Stretch Marks - All You Need to Know Guide

stretch marks shown under a magnifying glass

In the world of beauty, unexpected marks on our bodies can be considered ugly. A stretch mark is one of life’s most common conditions and most women have them.Studies estimate that up to 90 percent of pregnant women and 70 percent of adolescent girls will develop these marks. Another study in 2013 showed that about 50% – 80% of people have stretch marks. A clear understanding can help us tackle it, if or when it arrives.

This article will help you with all the information you need to know about stretch marks, including their causes, symptoms, remedies, and much more.

What is a stretch mark?

Stretch marks are a type of scar that forms when the skin is pulled by rapid growth or stretching. This is mostly because the elastic fibers in your skin can tear as your skin is stretched farther than it’s used to in a short period of time. Apart from your face, hands, and feet, they can be almost anywhere else.

What can give me a higher chance of developing stretch marks?

  • being a woman 
  • having a family history of stretch marks
  • being pregnant – having a history of delivering large babies or twins
  • being overweight
  • having dramatic weight loss or gain
  • being on corticosteroid medication

What causes stretch marks in women?

A very common question is, why do I have stretch marks !!. The simple explanation for this, is that stretch marks are caused due to the sudden change in the size of your delicate skin. Even if it is a reduction or increase in size, this unexpected change will form a scar that will fade over time. Some of the main causes for stretch marks in women are 

Are stretch marks bad for me?

Stretch marks are neither painful nor harmful. They do not cause medical problems. They are definitely not bad for you, but most people just don’t like the way it looks. 

What are the most common stretch marks and their reasons

pictures of different types of stretch marks on a woman

Stretch marks all differ from one another and their look depends on various factors such as how long you’ve had them, what caused them, where they are on your body, and the type of skin you have. Some of the most common stretch marks are as given below

Stretch marks on the back

One of the main reasons for a backstretch mark is rapid weight gain or rapid growth. Other reasons also include pregnancy, weight lifting,stress, heredity,  corticosteroid medication overuse, and Cushing syndrome. They often form in a horizontal pattern on your lower back and could also stretch higher or extend right above the buttocks.

Pregnancy stretch marks

Stretch marks are common in pregnancy, affecting around 8 out of 10 pregnant women. It can form on your tummy,  your upper thighs, and breasts, as your pregnancy progresses and your bump starts to grow. After your baby is born, the marks may gradually fade into paler scars and become less noticeable. 

Stretch marks on the legs/thighs

Stretch marks on our thighs or legs are very common and are caused due to weight gain, muscle growth, puberty, hormonal imbalance, or medical conditions, and they usually fade over time. Stretch marks on your inner thighs can come in red or purple. When the skin from your middle layer tears, the area becomes thinner, and the blood vessels beneath your skin become visible thereby forming the color.

Stretch marks on the buttock (Commonly referred to as bum)

Your butt is one of the most common spots for stretch marks from when you were going through hormonal changes as a teen. It can also be caused due to skin stretching and rapid growth.

Stretch marks on the arms

Stretch marks on our arms are mostly formed due to a sudden increase in their size or the elongation of the skin and could be caused mostly due to heavy weight lifting, weight gain, and hormonal changes.

Stretch marks on the breast (Commonly referred to as boobs)

Hormonal changes that come as part of puberty can cause rapid growth of the breast tissue which stretches the skin. The thinning of the skin can lead to stretch marks on the breasts. It is a normal part of puberty for many girls.

Stretch marks on the stomach and hips

Stretch marks on your stomach are mostly long, thin, and rippled and are caused due to pregnancy, puberty, or rapid weight gain.

Weight loss stretch marks

That’s right, stretch marks don’t just occur when you gain weight, they also form when you lose weight rapidly. Losing weight slowly can lower your chances of developing stretch marks.

Stretch marks on the shoulder

Stretch marks on your shoulders form mostly due to rapid mass gain from either muscle or fat. Stretch marks on the shoulders are often caused by bodybuilding.

Teenage stretch marks

Stretch marks are very common in girls going through puberty. This is due to the body’s growth process and can be seen as fine lines on the body.

Stretch marks on the knees

Stretch marks on our knees are formed due to sudden weight gain, especially if you tend to carry weight in your legs. They could also stretch out to join the stretch marks on our thighs,

What are the visible symptoms of stretch marks?

Stretch marks appear in different colors depending on the skin color and the time it has been on the skin. Early stretch marks may feel slightly itchy and deeper/stronger than usual. In time, the color fades and sinks beneath your skin.

What are the different colors of stretch marks?

Stretch marks may differ in color depending on the depth, time, type, and place of existence.

