Stretch marks are natural skin marks that form when your body undergoes a rapid change. They are painless and medically harmless – but you may not like the appearance of them on your body. Men, women, and children can all develop stretch marks, and it’s perfectly natural. Here’s what you need to know about them.
What Are Stretch Marks?
Stretch marks are lines or grooves that form when your skin is stretched too rapidly. Collagen and elastin – the proteins that give your skin its structure, flexibility, and elasticity – can rupture if your skin stretches or shrinks very quickly. The damage occurs in the middle layer of your skin (the dermis) where the connective tissues are located. The marks are also called stria.
When they appear, stria may look rippled, raised, or streaky. Early stretch marks can be pink, purple, red, reddish-brown, or dark brown. Over time, mature stretch marks will fade to become thin, silvery or light-colored scars. They can develop anywhere, and most commonly form on the upper arms, shoulders, lower back, stomach, hips, buttocks, breasts, and thighs.
Who Develops Stretch Marks?
Anyone can develop stretch marks, but they are most common in women, especially women who are pregnant. Not only does pregnancy physically stretch a woman’s skin to make room for a baby, but pregnancy hormones may also weaken elastin fibers.
Another common time for stretch marks to form is for preteens during puberty. Stretch marks are a perfectly normal side effect of rapid growth spurts.
Other factors that contribute to stretch marks include:
- Rapid weight loss or weight gain
- Bodybuilding or strength training with muscle growth
- Long-term use of oral or topical corticosteroids
- Disorders like Cushing disease and Marfan syndrome
- Breast implant surgery
- Family history
Do They Heal?
Unfortunately, stretch marks are permanent scars. But while they never entirely heal, the marks will become lighter, thinner, and less visible over time.
Many people try home remedies to reduce the appearance of stretch marks, but there is no conclusive evidence that any of these methods work better than others, or that any of them work at all. Common home remedies include oils (like almond or olive), cocoa butter, and Vitamin E products. Cocoa butter may help soothe your skin if the stretch marks are itchy.
There are over-the-counter creams and gels that may help reduce the appearance of early stretch marks. If you use a cream or gel, massage it into your skin daily for several weeks – it may take time to see results. Some people use self-tanners or makeup to help hide visible stretch marks.
What Are the Dermatological Treatments Options?
Your dermatologist can help you treat stretch marks. Schedule an appointment if you have stretch marks covering a large amount of skin, at-home treatments have been ineffective, or if you feel self-conscious about the marks.
One dermatological treatment route is prescription medication. Medications with tretinoin or hyaluronic acid may be effective at reducing the appearance of stretch marks.
Other dermatological treatments include microdermabrasion, chemical peels, ultrasound therapy, radiofrequency treatment, and laser therapy. At Florida Dermatology Skin Cancer Centers, we offer Cynosure©, which uses laser pulses to break down stretch marks and trigger new tissue production. The growth of new tissue can help reduce the appearance and color of stretch marks and improve their texture. Cynosure is a minimally painful and fast procedure.
If you want more information on stretch marks and the best treatment options for you, contact Florida Dermatology Skin Cancer Centers today and schedule a consultation.