Woman's hip with stretch marks

Stretch Marks

Stretch marks, or striae, can make your skin look uneven and may leave you feeling self-conscious.

These scars develop when the skin stretches or shrinks too quickly. While permanent, treatment can help significantly lighten them.

I'm not sure if what I have are stretch marks, what do they look like?

Woman's hip with stretch marks

Stretch Marks Are Not Painful but Dramatically Affect the Look of Your Skin

Discoloration

New stretch marks will usually be a distinctly different color than the rest of your skin. Depending on your skin tone, stretch marks may appear reddish, purple, pink, or brown. Over time, the color will typically fade.

Unevenness

Stretch marks are usually slightly raised from the surface of the surrounding skin with depressions between the scarring. They typically run vertically but can sometimes appear horizontally.

Itchiness

At first, stretch marks may itch. This is caused as nerves react to the tearing of the dermis, though this should subside with time.

Stretch marks create a ridged effect...

How Stretch Marks Change Your Skin

Stretch mark diagram
 
When the skin is stretched, it creates a disruption in the skin tissue. This can affect the look and feel of your skin.

Can anyone get stretch marks?

Certain Conditions & Hormonal Changes Can Heighten Your Risk

While women in general are much more likely to develop stretch marks, other factors can heighten your risk as well, including:

  • Changes in hormones during pregnancy and puberty
  • Using corticosteroids
  • Obesity
  • Breast augmentation surgery

Many patients are also more susceptible to stretch marks due to conditions such as diabetes or Cushing's Disease. 

How do stretch marks form?

Sudden Changes in Weight Can Tear the Dermis

Weight Gain

Rapid and excessive weight gain directly causes stretch marks.

Tearing of the Dermis

When the skin begins to stretch, the elastin fibers of the dermis are damaged. This tearing leads to inflammation, allowing blood vessels to show through the skin.

Are stretch marks common?

Many Men & Women Have Stretch Marks

Stretch marks occur after 43 to 88 percent of pregnancies. Additionally, about 43 percent of obese patients develop stretch marks.

*According to StatPearls

Are stretch marks easy to diagnose?

A Simple Exam Can Identify Stretch Marks

Since stretch marks have unique physical characteristics, they are fairly easy to diagnose. Your doctor can simply examine your skin to determine whether the scarring is stretch marks or another skin condition.

If they believe that an underlying condition may be contributing to your stretch marks, further testing may be needed to ensure it is addressed.

Stretch marks

Is there any way to prevent stretch marks?

Changes to Your Lifestyle Can Help Prevent Stretch Marks

Maintain a Healthy, Stable Weight

Eating a healthy diet and exercising frequently can help prevent extreme weight fluctuation.

Avoid Corticosteroid Creams & Pills

Steroids can contribute to a break down of the connective tissue within the skin. Minimizing or completely avoiding corticosteroid medications can help you prevent stretch marks from developing.

Slow Down When Bodybuilding

Many patients who participate in bodybuilding gain large amounts of muscle quickly, which can stretch the skin. If you are bodybuilding, you should take it slow to prevent tearing.

I've seen a lot of over-the-counter products that claim to eliminate stretch marks...

Professional Treatment is Highly Recommended for Stretch Marks

"In-office procedures have proven more effective than the creams, lotions, and gels. " American Academy of Dermatology

You Can't Erase Stretch Marks, But You Can Make Them Fade

Typically, your doctor will recommend a combination of treatments to address stretch marks, including:

  • Chemical peels
  • Microdermabrasion
  • Laser therapies
  • Microneedling
  • Ultrasound

While none of these treatments, alone or together, can completely alleviate stretch marks, they can make them substantially lighter. Your doctor can help you determine which treatment plan is best to address your stretch marks based on certain factors such as the severity of the condition and how long you have had them.

Is there anything else that can be done?

You shouldn't feel hopeless about stretch marks...

Seek Professional Advice

While stretch marks are not completely removable, they can be made less noticeable so you can feel more confident about your body. Schedule a consultation to plan your customized treatment.
Dr. Brownrigg

Dr. Peter Brownrigg

Dr. Brownrigg has focused on facial plastic surgery since 1984. He is affiliated with a range of prestigious organizations, including:

  • American Academy of Otolaryngology-Head and Neck Surgery
  • Canadian Society of Otolaryngology-Head and Neck Surgery
  • Ontario Medical Association

For more information about the services we offer, contact our office online or call (613) 724-1214 today.

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