According to the American Academy of Dermatology, approximately 80% of the U.S. population has stretch marks. Stretch marks affect 90% of pregnant women as well. So don't worry, we're all in this together…
In this article, we'll discuss everything you need to know about stretch marks and what you can do about them!
Even though everyone has stretch marks, how to treat and prevent them is not common knowledge. This article will discuss the options.
What are stretch marks?
Stretch marks, medically known as striae, are tears in the second layer of skin (dermis). These tears occur from rapid growth or weight gain. See the illustration below for a refresher course on the layers of your skin. It's a great stretch marks diagram.
As you can see in the illustration, stretch marks are ruptures in the deeper layers of your skin. In order to heal them, you need the right nutrients to be able to reach those deep layers.
When you are pregnant, your body grows at a fast pace. Since the skin does not have enough time to expand and adjust to the changes slowly, tears form. Once these tears scar over, you have what are stretch marks.
What do stretch marks look like?
Typical stretch marks look like irregular lines or grooves in the skin. This is probably why moms of the new generation have coined the nickname “tiger stripes.”
The way your stretch marks look depends on your skin tone and genetics.
Some fair skinned women notice their stretch marks start off as pale pink and become dark red stretch marks or even appear as purple lines on skin. Later, they fade to a pale, shiny color.
It's possible to even have white stretch marks.
Women with more pigmented skin may find that their stretch marks start off dark brown or black. They become lighter than their skin tone and silvery as they begin to heal.
How can I prevent stretch marks?
Prevention is our best weapon against stretch marks. If our skin is well hydrated and has the nutrients it needs, it is far more resilient to the ruptures that lead to stretch marks.
Two great options are essential oils (click to see our guide on how to use essential oils to prevent stretch marks) and/or shea butter and cocoa butter (find out which one is better here) to prevent the formation of stretch marks.
Can teenagers get stretch marks?
Yes, it's very common to get teenage stretch marks. As a young person's body changes and grows, their skin will stretch, creating stretch marks.
Stretch marks are nothing to be ashamed of. In fact, teenage boys are just as likely to have them as teenage girls.
Why are my stretch marks red?
If you have noticed that your stretch marks are red, purple, brown, or black, when they appear, do not be alarmed. Your stomach will not explode, no matter how much you have convinced yourself otherwise.
As I mentioned before, stretch marks are tears in our second layer of skin. Once the dermis tears, we are able to see our blood vessels. This is why they look red or purple. So when you think about it, they are like a window to our insides. Creepy…
Why do stretch marks itch?
Itchy stretch marks indicate that your belly is growing. Further, the itchiness signals that your skin is dry and needs moisture. When the skin is dehydrated, elasticity drops making it more susceptible to tears as it expands.
If your stomach is itchy, increase your water intake to eight glasses per day. Also, instead of scratching, rub some lotion and oil on your belly and massage for a couple of minutes once daily.
The moisture coupled with the blood flow from the massage will help increase elastin and collagen production. This reduces the irritation that you feel from the stretching of your skin.
Are stretch marks permanent? Do stretch marks go away?
The most common question about stretch marks is do stretch marks fade?
Stretch marks never fully go away; however, you can greatly improve their appearance. In some cases, it may be very hard to see them any more. There are a lot of options available, which we'll discuss later in this article.
How long does it take for stretch marks to fade?
The amount of time it takes for stretch marks to fade depends on several variables. For example, your genetics, how proactive you are on treating them, etc.
Be patient and try different things to see what works best for your body. However, time usually helps, especially if you're doing a great job at taking care of your skin. We'll discuss ways do this later in this article.
Common Causes of Stretch Marks
Stretch marks can develop under many different situations, pregnancy being the #1 most common cause.
Aside from puberty, pregnancy is the main culprit for all of your stretch mark woes. Since the body is rapidly increasing in size, the chance of acquiring stretch marks is much higher.
Weight loss can also cause stretch marks, especially if a lot of weight is lost quickly.
Try to lose weight at a steady pace instead of trying to force your body to lose it rapidly, especially after pregnancy. Take it day by day. Your bikini is not going anywhere.
Most Common Locations for Stretch Marks
Stretch marks develop mainly in places where everyone can see them. It is not fair, but that is the way of the world…
Stretch marks are commonly located where fatty tissue accumulates the most. These areas are more susceptible to stretch marks because there is a higher chance of the skin expanding and retracting as weight is lost and gained.
1. Stomach stretch marks
Stomach stretch marks are commonly caused by pregnancy in women; however, significant weight loss can also result in abdominal stretch marks.
