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What Are Stretch Marks?

Updated January 11, 2021

Three women hanging out at the spa

Being the largest organ of the body and one that’s exposed to the outside world, the skin remains a playground for common anomalies. While outside factors like sunlight, pollution, germs, etc. take their turns damaging your sensitive skin, the body’s internal changes aren’t always harmless either. One of the frequently occurring skin-related issues is the appearance of stretch marks – a condition that does not have any direct connection with the outside stimuli.

What are stretch marks?

They are colored marks that can appear on and around buttocks, belly, underarms, breasts, and thighs. It is like a discoloration of the skin but in the form of streaks or stripes, hence they are considered a type of scarring. They are also called striae and while the name might make them seem like some serious disease, they are painless and nothing serious. The only reason they make people worry is due to their unsightliness.

What do stretch marks look like?

As you have just read, they are lines on your skin but these lines are not always the same color. They change color with time, which means you can tell the age of a stretch mark by looking at its color. However, judging the age of a stretch mark from its color does not always apply because there are factors that affect their hue e.g. the type of skin you have, the causes of the stretch marks, and the location of the mark. They can be red, pink, blue and sometimes even black. One common factor among most or all stretch marks is that their color starts to fade as they get older.

What causes stretch marks?

Their name tells the main reason for their occurrence i.e. stretching of the skin. It is the inside layer of the skin that gets stretched and the marks you see on the surface are of the ripped skin layer—dermis to be exact. The stretch can be a result of weight gain or an increase in muscle size. When there is too much fat on the belly, it puts pressure on the skin causing it to rip. Belly stretch marks are most common among pregnant women. They are more prone to developing stretch marks during the last trimester of their pregnancy.

The increased muscle size in bodybuilders is also a common cause behind the stretch marks on their skin. In some people, puberty brings stretch marks as their body grows at a fast rate during the later teen years.

Besides the stretching of the skin, there are some medical conditions such as Cushing’s and Marfan Syndrome that can cause stretch marks. Any activity that affects the production of collagen negatively can result in stretch marks too. The elasticity and strength of the skin depend on collagen level. Constant use of harsh chemicals in lotions and creams can cause the skin to lose collagen and become prone to stretch marks.

Final word

In the end, it is important to keep in mind that stretch marks do not cause any pain or harm to your body other than their unsightly appearance. Whether you choose to try home remedies or over-the-counter lotions and creams to treat them, avoid going to an extent where your treatment starts affecting your skin health negatively.