Stretch marks. If you have them, you're not alone! This common skin condition can range from barely-there lines to angry-looking marks that can have a big impact on confidence. Discover what they are, how they form and how to treat stretch marks.
What are stretch marks?
Stretch marks, also known as striae, are a scar that forms in the dermis, the second layer of the skin, after the skin's rapid expansion or contraction.
Dry skin can cause stretch marks as the skin loses its elasticity and becomes more prone to tearing.
When the skin is stretched abruptly, it causes collagen and elastin fibres (the structural proteins of the skin) to rupture. This causes a visible stretch mark (scar).
What do fresh stretch marks look like? New stretch marks are usually very noticeable and pink, red, purple or brown in colour. Fresh stretch marks can also feel itchy and may appear raised.
Over time, stretch marks become much less prominent and irritated as they fade to thin, silvery lines.
While stretch marks can develop anywhere on the body, the most common areas are around the breasts, buttocks, armpits, stomach (particularly during pregnancy) and thighs.
Stretch marks are usually not a cause for medical concern, but they can make people feel self-conscious or embarrassed.
Different types of stretch marks
Stretch marks fall into two categories: striae rubra and striae alba. Striae rubra are fresh stretch marks that are red or purple in color and tend to be more prominent.
Striae alba, on the other hand, are older stretch marks that have faded to a silvery white colour. Usually, striae alba are less noticeable but can still change your skin's texture.
Both types of stretch marks are caused by the same underlying factors, like pregnancy, growth spurts or rapid weight gain or loss, but there are some differences in their appearance and treatment.
Striae rubra are often more responsive to treatment than striae alba. Topical creams, such as retinoids, may effectively reduce the appearance of red or purple stretch marks. Laser therapy may also be used to reduce the appearance of striae rubra. Striae alba, however, can be more challenging to treat.
While topical treatments and laser therapy may still be effective, it may take longer to see results to reduce the appearance of older stretch marks.
How stretch marks look and where they appear on the body will vary.
Typical characteristics include:
- Lines on areas like the tummy, breasts, hips, buttocks, and armpits
- Colourful hues, such as pink, red, discoloured, black, blue, or purple streaks
- Vivid marks that gradually soften to a paler shade
- Prominent streaks that cover larger sections on your body
What causes stretch marks?
Essentially, stretch marks are caused when your body fluctuates in size which means you can develop them in various ways.
- Rapid weight loss or gain
- Weight lifting/muscle growth
- Growth spurts during puberty
Stretch marks can also be a side effect of certain medications or caused by Cushing's disease which results from abnormally high levels of cortisol in the body.
Pregnancy is one of the most common reasons women develop stretch marks, with studies suggesting up to 90% of women will develop pregnancy stretch marks.
Stretch marks Q+A
Do skin stretch marks go away?
While stretch marks do fade over time, they don't typically disappear entirely. There are stretch marks treatment options available to minimise the appearance and steps to take to help prevent these lines from developing in the first place. More on these in a moment!
Can dry skin cause stretch marks?
Some skin types are more prone to stretch marks as they are genetically inherited. Hydrated skin is supple and more readily able to accommodate stretching, while dry skin is less elastic and more likely to develop lines.
Do stretch marks cause loose skin?
Stretch marks themselves don't cause the skin to loosen; this is caused by a decrease in skin elasticity - due to weight loss, ageing, or other factors - which lead to the marks.
Natural stretch marks treatment
How to get rid of stretch marks? Or, better still, prevent them from ever forming?
There is anecdotal evidence that a variety of natural butters and oils as part of a full-body skincare routine may help prevent stretch marks, especially during pregnancy.
However, it's important to note that clinical research into natural stretch mark removal with these ingredients is minimal.
Research has shown that the daily practice of gentle massage can assist in preventing stretch marks.
So, keeping the skin moisturised and supple by massaging stretch mark cream with natural oils and butters may encourage elasticity and help prevent excessive stretching.
The best skin care for stretch marks can include the following ingredients:
Shea butter possesses fantastic emollient properties, which helps seal moisture into the skin. This natural vegetable fat also contains linoleic acid, which has an anti-inflammatory effect on the skin and can assist in boosting hydration.
Coconut oil is famed for its deep moisturising ability. It can also improve the skin barrier function and reduce inflammation caused by UVB rays.
Hemp seed oil
Rich in omega-6 fatty acids, hemp seed oil is a fantastic moisturiser, helping the skin remain soft and supple. The anti-inflammatory properties of the oil also help soothe and calm skin.
Centella Asiatica is the one medicinal herb found in clinical studies to help prevent stretch marks. A 2015 study of creams that contained Centella Asiatica suggested that the herb could help prevent and improve the appearance of stretch marks during pregnancy.
Centella Asiatica may be effective for stretch mark treatment because it stimulates collagen production and speeds up wound healing.
Collagen is a structural protein that gives the skin its elasticity and strength. In the case of stretch marks, the skin is stretched rapidly, damaging the collagen fibre, and leading to stretch marks. Studies have shown that Centella Asiatica can positively impact wound healing, which may help reduce the appearance of stretch marks.
Brimming with beta carotenoids, fatty acids and Vitamin C, rosehip oil is easily absorbed into the skin where these nutrients can minimise discolouration and help boost collagen production.
Alternative skin stretch marks treatment
Aside from natural options to try, there is a range of professional treatments which may assist with stretch mark removal.
Studies have found the use of lasers can provide a safe and effective reduction in the appearance of both red and white stretch marks. The laser impacts the upper layers of the epidermis to encourage the skin to actively regenerate and heal from the damage.
Micro needling stimulates the body's natural healing process to help rejuvenate and improve the skin, which may improve the appearance of stretch marks.
During a micro-needling treatment, small, sterilised needles prick the skin, this in turn stimulates the production of elastin and collagen to repair the skin.
This study showed that microneedling successfully reduced the appearance of stretch marks that formed around the breast area in younger women.
Anecdotal evidence suggests that you could apply rosehip oil after microneedling to further improve results.
Microdermabrasion works to slough away the dead skin cells on the upper layers of the skin in the affected area. In turn, this stimulates cell regeneration which can improve the appearance of stretch marks and diminish the look of stretch marks.
Extra tips for preventing stretch marks
We've shared how teaming a moisturising oil or cream with gentle self-massage may reduce the likelihood of developing stretch marks, but that's not all you can do.
Fill your plate with collagen-friendly foods
When collagen protrusion is healthy, skin is more supple and elastic; more tolerable to stretching without scarring. Foods that encourage collagen synthesis include bone broth, chicken, citrus fruit, leafy greens, beans and berries - to name a few.
Avoid excessive UV exposure
Being mindful of UV and wearing sunscreen daily is a smart skin move all around; this includes helping to prevent or promote the appearance of stretch marks. When you tan with the sun, stretch marks actually become more visible, not less. However, applying fake take to the area can temporarily hide or minimise the appearance of striae.
Once again, doing all you can to keep your skin hydrated from the inside out will help the skin expand and contract with less trauma. Sip plenty of water or tea and fill up on moisture-rich foods like watermelon and cucumber.
Ultimately, the question of will stretch marks ever go away is tricky to answer, as it depends on a variety of factors such as skin type, age, and the severity of the stretch marks.
While there is no guaranteed cure for stretch marks, if you take the above tips on board, it is possible to reduce the severity of their appearance and improve the texture of your skin.
Have questions about your stretch mark skincare routine? Reach out to the Vela Days team. We're here to help!