These are the easiest to hide, since the majority of people you meet will not see that you have stretch marks on your stomach (unless you are not wearing a shirt).
2. Stretch marks on love handles
This is another common place for stretch marks to pop up during pregnancy. Women can also get stretch marks on their love handles from getting taller during puberty.
3. Stretch marks on my butt
If you have noticed your behind getting bigger, watch for stretch marks back there, too. Stretch marks are common on butts that are growing, but do not worry.
Chances are hubby is not going to mind a few tiger stripes to match that extra junk in your trunk.
4. Thigh stretch marks
Thighs accumulate fat on our bodies, resulting in stretch marks on inner thighs. However, for most women, inner thigh stretch marks are not noticeable unless you look really hard.
There is really nothing to be ashamed of if you have them. Nobody can see them so they do not exist, right? That is my story—sticking to it.
5. Stretch marks on knees
While this is not common, knee stretch marks occur. Puberty causes knee stretch marks. When you grow taller, stretch marks pop up at the sides and backs of the knees.
6. Stretch marks on back
Both puberty and pregnancy cause stretch marks on the back. Back stretch marks can pop up and you will find them going in every direction.
This occurs because your hips widen and your back widens to support your pregnant belly. Back stretch marks even appear due to growth spurts occur during puberty.
7. Stretch marks on breasts
Getting stretch marks on your breasts signifies growth (whoop whoop!). Whether they are there from puberty or pregnancy, if you doubled your cup size, chances are, the girls are gonna have the marks to show it.
And even though you probably feel as though your boobs could not possibly get any bigger, just wait until the milk comes in…
How to Hide Stretch Marks
Contrary to popular belief, stretch marks do not go away but they can fade over time. It usually takes stretch marks six to twelve months to fade after pregnancy.
If you do not have the patience or are feeling self-conscious about your stretch marks, you can easily cover them. Covering stretch marks is an art, a very skilled art that I have yet to achieve.
Whether you decide to use spray tan or makeup, concealing your stretch marks is possible. There are some things that you need to be mindful of:
Stretch mark cover ups: using makeup to hide stretch marks
When using makeup to cover stretch marks, find special makeup for stretch marks. Makeup formulated to conceal the divots and grooves that stretch marks cause make the cover up seamless.
Try to stick with a concealer that is a shade lighter than your own, especially if you are covering dark stretch marks. This will ensure that the makeup masks it completely.
Tanning to hide stretch marks
Tanning stretch marks is a common approach to try to hide them. If you are going to tan, you need to apply an SPF every time. UV exposure breaks down the elasticity in the skin, making the skin weaker and susceptible to stretch marks.
Tanning too much makes stretch marks more prominent and makes them appear worse than before.
It is best to approach this option with caution. Many women have expressed that tanning has improved the look of their postpartum stretch marks.
However, if you choose to spray tan, be wary of pooling. Stretch marks create little divots in the skin. This is the perfect place for some runaway spray tan to find solace.
This makes your marks extremely obvious, which is the exact opposite of what you were going for. Be sure to spray your tan on evenly. Blot away any excess in your marked territory.
Stomach tattoos to cover stretch marks
If you're into tattoos, a clever idea to hide your tummy stretch marks is to incorporate a tattoo. There's all kinds of possibilities for this!
How to Get Rid of Stretch Marks
To be honest, you cannot fully get rid of stretch marks.
However, you can improve the condition of your skin so that they are less apparent and so that the scar tissue is replaced with newer skin.
It is a common misconception that stretch marks can be removed. A few options exist that not only diminish the appearance of stretch marks, but also encourage the skin to produce more collagen. This results in more elasticity.
Let's discuss some of the most popular options...
1. Dermaroller for stretch marks
Dermarollers are small roller devices covered in tiny needles. The needles cause microneedle abrasions by puncturing the skin and breaking down scar tissue.
This unique method promotes new skin growth and enhances collagen production and elasticity. Dermarollers also prolong the skin’s healing properties.
It usually takes about four weeks to begin seeing results. Dermarollers are also safer than surgical procedures even though they are far less expensive and yield similar, if not better, results!
2. Surgically removing stretch marks
Lasers treatments are common when it comes to stretch mark removal. This treatment heats the skin which removes the scar tissue so that it can be rebuilt with new cells. Laser treatments boost collagen growth and diminish dilated blood vessels making the scars less apparent and reducing their size.
3. Bio Oil
Bio oil, which is a specific brand of oil, is a very popular option, although it's more expensive than other alternatives.
