And even though they’ll never really go away, they might fade over time or with help from certain products and procedures.
Why Do You Get Them?
Stretch marks happen when your body grows quickly for any reason. Your skin can’t stretch enough to keep up. These long, thin, rippled marks are also called stria.
Collagen is a protein that makes your skin more elastic. If your skin doesn’t have enough, the marks may show up as it stretches.
You may get stretch marks because of:
- Quick weight gain or childhood growth spurts
- Breast implant surgery
- High amounts of steroids, either from steroid medications or illnesses like Cushing's syndrome
- Marfan syndrome, a genetic disease that weakens your skin fibers and causes unusual growth
They also run in families.
Who Gets Them?
Stretch marks are more common in women, especially during pregnancy. As your tummy grows to make room for a baby, your skin stretches. Hormones that surge when you’re pregnant may also weaken skin fibers and cause stretch marks.
Any body part that gets bigger during pregnancy could get stretch marks. They might fade as you shed pounds after the baby is born.
Both women and men who are obese can get the marks. Even bodybuilders who have little fat can get them where their muscles bulge.
Kids might get them if they suddenly get taller or gain weight, like during puberty. Make sure they know this is normal. Childhood marks may fade as kids get older.
What Do They Look Like?
These rippled, streaky lines in your skin come in different colors. They fade from red or pink to purplish-blue to thinner, pale, more scar-like streaks over time. You may not notice them as much.
They can show up on many parts of your body:
Your doctor only has to look at your skin to diagnose them. But she’ll probably ask about your medical history. If you’ve taken either oral or topical steroids for a long time, high cortisol levels in your body might be to blame.
Are There Products That Help?
Body makeup can help hide stretch marks. You’ll find many creams, salves, oils, and other skin ointments that claim to either prevent or treat them. But there’s little proof that any of these products really work.
Tretinoin: Creams with tretinoin (Retin-A) contain retinoid, a compound related to Vitamin A. Retinoids increase collagen production. They may help fade newer stretch marks, but they can cause your skin to become red, irritated, or scaly. They’re also used to treat wrinkles.
Collagen boosters: StriVectin-SD and lupin seed extracts are both supposed to increase collagen in your skin, but it’s hard to say if they’ll fade or prevent stretch marks.
Centella asiatica : This herbal oil boosts cells in your body that make collagen and build up skin tissue. Some peoples use it to help heal wounds. Centella asiatica is in a number of over-the-counter skin creams for stretch marks, but there’s little proof it helps to fade them.
Bitter almond oil: One study showed that women who massaged bitter almond oil into the skin on their bellies during pregnancy did have fewer stretch marks than others who just used oil without massage.
Cocoa butter, shea butter, olive oil, vitamin E oil, and other moisturizers: These natural creams may help make your skin feel softer, but it isn’t clear if they help or prevent stretch marks.
Are There Procedures to Get Rid of Them?
A skin doctor or plastic surgeon can use lasers or other treatments to help fade the marks. It may help your skin make more collagen:
Pulsed dye laser therapy is a painless blast of light used on new, red stretch marks. The light’s energy calms blood vessels under your skin that could cause the marks.
Fractional CO2 laser therapy is a new treatment that may smooth out old, white stretch marks. One study showed that women’s stretch marks faded after five sessions compared to others who used topical creams with glycolic acid and tretinoin.
Microdermabrasion uses tiny crystals to rub off the top layer of your skin. One new study showed that this treatment helped fade new, reddish stretch marks when combined with skin peels.