What Causes Stretch Marks?
Women, in particular, do not like stretch marks because they are not innocuous. Instead, they stand out in purplish-reddish or white colors that are offensive to one’s view.
The lines on the skin typically occur when the skin is “stretched” over a short span of time. While the stretching or expansion of the skin can be factored into their occurrence, stretch marks come about from a shift in one’s hormones too. The mark or stria is most noticeable during pregnancy.
How Stretch Marks Evolve and Fade
Stretch marks begin as red lines that, over time, become slightly lifted. The color of the stria depends on the color of skin. Sometimes the mark looks reddish, brown, dark brown or pink. The appearance of the skin itself is gray and lean with the mark closely resembling a healed scar. In some cases, the older marks do not look obvious but exhibit a light gray or pale hue.
Causes for Stretch Marks
Stretch marks appear anywhere on the skin where fat accumulates, such as the thighs, buttocks, breast or tummy. On weight lifters, stretch marks appear along the biceps. As a result, the appearance of stretch marks comes about under one of the following conditions:
- Pregnancy – Almost 90 percent of women who get pregnant develop stretch marks on the areas of stomach, legs or thighs, breast and shoulders. Normally, stretch marks appear during the sixth or seventh month of pregnancy.
- Adolescence – Boys often get stretch marks on their shoulders while girls get them on their hips, breasts and thighs because of rapid growth or development.
- Athletes – Athletes who train or go to the gym to become bigger and stronger sometimes get stretch marks on their thighs or on their arms where they have overdeveloped biceps.
- Weight loss/weight gain – Putting on a lot of weight over a short duration of time can also cause stretch marks. And if you are on a diet and intend to lose weight, you can see the appearance of stretch marks too.
The bands of parallel lines are always a different texture than your real skin, ranging, again, from purple to bright pink and even to pale gray. When they are touched, the marks feel like a slight indentation or ridge. Sometimes the marks feel sore or may itch. Stretch marks do not affect a person’s health and normally start to fade after time. The marks can appear just about anywhere, but, again, often make an appearance where there is a great accumulation of fat.
What is the Likelihood that You Will Develop Stretch Marks?
You are more likely to get stretch marks if you are –
- A Caucasian that has pale skin
- Currently taking a corticosteroid medication (known to cause the striae)
People also have more of a tendency to develop stretch marks if they have a history of stretch marks in their family. Women who deliver twins or large babies are more like to get stretch marks as well. If you lose or gain weight at a rapid speed, stretch marks are usually an inevitability.
Disorders Can Cause Stretch Marks Too
All in all, stretch marks form from stretching skin and the increase of cortisone or corticosteroid substances in the body. Naturally produced by the adrenal glands, cortisone is a hormone that causes the skin to lose it elasticity when it is produced in large quantities. Corticosteroid lotions, creams and pills often cause stretch marks because the cortisone in the cream keeps the skin from flexibly stretching. Certain adrenal gland disorders can also result in the appearance of the striae. These disorders are known as Cushing’s syndrome, Ehlers-Danlos syndrome and Marfan syndrome.
Ordering Diagnostic Tests
A doctor can diagnose stretchmarks simply by looking at your medical history. If he suspects the marks are occurring because of an illness, then he may order urine or blood tests or imaging. Again, the striae will fade with time; however, they won’t completely disappear.
Use Retin-A on New Striae but Never Use When Pregnant
In the interim, you can improve the appearance of stretch marks by applying creams, such as Retin-A. In the case of Retin-A, the stretch marks fade because the cream restores the collagen in the skin. Collagen is a fibrous protein and makes the skin smoother and more elastic. However, the cream does not work that well on older stretch marks. It is best to use it on newly developed striae. Do not use the cream either if you are pregnant.
Now that you know how stretch marks form, it is essential that you do all you can to prevent them, especially if you are expecting, are a teen who is growing rapidly or work out regularly. If you are experiencing some type of rapid growth, whether it is a weight gain or increasing height, you need to be aware some of the preventative measures you need to employ.
The best defense against the scars that result from the expansion and tearing of the skin is to make sure you maintain the skin’s elasticity. Therefore, you need to make sure that the skin stays supple and hydrated. In order to do so, make sure your diet consists of foods that are rich in Vitamins C and E, silica and zinc. All these nutrients help to form the protein collagen. Vitamin C, in particular, can protect the skin from damage. You can also obtain protection by supplementing with or eating foods that contain riboflavin (vitamin B2) and niacin (vitamin B3).