Stretch marks, also known as striae distensae or simply as striae, are a type of scarring caused by the dermis tearing. They have an off-color tone and can fade in time, but they do not usually disappear completely.
Stretch marks affect both men and women, appearing as a result of the fast changes in weight, no matter if they are rapid losses or gains associated with a quick stretching of the skin. They are also influenced by the hormonal changes specific to puberty, pregnancy or the exposure of the body to hormone replacement therapies or muscle building.
Contents of This Page
- Some Facts about Stretch Marks
- 2 Types of Stretch Marks and Treatments
- Red Stretch Marks
- White Stretch Marks
- The Selection of Treatment Options
Some Facts about Stretch Marks
The studies in this field show that, throughout their life, approximately 80 to 90 percent of women develop stretch marks of some degree, from adolescence to adulthood and motherhood. Men can also be affected by stretch marks, although, in their case, the targeted area of the body varies depending on where the fat is stored and how the muscles develop.
In the area affected by stretch marks, the skin feels soft and empty, because it is no longer supported by the dermis, the resilient middle layer that helps it maintain its shape. The stretching of the skin is the main factor in the appearance of these marks, usually located in the areas of the body where a larger amount of fat is stored, such as the abdomen, the upper arms and underarms, the breasts, the thighs, the hips and the buttocks.
Due to the significant hormonal changes they go through, pregnant women tend to develop stretch marks throughout the third trimester, when their skin stretches excessively in the abdominal area in order to accommodate the baby.
In these cases, in order to avoid later invasive procedures such as the tummy tuck (removal of the skin below the navel), specialists suggest that certain natural moisturizing OTC stretch mark creams be used, in order to make the skin more malleable.
2 Types of Stretch Marks and Treatments
Red Stretch Marks – are “new” recently developed stretch marks usually appear as thin red irregular lines covering the skin, but they gradually turn red, purple or even darker in color, varying according to one’s skin pigmentation. This change of color is caused by the bleeding at the dermal level, therefore, red stretch marks act in the way bruises do.
Treatment – This is the stage when natural or OTC stretch mark creams can be applied in order to heal the already developed stretch marks and to prevent the appearance of new ones. Most products encourage the raising of the collagen levels in the skin, in order to support and enhance the body’s healing process. With their help, stretch marks fade away faster and the skin damaging process is minimized.
In certain cases, especially during pregnancy, red stretch marks may become itchy. They are more prominent and they induce the need for scratching, often leading to PEP (polymorphic eruption of the pregnancy). Developed mostly in the last pregnancy trimester, this condition is not dangerous, but it is recommended for the person affected to see a doctor, especially if the itch tends to spread or cause rashes.
White Stretch Marks – When they heal, the red stretch marks turn white and become less noticeable, as, in time, the scarred tissue of the marks loses its pigmentation and shrinks. The resulting color is white-silvery for people with light skin and light brown for darker skinned people.
Treatment – Because these marks are already formed, their visibility is difficult to reduce. Successful treatments in this stage involve encouraging the collagen growth within the skin layers, in order to rebuild the texture of the skin, to level the marks and to minimize their appearance.
Among the modern treatments, there are the fractional laser therapy and the various combinations between laser treatments and chemical peels, along with other procedures. Although more invasive, these solutions are known to enable very good results in reducing or removing white stretch marks.
The Selection of Treatment Options
Stretch marks do not represent a health risk from the physical point of view. However, they can be a source of mental torment and embarrassment given the measure in which they affect a person’s appearance. They can lower one’s self esteem, cause depressions, determine people to isolate themselves from the others and question the love of those around them.
However, the huge amount of information available today, as well as the numerous types of treatments appeared on the market make it a lot easier for everyone to treat and prevent stretch marks, on the condition that they can be identified on time. The most important step in preventing stretch marks is to ensure proper skin moisturizing. In the end, it all comes down to how well one cares for his/her body and especially for the skin.
Laser treatments are indeed efficient, but they are also expensive, they involve a certain recovery period and even risks for one’s health. On the other hand, the market is full of natural OTC creams or prescribed/medicated treatments that promise to prevent stretch marks and even heal them, so the only thing one has to do is to be patient, gather information and use the right products.
There are numerous medical terms associated with this condition that common people may have a hard time understanding, case in which the following explanations should come in handy.
Striae rubra can be defined as stretch marks with a more livid color caused by the bleeding that takes place within the skin layers. Depending on the tone of the skin, they can be red or purple for people with lighter skin and red-brown to dark-purple for people with darker skin tones.
The term striae alba refers to the lightly colored stretch marks, older and already healed.
Striae gravidarum are the stretch marks that women develop during pregnancy, usually in the belly area, but sometimes also on the breasts and thighs.
Stretch marks generally appear when the skin is subject to an exaggerated tension that atrophies the elastic connections inside it. Hormonal changes and genetics, but also healthy diets and physical exercises can influence the body’s ability to maintain an elastic skin, able to withstand stretching forces.