Also known as striae, stretch marks are a form of scarring with an off-color hue that may or may not disappear over time. They may appear as stripes or narrow streaks on your skin and caused by a sudden stretch. They’re perfectly common and aren’t a serious cause for concern. Many women also suggest that using the best belly cream for pregnancy can help prevent them.
Anyone can have stretch marks. However, they tend to appear more on women than in men.
They may also be found on different parts of the body. Commonly affected areas include the hips, thighs, upper arms, breasts, lower back, and stomach.
Stretch marks occur when the skin has been stretch out too much that it can’t resume it’s normal form. This is often due to pregnancy, weight loss, rapid weight gain, or puberty. More than half of women get stretch marks during pregnancy.
Quick Facts on Stretch Marks
- They form when skin is stretched too rapidly.
- Pregnancy, weight gain or weight loss, and puberty can cause stretch marks.
- There is currently no strong evidence showing the effectiveness of stretch mark treatments today.
- They often disappear over time even without treatment.
- They don’t pose any serious long-term health risks.
What Are Stretch Marks?
Stretch marks can also be known as striae, striae distensae, striae gravidarum, or striae atrophicans. They’re a form of scarring or disfiguring lesions.
The areas that are commonly affected by stretch marks:
Although not a physical threat, stretch marks can still cause problems with an individual’s self-image. For some, it can be a very problematic cosmetic issue that can affect daily living by causing anxiety and low self-esteem.
Common Signs and Symptoms
Before stretch marks appear, the skin may feel dry and itchy. You’ll then notice thin and pinkish lines emerging.
The marks will then appear wrinkly. The streaks may also show more obvious hues, such as purple, red, reddish-brown, or dark brown. The color of your stretch mark will largely depend on your own skin tone. After a while, the stretch marks may reduce visibility and flatten out. What’s left will be a pale or silvery scar that may or may not disappear completely. Some stretch marks can take years before they become less noticeable.
Common Causes and Risk Factors
Abrupt skin expansion or shrinkage is the most common cause for stretch marks. Other causes may also include:
- Pregnancy – 50-90% of pregnant women will have stretchmarks during or after the birth of their baby.
- Puberty – Because puberty can also cause rapid growth in girls and boys, you may also experience some skin stretching, which in turn leads to stretch marks.
- Rapid weight gain – If you gain weight in a short amount of time, your skin may have trouble adjusting to the fat that accumulates in your body. This expansion may stretch out your skin faster than it can handle, which also leads to stretch marks.
- Medical conditions – Cushing’s syndrome or Marfan syndrome may also cause stretch marks. This is because Marfan syndrome can reduce your skin’s natural elasticity, while Cushing’s syndrome causes you to gain weight rapidly due to an overproduction of a certain hormone.
- Using corticosteroids – The prolonged use of corticosteroid creams or lotions can decrease the elasticity of your skin. This is because it reduces the levels of collagen, which is responsible for strengthening and supporting your skin. More collagen means you’re less likely to get stretch marks on your body.
When stretch marks do appear, their appearance will start to change after some time. They either fade to white or something silvery. They’re also more likely to develop or get worse when your body contains a high level of cortisone, or if you use a cortisone-based cream. Your body naturally produces cortisone too because it converts the stress hormone, cortisol, which is produced by your adrenal glands.
Evidence shows that the following factors may contribute to an individual’s likelihood of developing stretch marks:
- Chronic diseases
- Family history
- BMI (body mass index) before a woman’s pregnancy
- Baby’s weight upon birth
Obese women, for example, may carry larger babies. Also, your age plays a crucial part in determining the amount of collagen in your skin.
Stretch marks can be easily diagnosed through a skin examination. The doctor will likely ask for your medical history and ask questions based on the signs and symptoms you experience. You’ll also be asked to share any existing medical conditions or medications you’ve used in the past or now.
In some rare cases, stretch marks may be a symptom of an underlying medical problem that requires immediate treatment or monitoring. But in general, they are not usually viewed as a threat and don’t lead to problems aside from possible aesthetic ones.
Treatment and Prevention
The treatment for stretch marks can be expensive and not always effective. The results vary from person to person.
Unless the cause of the scarring is an underlying condition, your insurer isn’t likely going to cover the expenses of the treatment. Because, more often than not, stretch marks are more of a cosmetic issue than a health one.
Creams, oils, and topical applications
Scientific data doesn’t show relevant evidence that applying any type of cream, oil, or lotion can help with preventing stretch marks. Although many mothers swear that using the best belly cream for pregnancy can do wonders to prevent or even heal stretch marks.
The best way to prevent stretch marks from appearing on your body is by doing the following:
- Maintain a healthy weight
- Avoid rapid weight loss or gain, like from yo-yo dieting
- Eat a diet rich in vitamins and minerals.
- Increase your intake of vitamins A and C to support skin health, as well as zinc and silicon
- Control your weight gain during pregnancy
- Drink plenty of water every day to avoid skin dehydration
Stretch marks generally pose no health risks to the individual. They do affect a person’s physical appearance, but they’re manageable and can usually be prevented depending on your self-care routine, diet, and family history. If you’d like to prevent stretch marks, consider getting the best belly cream for pregnancy and check the reviews from moms-to-be who have tried it themselves.