and steroids without consulting a dermatologist. They can suggest the best treatment as per your skin type and type of stretch marks.
- Drink plenty of water to ensure your body and skin stay hydrated.
Here are some symptoms to look out for when checking for stretch marks.
Symptoms And Diagnosis
The symptoms of stretch marks may differ depending on how long you have developed them. You may look for:
- Red, pinkish, blue, and purple streaks on the body.
- Long lesions on the hips, abdomen, breasts, arms, and calves.
- Red lines fade and become white. The dermatologist may ask for additional tests to ensure they are not a symptom of other medical conditions like Cushing’s syndrome and Marfan syndrome.
When To See A Doctor
If you are concerned about the appearance of stretch marks, and if they do not respond to home remedies, consult a dermatologist. They can help determine the exact reasons for your stretch marks and suggest treatments to effectively reduce them. Moreover, before going for medical treatments, it is crucial to discuss the outcomes with the doctor.
Even with the right treatment, it may take some time for the stretch marks to fade away.
How Long Does It Take To Fade Stretch Marks?
With the right treatment and proper skin care, early stretch marks may lighten in 7-9 months. However, they may not be eliminated but may fade over time.
Stretch marks are unavoidable. You will develop them as your body (and skin) undergo physical changes. While you cannot eliminate them, it is possible to fade early stretch marks with proper care and treatment. If you are concerned about their appearance, consult a doctor.
Expert’s Answers For Readers’ Questions
Can teenagers get stretch marks?
Yes. Teenagers may develop stretch marks during the growth spurts.
Can anything prevent stretch marks?
No. You cannot prevent stretch marks. However, moisturizing the skin and keeping your weight in check may help prevent it to a great extent.
Do stretch marks go away if you lose weight?
No. stretch marks never go away. However, they may fade over time.
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