Before you start searching for information on what to do about stretch marks and how to get rid of them, it’s important to understand what they are and what causes them.
What Are Stretch Marks?
Stretch marks are very common among women and men. During pregnancy, about 75% to 90% of women will develop them at some point. However, pregnant women are not the only people susceptible to stretch marks. About 70% of adolescent girls and 40% of young males will get stretch marks as well.
Striae, commonly called stretch marks, are actually scars and thet are the most common type of skin lesion. They can appear anywhere on the body but typically you will find stretch marks on breasts, the abdomen, upper arms and underarms, and the thighs, hips and buttocks. They are not a health risk but can often be a cause of embarrassment and people with stretch marks spend a great deal of time and money trying to get rid of them.
You can tell the difference between newer stretch marks and older stretch marks by their color. They are either red or white. Newer stretch marks appear purple or reddish in color while older ones are typically white or silvery colored.
What Causes Stretch Marks?
The middle layer of the skin, which is called the dermis, is made up of many connective fibers of collagen and elastin. Both collagen and elastin are vital in providing the skin with its strength and elasticity. When the dermis is stretched faster than it can handle over a short period of time, such as with sudden weight gain, it is unable to keep up with collagen and elastin production. Once the skin’s strength and elasticity are weakened due to the decrease in the production of collagen and elastin, stretch marks form, which are scars that are visible on the upper layer of the skin.
Aside from sudden weight gain, genetics also play a part in determining whether or not you will get stretch marks. The uses of certain medications are also a factor. According to the Mayo Clinic, continued use of steroids and corticosteroid creams, lotions, and pills can also cause stretch marks.
To recap, the most common causes of stretch marks are:
- Pregnancy – The most typical cause of stretch marks in women is due to weight gain and the skin stretching rapidly when a woman is pregnant. In addition, hormonal changes can also cause women to develop stretch marks during pregnancy.
- Growth Spurts – Both girls and boys can develop stretch marks during puberty due to rapid weight gain.
- Dieting – Gaining and losing weight over a short period of time can put a great deal of stress on the skin and cause stretch marks to appear.
- Body Building – Rapid growth of muscle in body building causes the skin to overstretch in a short period of time, resulting in stretch marks. Bodybuilders are advised to bulk up at a slow, steady pace in order to give their skin time to adjust to muscle growth.
- Poor Nutrition – There are many foods that aid in the production of collagen and a diet lacking in these foods can hinder the body’s collagen production, especially during times when it is most needed – such as during pregnancy and puberty.
- Hormones And Steroids – Corticosteroid creams and lotions as well as the excessive use of steroids, both oral and topical, can cause stretch marks.
- Genetics – Due to genetics, some people are more prone to developing stretch marks than others.
How Do You Get Rid of Stretch Marks?
There are many products on the market that claim to get rid of stretch marks but the truth is while some may reduce the appearance of stretch marks, none of them will actually remove them permanently.
Stretch marks respond best to treatment when they are in still in their early stages. One popular and more successful treatment is the use of lasers such as a vascular laser called a V-Beam. This type of laser will target swollen and inflamed blood vessels and can help with skin cell production as well as helping with increased collagen production.
Another type of laser used to help minimize older stretch marks is the fractionated laser. This particular laser is aimed at fractional zones, which are very small fractions of the skin. According to Linda K. Franks, MD, who is a clinical assistant professor at New York University School of Medicine and director of Gramercy Park Dermatology Associates, the process is more like smudging the lines of the stretch marks, which makes them less distinct. Dr. Franks also states that with laser treatment, even in the best cases patients should not expect perfection.
According to plastic surgeons, the only way stretch marks can be permanently removed is if they are in an area that can be surgically excised, for example, with a tummy tuck. So while stretch marks are considered to be a permanent skin condition not easily treated without great expense, there are ways to minimize their appearance. And, there are also ways to try and prevent stretch marks so you don’t have to deal with trying to get rid of them later on down the line.