What exactly is a stretch mark?
Stretchmarks on woman’s belly
Stretch marks fade with time; however, treatment may make them less noticeable more quickly.
A stretch mark is a type of scar that develops when our skin stretches or shrinks quickly. The abrupt change causes the collagen and elastin, which support our skin, to rupture. As the skin heals, stretch marks may appear.
Not everyone develops these narrow bands on their skin. Fluctuating hormone levels seem to play a role. You may also have a higher risk if people in your family get stretch marks.
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If you develop stretch marks, you’re most likely to do so during these times:
Growth spurts that happen in puberty
Rapid weight loss or gain
Weight training when you have rapid muscle growth
Applying a corticosteroid to your skin for a long time can also cause stretch marks. If you have Cushing’s disease or Marfan syndrome, you may see stretch marks.
When stretch marks first appear, they tend to be red, purple, pink, reddish-brown, or dark brown, depending on your skin color. Early stretch marks may feel slightly raised and can be itchy.
In time, the color fades and the narrow bands sink beneath your skin. If you run your finger over a mature stretch mark, you often feel a slight depression.
Stretch marks are scars or disfiguring lesions. They are also called striae, striae distensae (SD), striae atrophicans, and striae gravidarum.
The most common areas affected include:
Stretch marks are not physically dangerous but can cause problems with self-image and anxiety. For some people, stretch marks are a significant cosmetic concern that can affect day-to-day living.
Signs and symptoms
Before stretch marks begin to emerge, the skin can appear thin and pink. It may also feel irritated or itchy.
The marks initially develop as wrinkly, raised streaks that can be red, purple, pink, reddish-brown or dark brown, depending on skin color. The streaks eventually fade and flatten and tend to change to a silvery color over time.
Stretch marks may gradually become less noticeable, but this can often take years.