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STRETCH MARKS: Symptoms, Causes and Treatments

Understanding the condition and getting help.

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STRETCH MARKS: Symptoms, Causes and Treatments

What are stretch marks?

Stretch marks are lines which appear on the surface of the skin, most commonly around the tummy, and particularly during or after pregnancy or weight gain. They usually look like purple or red scratches or lines to start with, and should later fade to a silvery whitish colour.

What causes stretch marks?

Stretch marks appear when the middle layer of the skin (the dermis) tears due to rapid weight gain or a growth spurt. The lines appear red or purple at first because the blood vessels beneath the dermis show through. The marks eventually fade to a white or silvery colour once the blood vessels have contracted.

How can I prevent stretch marks?

Not all instances of stretch marks are preventable as the rapid growth that occurs during pregnancy or puberty is a common cause. However, avoiding rapid weight gain or weight loss is one way of minimising your chances of getting stretch marks. Try to lose/gain weight slowly and steadily to allow your skin time to adjust to the change.

How to get rid of stretch marks:

Natural remedies for stretch marks

Although there is little evidence to suggest it makes a difference, some people believe moisturising helps to prevent or minimise stretch marks. However, moisturising may be beneficial for soothing new stretch marks, as they can be sore or itchy. Natural moisturising remedies for stretch marks include:

  • Cocoa butter
  • Coconut oil
  • Olive oil
  • Castor oil
  • Aloe vera
  • Shea butter

Treatments for stretch marks

Most stretch marks will become less prominent over time and aren’t harmful, so treatment isn’t really necessary. However, if your stretch marks are particularly noticeable and are causing you distress, you might want to consider these treatment options:

  • Lasers: special lasers can be used to diminish the appearance of stretch marks, but they can’t remove them completely.
  • Cosmetic surgery: large amounts of loose skin and stretch marks can be removed with a surgical procedure known as a tummy tuck (or abdominoplasty). This isn’t usually recommended and is only really used in cases of very extreme weight loss.
  • Topical creams and gels: some creams, gels and lotions purport to fade stretch marks. There is little evidence to support this claim as topical products do not penetrate deep enough to reach the skin’s dermis where the tearing occurs. However, topical treatments might help soothe the itching and soreness associated with stretch marks.   

FAQs about Stretch Marks

Where do stretch marks appear?

Stretch marks usually appear on the areas of the body which store the most fat, such as the tummy, legs, upper arms, hips, buttocks, thighs and breasts.

How common are stretch marks?

Stretch marks are very common, particularly in women. It is thought around 90% of pregnant women develop stretch marks.

Are stretch marks permanent?

How long your stretch marks will last really depends on the severity of the stretch marks and whether you are genetically predisposed to scarring. For most people, stretch marks fade to a faint white mark over the years and aren’t particularly noticeable. For others, they may stay quite visible.

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