Causes and Treatments Of Stretch Marks

January 11, 2020

Stretch marks are scars.
If your skin is stretched farther than it used to be in a short period of time – such as during pregnancy or during a growth spurt in childhood – the elastic fibers in your skin can tear. These damaged areas can leave long, thin scars called stretch marks. They can appear as pink, red or purple streaks.

Where did you get them?
You won’t get stretch marks on your face, hands, or feet, but they can appear almost anywhere else. They are most likely to appear where your body stores fat, such as on your abdomen, hips, thighs, breasts and buttocks. You may also notice them on your lower back or the back of your arms. Genetics may play a role in stretch marks. For example, if your mother got them on her thighs during her pregnancy, you may be more likely to have them there.

Anyone can get them.
An estimated 50 to 90 percent of women have them, but men can have them too. Stretch marks are also common in teenage girls (breasts, thighs, hips, or buttocks) and boys (lower back or buttocks) during the growth spurt.

They won’t leave.
Like other scars, stretch marks are permanent. But over time, they usually fade and become a little lighter than the rest of your skin – they may look white or silvery. If you’re feeling self-conscious about them, remember that more than half of all adults have them.

Causes: Weight gain
When you’re young and your body changes quickly, you get stretch marks. The more weight you gain, and the faster you gain it, the more likely you are to have stretch marks. Gaining a lot of muscle quickly, as bodybuilders sometimes do, can also cause them.

Reason: Pregnancy
They are most common in your sixth month and beyond. As your baby grows, your body will expand, but that may not be the only reason for stretch marks. Your hormonal changes during pregnancy can affect your skin, making it more likely to “tear.”

Causes: Medication
Some medications can cause weight gain, swelling, bloating, or other body changes that stretch your skin and lead to stretch marks. Hormones (such as birth control pills) and corticosteroids (to relieve inflamed areas of the body) are two medications that can do this. If you take medications and are concerned about stretch marks, talk to your doctor about what you can do.

Reason: Medical conditions
Any health condition that causes weight gain, sudden growth or skin problems can lead to stretch marks. Some medical conditions cause physical changes that can bring them on. For example, problems with your adrenal glands, like Cushing’s disease and rare conditions like Marfan and Ehlers-Danlos syndrome (which affects the tissues that connect body parts), can make it more likely that you’ll get them.

Can you prevent them?
Experts believe that genetics play a role in stretch marks, but if your parents had them, it doesn’t mean you will too. One of the best ways to prevent stretch marks is to keep your weight stable. Drinking lots of water may help prevent damage when your skin stretches. The foods that keep your skin healthy can also reduce your chances. Eat foods rich in zinc, such as nuts and fish, and foods that contain vitamins A, C and D, such as citrus, milk and sweet potatoes.

See a dermatologist.
A board-certified skin specialist is the best person to talk to about skin problems, including stretch marks. She can tell you about the best treatments for your skin type and ways to reduce your chances of getting more. Be sure to tell her about all the medications you take (including vitamins and over-the-counter medications) and if you have any other health problems.

What might help. Retinol Products
Retinol, from vitamin A, may help make stretch marks less visible. It causes your skin cells to shed, or “turn over,” more quickly and may make new skin grow faster, too. The catch. You have to start using it soon after the stretch marks appear and then use it regularly to work. And the type of retinol that has been shown to work (retinoin) is only available by prescription. Talk to your dermatologist about whether you should try it.

What can help you. Laser Therapy
The American Society for Dermatologic Surgery says that laser or light therapy can make stretch marks less visible – light triggers skin changes that help stretch marks blend in. Studies have shown that they are most effective on medium-skinned skin. Laser treatments can be expensive, and it can take up to 20 treatments to see results. If you go the laser treatment route, find a board-certified dermatologist or plastic surgeon who has done research on your skin tone.

What might help. Self Tanning Products
These lotions and sprays can darken your stretch marks and make your overall skin tone look more even. This can make them less noticeable, especially if they are white or very light in color. You may want to try different products and shades until you find the one that works best for you.

Not likely to help. Exfoliation.
Advertisements for exfoliating treatments may claim that they make stretch marks less visible. Scrubbing, rubbing, and microdermabrasion (removing the top layer of skin with a tool) can make your skin smoother. But there’s no evidence that these treatments actually help – and some dermatologists believe microdermabrasion may make stretch marks worse.

Unlikely to help. Most lotions and creams
Many skin care products claim to diminish stretch marks. But there’s little evidence that over-the-counter products can repair the torn elastic fibers that cause stretch marks. And experts don’t know if oil rubs or cocoa butter products can prevent stretch marks during pregnancy. But they may make your stretchy skin less itchy, which can make you more comfortable.