Stretch Marks: How They Form and How to Improve Their Appearance

If you are someone who has stretch marks, you have probably already tried or are highly considering trying to get rid of them. For most, stretch marks are an unwanted skin condition that tends to get in the way of body confidence. These grooves and lines in your skin are not dangerous, nor are they harming your overall health, however they aren't something we generally want to see on our bodies.

It can be extremely difficult to get rid of stretch marks completely. For the most part, the best you can do is help them fade. Certain products, and even procedures, may make your stretch marks less noticeable.

What are stretch marks?

Stretch marks, or striae, are a form of skin scarring. They form when the dermis is stretched more than it can tolerate. The skin consists of three major layers. The dermis is the middle layer of the skin that is responsible for maintaining the skin’s shape and elasticity. The fibers within the skin that hold the layers together will eventually break if stretched too far. This disrupts collagen production within the skin and in turn causes scarring in the form of stretch marks.

As your body grows, the connective fibers in your skin slowly stretch to accomodate your new growth. However, it is when rapid growth occurs that stretch marks appear. Sudden growth leads to sudden stretching. The dermis layer of your skin cannot prepare for this and therefore tears.

As mentioned above, stretch marks are not physically dangerous to your health. They do however tend to cause self-image anxieties.

Conditions contributing to stretch marks:

Anyone can develop stretch marks, although they tend to be more prominent in women rather than men. They can occur on a wide range of body parts. This includes the stomach, thighs, hips, breasts, arms, upper and lower back.

Stretch marks show up when skin is unable to resume its normal form after a period of intense growth and changes in hormone levels. Some reasons you might experience stretch marks are:

  • Pregnancy
  • Weight gain
  • Weight loss
  • Puberty
  • Bodybuilding
  • Other medical conditions

Signs and symptoms:

Surprisingly, there are signs and symptoms you are able to look for that can tell you if you are nearing the point where stretch marks are likely to appear. Before a stretch mark emerges, the skin can appear thin and pink. You may also begin to feel itchy in the area where a stretch mark is about to appear.

Initially the marks develop as wrinkly, raised streaks that can be red, purple, pink, brown or dark brown. The color of your stretch mark is highly dependent upon the original color of your skin.

Prevention for stretch marks

It can be difficult to prevent stretch marks. There are a few things you can do to reduce the risk of stretch marks on your body:.

Treatment for stretch marks

Like most cosmetic treatments for our bodies, treatments for stretch marks can be costly and often they aren't all that effective. While there are many creams and lotions claiming to improve the appearance of existing stretch marks, most of them have little medical evidence that they actually work. Before spending a fortune at the drugstore, schedule and appointment with a dermatologist to see what they recommend. New laser treatments and prescription retinoids are usually more successful at improving the appearance of stretch marks than any over the counter solutions. Remember stretch marks do indeed fade over time. The color will fade and they will become less noticeable. However this can take years if you are allowing the process to proceed naturally.

Expectations for stretch mark treatment

Anyone considering undergoing stretch mark removal treatments needs to keep in mind that this is not going to be a quick process. The appearance of a stretch mark can be reduced, but because this is a type of scar, it will not completely disappear. Once beginning treatment on your stretch mark it is best to be realistic and stay positive. Before making any decisions it is also best to speak with your doctor as this may help you choose the treatment plan that best fits you and your unique needs.

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