  • Red, Purple, Black/brown stretch marks
    New stretch marks can appear bright red, purple, black, or brown at first depending on the color of the skin. This is due to the stretching of the surface of your skin. They are formed when the dermal layer of the skin is stretched, letting the blood vessels show. These stretch marks may feel a bit itchy. It is easier to get rid of these marks faster as they are new.
  • White/Silver stretch marks
    White or silver stretch marks are the color that it adapts to overtime before completely fading off. These are the most stubborn and occur when the blood vessels reduce in size, thus making the fat under the skin visible.

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Do stretch marks go away?

Sometimes when the cause of the stretching has stopped, stretch marks may disappear or in most cases, they fade into a less noticeable scar.

  • Do stretch marks go away with exercise?
    Exercise definitely helps reduce the marks. This is because exercise promotes anti-oxidants and gives us good blood flow, which stimulates new collagen. 
  • Do teenage stretch marks go away?
    Similar to all the other types of stretch marks, teenage stretch marks also fade over time. But they are not known to go away completely over time.
  • Does honey clear stretch marks?
    Honey will moisturize your skin, thereby helping the skin in stretching and causing lesser stretch marks. Honey also has a natural healing factor that could increase the healing speed of the scars, thereby fading them faster
  • Do stretch marks go away if you lose weight?
    In some cases, stretch marks do disappear on their own after gradual weight loss.

Stretch marks fading over time

How do I avoid getting stretch marks?

There are remedies proven to prevent stretch marks. However, keeping the skin limber may be helpful for reducing the chances. Follow the below easy steps to increase the chances of avoiding stretch marks

  • Weight control
    Stretch marks are caused when your skin gets pulled apart due to rapid growth or loss of skin size, hence controlling your weight is one of the most important steps to avoid future stretch marks. Eating a healthy diet and regular exercise can aid in weight control. 
  • Drinking water
    Water helps your skin stay hydrated and soft. Stretch marks mostly form in dry skin rather than in moist skin. TheInstitute of Medicine’s current recommendation for daily water intake is 2L/day for women to increase the chances of avoiding stretch marks.
  • Nutrition rich food
    Nutrition can improve skin health and could decrease the chance of future stretch marks. Make sure to add food items in your diet rich in Vitamin C, D, E, protein, and zinc. Vitamin C is particularly important in reducing stretch marks as it is an important nutrient for developing collagen and improves skin strength and elasticity.
  • Get enough exposure to sunlight
    Many pieces of research show that there is a strong relationship between vitamin D and the reduction of stretch marks. The best source of vitamin D is of course sunlight.
  • Treat fresh stretch marks when they appear
    Treating while they are ripe can help improve the chances of reducing their intensity over time. It would also help it fade faster and avoid it from spreading further.

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What are the treatments for stretch marks?

Stretch marks do not exactly require treatment as they are completely harmless. They may not completely disappear but will decrease in appearance with different remedies. Some of the known stretch mark remedies are given below. Note that these remedies should be considered only after consulting a doctor and knowing what suits you the best. 

  • Retinoid cream
    A cream derived from vitamin A, when used over the stretch mark area may improve the appearance of stretch marks less than a few months old. This is mostly because the cream contains tretinoin which helps build collagen. This method is not recommended if you are pregnant, hence consult a doctor before choosing it.
  • Laser/light therapy
    Method of improving and incrementing the growth of collagen using lights and lasers. Laser or light therapy is known as the most effective method to reduce the appearance of stretch marks.
  • Microneedling
    This method involves the use of a small machine with needles like a tattoo machine to stimulate collagen growth. This method has less risk of pigmentation changes and hence is the preferred initial approach for people with skin of color.

stretch marks process diagram

What are the best creams for stretch marks?

Some of the best stretch mark creams for pregnancy by Healthline are

What are the home remedies for stretch marks?

There are a few natural remedies that can aid in treatingstretch marks

  • Argan oil
  • Lemon juice
  • Egg white
  • Potato juice
  • Olive oil
  • Sugar
  • Castor oil
  • Aloe Vera gel
  • Apricots
  • Black tea

How do I permanently get rid of stretch marks?

There is no promising solution other than cosmetic surgery, that can get rid of stretch marks completely. But do keep in mind that surgery can always cause a lot of scars of its own which could turn out to be worse.

When should I see a doctor for stretch marks?

Stretch marks are very harmless and hence do not require any consultation. But consulting a GP can help you find out the exact cause of your stretch marks and get recommendations on how to reduce it as well as avoid future stretch marks.

Stretching it in a nutshell

Stretch marks are nothing more than a sore sight to many. There is absolutely no requirement or urgency to treat it. Their appearance typically improves with time. There are treatments and home remedies that can aid in fading and helping you stay healthy.

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