Between 30% and 70% of people develop stretch marks, usually on the armpits, thighs, abdomen, chest, and groin. According to dermatologists, stretch marks are due to rapid expansion of the skin, such as weight gain during pregnancy or puberty, ruptures in the connective tissue, and lack of collagen.

What exactly is a stretch mark?

A stretch mark is a type of scar that develops when our skin stretches or contracts rapidly. The abrupt change causes the collagen and elastin, which support our skin, to break down. As the skin heals, stretch marks begin to form.

To begin with, there is nothing abnormal about stretch marks and not everyone develops them. In fact, studies estimate that 90% of pregnant women, 70% of teenagers, and 40% of adolescents develop skin problems characterized by wrinkled grooves in the skin, i.e., stretch marks.

If you develop stretch marks, you are more likely to do so during these stages:

  • Rapid growth during puberty
  • Pregnancy
  • Rapid weight loss or weight gain
  • Weight training when you have a muscle growth spurt

Other possible causes for the appearance of stretch marks are applying a corticosteroid to the skin for a long time, suffering from Cushing’s disease, or Marfan syndrome.

When stretch marks first appear, they tend to be red, purple, pink, reddish-brown, or dark brown, all depending on the color of your skin. Fresh stretch marks may feel slightly raised and can be itchy.

Over time, the color fades and the narrow bands sink beneath your skin. If you run your finger over a mature stretch mark, it often feels slightly textured.

Prevention and treatment

Although stretch marks are common, some people may find it difficult to accept these marks on their skin as a matter of aesthetics, especially if they are prominent or discolored. In addition, while there are a plethora of topical creams and oils that promise to get rid of these streaks, in reality, they can only improve their appearance. Like any scar, stretch marks are permanent, but proper treatment can make them less noticeable and relieve itching.

Keep skin hydrated

Hydration can be the solution to many of our health problems. A good way to help minimize the chances of getting stretch marks is to be sure to moisturize your skin, especially during pregnancy, and if you gain or lose weight quickly.

Well-hydrated skin is more flexible and can better resist stretching.


Another thing that keeps skin healthy and less prone to developing stretch marks is massage. Massaging with emollients helps promote circulation and potentially minimizes the appearance of stretch marks.

Use retinoids

Tretinoin or Retin-A, a vitamin A derivative, is usually prescribed for acne or anti-aging, but it is also the only active ingredient to fade stretch marks. Retinoids work by promoting collagen production, which aids the healing process. Recall that stretch marks are a type of scarring.

Be warned that retinoids are not safe during pregnancy or breastfeeding and work best when used early on, meaning, when stretch marks are still red and inflamed.

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