What Are They?

Stretch marks are formed when the dermis is stretched, and cannot ‘bounce back’. The dermis is the middle layer of skin, and the one that’s responsible for supporting the epidermis (outer layer). When the dermis is stretched to the point of tearing, stretch marks form as a sort of scar. 

Why Do We Get Them?

Stretch marks are caused by a variety of things. Any time the dermis is unnaturally stretched, stretch marks can form. This includes any weight growth or changes. Puberty, bodybuilding and pregnancy are all causes of stretch marks. In fact, over 75% of women will develop stretch marks during pregnancy, usually during the third trimester when stretching is most rigorous.

Stretch marks usually begin as a deep red or purple, then fade to a lighter colour. Eventually they will turn a silvery white. Stretch marks form most commonly in places where the body stores a lot of fat: stomach, breasts, thighs, hips, lower back, buttocks, and upper arms.

Your hormones and genetics can influence whether or not you get stretch marks, because these factors determine our skins ability to cope with stretching. Diet and exercise can also play a part.

Stretch marks look like empty troughs in the skin, because the dermis which supports the outer layer has been torn. The size and shape of them will depend on the individual, and some can be quite severe looking. However, stretch marks pose no health risk at all. Their downfall is purely cosmetic, but there are things you can do to minimize their appearance.

How Do We Get Rid Of Them?

While there is no ‘one’ cure or remedy for stretch marks, there are certain products and treatments that can minimize their appearance. Most people claim that treating them early is the best method, while the tear is fresh and the colour is still deep. Keeping skin moisturized is very important in healing stretch marks, as skin is more pliable and easily manipulated when it is hydrated and supple.

Glycolic Acid
This alpha hydroxy acid increases collagen production in the skin, and will help the dermis heal.

Vitamin C
Vitamin C can increase collagen production, and if used (externally or via supplements) in the early stages of stretch marks, could decrease their appearance.

Retinoids stimulate collagen and elastin production, which can help repair the dermis. These should be avoided if you are pregnant or breastfeeding though.

Laser treatment
Lasers can be used to treat the appearance of stretch marks. Fractional lasers in particular have been very effective in improving their appearance, as they can ‘blur’ the lines and make them less noticeable.

Tummy Tuck
Abdominoplasty, or a tummy tuck, can get rid of stretch marks. The skin containing stretch marks is surgically removed, and is more commonly an added bonus of the procedure rather than the reason for having it.

So while stretch marks might be troublesome and unsightly, they are a harmless part of human skin. The majority of the population have them somewhere on their body; only the degree of severity dictates their inconvenience.