Overall, Bio oil includes lots of healthy ingredients including multiple essential oils. In addition, you can find it nearly everywhere. However, you might prefer to use some of the other alternatives below and even create your own customized oil combination.
4. Coconut oil
Coconut oil (see our guide on how to use coconut oil on stretch marks) is another popular option, and it's reasonably priced. It has great healing properties by itself, but it also makes a great carrier oil if you want to add essential oils to it.
It's great for general skin care too, which is why it's so popular.
5. Essential oils
If you are interested in going the more natural route, using essential oils (see our guide on how to use essential oils on stretch marks) that have been shown to improve the appearance of stretch marks would probably be your best option.
Essential oils such as sage, rosehip, patchouli, coconut and lavender have all been shown to rejuvenate the skin and promote healthy cell turnover which boosts collagen and elastin production.
6. Shea butter and cocoa butter
Shea butter and cocoa butter (check out this guide on which one is better for stretch marks) are very popular options for helping to prevent stretch marks. In addition, they can also help reduce the ones you already have.
7. Stretch mark lotions
Skepticism surrounds lotions marketed to lighten and diminish the appearance of stretch marks. Some people believe that these lotions are full of caffeine and fillers that plump the skin without actually healing or improving it.
8. Aloe Vera
Some women swear by Aloe Vera application to diminish stretch marks. No official, scientific studies prove or debunk this remedy though.
Aloe Vera is a very powerful healing agent that promotes healthy cell turnover, hydrates the skin and revives elasticity. In addition, Aloe Vera has properties that lighten scar tissue.
Something to consider: prevention is key
The most effective option when dealing with stretch marks is to try to prevent them. Massage your body with lotions and oils at least once per day so your skin remains supple in preparation for the stretching.
Keep yourself hydrated and eat foods that promote collagen production such as carrots, citrus, dark leafy greens and eggs. Doing so keeps you healthy and nourished while preparing your body to withstand the great duty of creating human life.
Additional FAQs about Stretch Marks
Let's discuss some more of the most commonly asked questions about stretch marks.
Does scratching cause stretch marks?
Scratching does not cause stretch marks, so scratch away! No, but seriously…
Although scratching does not cause stretch marks, itchy skin does indicate that your skin is dry and irritated. This may be a sign of dehydration. When the skin is dehydrated, stretch marks develop because the skin’s elasticity decreases due to the lack of water supplementing the body.
So the myth that scratching causes stretch marks probably developed because women found that if they had an itchy stomach, that they wound up with more stretch marks.
While this myth does have some truth to it, the stretch marks are not caused by the scratching itself; they are caused by dehydrated skin.
Do guys care about stretch marks?
If a man cares about stretch marks, can he really be classified as a “man?”
Most men either do not care or do not pay close enough attention to notice whether you have stretch marks.
As a matter of fact, a lot of men have stated that they admire women who have stretch marks because they indicate that the woman either gained curves or brought his child into this world.
So even though there are some men do not like stretch marks, just remember that it is a matter of preference. If you do run across a man who finds them disgusting, just give him the boot because you do not need that type of negativity in your life…
Male stretch marks
Many people do not realize that male stretch marks exist. Men can get stretch marks just as easily as women, but theirs is usually because of significant weight gain, weight loss, or muscle building.
As a matter of fact, weight training and stretch marks actually go hand in hand. Yeah, you read that right. Bodybuilding stretch marks are a thing. What's more sexy than stretch marks on biceps?
In order to build muscle mass, bodybuilders gain weight or bulk in order for the body to have enough carbs to build healthy muscle. The weight is lost quickly or shred in order to reveal their “gains.”
Since bodybuilders do this multiple times throughout their career, the skin definitely begins to lose elasticity over time. The result is more stretch marks from working out.
Lucky enough for them, they have to be about three shades darker to show off the muscle tone during competitions…so they are good.
What do the worst stretch marks look like?
The worst looking stretch marks are a matter of perception. Everyone thinks their stretch marks are the worst. However, chances are they are probably not as bad as you think.
The fact of the matter is that stretch marks are natural. Just know that you are beautiful regardless of the media’s warped portrayal of “beauty.”
Why do i have stretch marks on my boobs?
Stretch marks on your boobs is very common if you've ever changed cup size. The most common occurrence for this is having a baby.
As you develop milk in your breasts, they increase size, causing the skin to stretch and strain. This is very common, so don't fret.
Understanding stretch marks is all a matter of having access to the right information.
Remember, you are growing a little life inside of you. Before he is done baking in there, he may take a toll on your body. It is a price that every mother pays, but none regret.
Welcome to the tiger club, mama. You've earned your stripes!