What Causes Stretch Marks?

Stretch Mark Causes

If you have stretch marks you are not alone, it is estimated that around 80% of people have them. Stretch marks are your skin’s normal reaction body during puberty or pregnancy, and there are other factors, such as genetics, that also play a role in your likelihood of developing them.

While no magic potion can guarantee to make your stretch marks completely disappear, there are many options available to drastically reduce their appearance as well as things you can do to lower your risk of developing them. Keep reading if you are interested in finding out why stretch marks happen, and some tips on how to prevent them.

What Are Stretch Marks?

Stretch marks are your skin’s natural response to sudden growth or stretching. There are several reasons why the skin rapidly stretches and develops these scars, including pregnancy, sudden weight gain, puberty, as well as some medications. When the skin is stretched beyond its normal daily tugging and pulling, the elastin and collagen fibers that allow it to grow and stretch normally begin to break down. This leaves your skin unable to respond to these rapid changes and therefore it tears and becomes scarred.

Anyone can have stretch marks regardless of their age or gender, although women tend to be more prone to developing them than men. Stretch marks can show up almost anywhere on your body, but the most common areas tend to be the abdomen, thighs, hips, breasts, and buttocks. When they first appear, stretch marks can be pink, red, or purple and can be itchy or feel bumpy. However, with time the color begins to fade and they end up blending with the color of your skin.

What Causes Stretch Marks?

As we mentioned above, when your skin is stretched too far or grows too fast, the fibers that are there to keep it together are not able to work fast enough to keep up. Therefore, portions of your skin tear and leave these grooves or streaks that we commonly know as stretch marks. These are some of the most common factors that cause the skin to stretch rapidly:

Pregnancy

Stretch marks during pregnancy are so common that it is estimated that between 50 and 90% of women will develop them before they give birth, particularly between the sixth and ninth month. During pregnancy, you gain between 25 and 30 pounds, and your body is not typically prepared to gain that much weight that fast, so the skin, especially around your belly, can stretch too much.

Because there are genetic factors that play a role in how your skin responds to different stressors, and how much elastin and collagen you produce, if your mother developed stretch marks during pregnancy it is likely that you will develop them too. While you may not be about to 100% prevent stretch marks, there are some precautions you can take including eating the right foods, staying hydrated, and moisturizing.

If you are interested in finding out the best methods for preventing stretch marks during pregnancy, click here to read our Top 9 Ways To Prevent Stretch Marks During Pregnancy.

Puberty

While stretch marks are often associated with pregnancy, it is very common for girls and boys to also develop them during puberty. Teenagers experience a myriad of changes during a relatively short space of time, including the dreaded arrival of acne, changes in the sound of their voice, mood changes and sudden growth spurs.

Growth spurs are the main culprits of stretch marks during puberty, and while not all teens will develop them, it is not uncommon that a few stretch marks show up around the arms, hips, buttocks. You can even end up with stretch marks around your knees and up your back!

Weight Gain

If you have experienced rapid weight gain, it is likely that you developed a few stretch marks along the way. Sudden weight gain can happen for many reasons, including medical or hormonal conditions such as polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS) or menopause in women, thyroid issues, stress, or even some medications. Similarly, to what happens during pregnancy, when you gain weight very quickly, your skin struggles to keep up with the sudden stretching and collagen breaks down causing it to tear in overstretched places.

Steroid Creams

Topical steroid creams such are common treatments for skin conditions such as dermatitis, eczema, and skin allergies. These creams work great to reduce inflammation and for many people are an important part of their medication regime to manage symptoms or reduce swelling.

One unfortunate side effect of corticosteroids is the occurrence of stretch marks. This is because steroids tend to break down connective tissues in your skin. These stretch marks tend to be itchy, permanent and harder to reduce in appearance.

If you use topical corticosteroids and are worried about stretch marks consult your doctor about other options available and remember to keep hydrated and well moisturize to minimize their impact.

How To Prevent Stretch Marks

Prevent

Though your likelihood of developing stretch marks is associated with genetic factors and your family history, there are some things you can do to minimize your risks of getting them. These are some of the most effective methods for preventing stretch marks:

Staying Hydrated

We all have heard the recommendations: “drink 8 glasses of water every day for softer skin,” or “drink 2 liters of water daily to lose weight.” While the debate is still out on the most appropriate amount of water, the truth is that staying hydrated is one of the best things you can do for your body, especially your skin. When you are dehydrated your skin loses elasticity, increasing your risks of getting stretch marks, so in order to keep your skin soft and elastic try drinking at least 8 glasses of water and supplementing with foods rich in water such as cucumbers, strawberries, pineapples, and celery.

Manage Your Weight

As you probably know by now, sudden weight gain is the enemy of your skin when it comes to stretch marks. By managing your weight even during pregnancy, you will be lowering your chances of getting stretch marks.

Increasing your body fat is not the only weight gain that leads to stretch marks; people who practice bodybuilding or lift weights are also prone to developing stretch marks. On weightlifters, stretch marks tend to appear at the biceps, shoulders or thighs especially during mass building programs where the aim is to improve muscle mass drastically.

Creams And Lotions

Staying hydrated on the outside is just as important as it is on the inside, and that is why using specialized creams and lotions to prevent stretch marks is a great idea, especially during those times where you are most at risk of developing them.

Whether you are pregnant or just trying to avoid stretch marks, safety is key when it comes to what you put in your body. Look for creams that have natural moisturizing ingredients such as cocoa, jojoba or shea butter, which work great by gently hydrating your skin and giving it the elasticity it needs to avoid stretch marks.

Did you know that moisturizers are most effective when your skin is slightly wet? To get the most out of your moisturizer, remove excess water with a towel as you finish showering and then apply your favorite cream or lotion.

If you want to know what the best stretch mark cream is, take a look at our reviews of what we think are the best on the market.

Showering with warm water opens up your pores, allowing moisturizer to penetrate deeper into your skin. Also, the dampness of your skin will help lock in the moisture better instead of just sitting at the surface like it does when your skin is dry.

Conclusion

We hope you now understand better what stretch marks are and what causes them. Remember that stretch marks are completely normal and nothing to be ashamed of (most of us have them!). If you have stretch marks that you are trying to remove them check out our guide on How To Get Rid Of Stretch Marks.

Diana Zambrano

I graduated university with a Bachelor’s Degree in Psychology and a Master’s in public health. My goal was to help the community stay healthy and avoid preventable diseases. I have since worked on several research projects which aim to improve quality of life without breaking the bank and strive to spread this knowledge. Now, I am enjoying writing and sharing this information and these tips and tricks with you!

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