Growing Teens, Tweens and Stretch Marks

Article Highlights:

How do growth spurts cause stretch marks?

Teens and adolescents in the throes of puberty typically experience growth spurts that can cause rapid strteching of the skin. When this happens the connective layers beneath the skin can rupture and tear, resulting in stretch marks or striae. Accompanying hormonal imbalances, including an increase in steroid hormones, can also cause the appearance of stretch marks. Skin is naturally elastic, but with rapid growth, production of the protective protein collagen is disrupted.

What parts of the body are usually affected by stretch marks?

Commonly affected body parts include breasts, hips, stomach, thighs and buttocks on girls and arms, shoulders and chest on boys, mostly in areas where fat is stored. A major part of puberty for teenage and adolescent girls is breast development and hormonal changes, both of which can lead to the appearance of striae. As certain types of skin are more prone to getting stretch marks than others, genes can also play a key role.

Stretch marks don’t pose a health risk but are cosmetically unappealing, especially to teens and tweens experiencing an often awkward phase of life. Early treatment is the key to softening appearance of stretch marks as overstretched skin has limited ability to retract.

Do stretch marks change color?

Stretch marks initially appear as pink, blue, red, brown or purple in color. Teens and tweens with fair complexions commonly start out with pink, red or purple scars, whereas olive and dark-skinned youth get purple and brown scars. On some occasions, the scars are deep and a teen can feel an actual indentation.

Time is on the side of adolescents – the dark stretch marks turn white or silvery white in the course of a year as inflammation eases and the scars take on a glossy hue. They continue to fade in appearance by a youth’s late teens or early twenties. However, in some instances, the scars may deepen as teens develop the baby fat typical of adolescence. No matter their cause, the appearance of stretch marks for tweens and teens can cause embarrassment, especially if they are in highly visible areas that are hard to cover up with clothing.

Can I lessen the likelihood of getting stretch marks?

Unfortunately, stretch marks are permanent, but they can certainly be treated to reduce their unsightly look. Moisturizing areas most prone to stretchmark formation is one preventive tip to avoid the scars – do this several times a day. Hydrating skin will make it more pliant and better able to stretch. Treating stretch marks with a topical solution immediately upon their arrival is another key to lessening their appearance. Once they appear, avoid scratching or pulling at them. Also sun protection with sunscreen containing zinc oxide is a way to keep the scars from reddening further.

On the beach, at the gym or at the pool, teens can wear bathing suits that cover up areas where stretch marks are most evident if they feel uncomfortable. Attractive t-shirts can camouflage upper body stretch marks and when wearing jeans, steer clear of cuts that reveal stomach and hips.

Teens should also choose healthy diet, fitness and grooming habits that can enhance their overall wellness and prevent the appearance of pronounced stretch marks. Avoid rapid weight gain or loss by eating nutritious whole foods rich in vitamins and minerals – this includes lean meats, low-fat dairy products, whole grains, fresh fruits and large amounts of vegetables, especially dark green, orange and red veggies. Opt for such healthy fats, as olive oil, avocadoes and raw nuts and seeds. Boost physical and brain health with three servings of fish a week and go for the cold water variety, such as salmon, sardines, mackerel and herring.

Limit eating processed foods that are often heavy in sodium and sugar and learn to read food labels for ingredients to identify healthier food choices. Choose nutritious snacks, such as hummus and guacamole with whole-wheat chips or veggies, low-fat yogurt, fresh fruit, nuts and low-fat cheese sticks. Drink at least eight glasses of water daily, which will keep skin healthy and glowing, eliminate toxins and keep the body properly hydrated.

For fitness, teens need to find a physical activity they love and stick with it daily. This will not only enhance their physical health, but will also boost their emotional health and limit stress. The stress hormone cortisol is also associated with weight gain. Keeping their bodies toned and restricting weight gain will also raise their self-confidence and esteem. They will be empowered to conquer challenges in other areas of their lives.