What is a stretch mark?

Stretch marks, often referred to as striae distensae in medical terminology, are a common dermatological condition  marked by thin, linear streaks or bands that develop on the skin’s surface. These marks often appear in areas where the skin has undergone rapid stretching or expansion, such as during pregnancy, rapid weight gain, puberty, or intense muscle building. Applying a corticosteroid to your skin for a long time can also cause stretch marks. If you have Cushing’s disease or Marfan syndrome, you may see stretch marks. To understand stretch marks, it is imperative to first attain a comprehensive understanding the anatomical composition of the skin. Our skin has three layers: epidermis, dermis and hypodermis.

Epidermis: This is the outermost layer of the skin that you can see and touch. It is made of several layers of cells and acts like a barrier, protecting the skin against infections.

Dermis: This is the middle layer of the skin. It contains blood vessels, collagen and elastin. The last two components confer elasticity and firmness of the skin

Hypodermis: This is the innermost layer, which mainly consists of fat and connective tissue

Stretch marks occur in the dermis, the middle layer of the skin. When the skin undergoes rapid stretching or expansion, it can cause the collagen and elastin fibers in the dermis to tear. When these fibers break, it leads to the formation of stretch marks. Initially, they may appear red, pink or urple, due to the blood vessels showing through the thinned skin. Over time, they fade and become lighter in color.

Disclaimer: This article serves as a comprehensive guide, but it is not substitute for personalised medical advice.

Treating stretch marks

The treatment of stretch marks encompasses various approaches, each tailored to address specific aspects of their appearance and formation. It is important to note that while these interventions can help diminish the visibility of stretch marks, they may not always be completely curable. Here are some commonly employed treatment modalities:

Creams, lotions, and gels:If you’re thinking about using creams, lotions, or gels to reduce stretch marks, remember these tips:

  • Use them on new stretch marks. They work better on fresh ones.
  • Gently massage the product into your skin. This can help it work better.
  • Be patient. It takes time, often weeks, to see any changes. So, apply it regularly every day. Older stretch marks might not respond as well.

Self-tanner can help conceal stretch marks, both new and older ones. While tanning in the sun can make stretch marks stand out more, using a self-tanner can provide a camouflage effect. It’s important to note that a self-tanner cannot eliminate stretch marks entirely.

Prescription medicine you apply to your skin: In extensive research studies, the application of hyaluronic acid on newly formed stretch marks resulted in a reduction in their visibility. Tretinoin, classified as a retinoid, demonstrated similar effects in making early stretch marks less noticeable.

Procedures that dermatologists perform: Dermatologists employ several procedures to diminish the visibility of stretch marks. These procedures include:

  • Chemical peel
  • Laser therapy
  • Microdermabrasion
  • Radiofrequency
  • Ultrasound

For optimal outcomes, dermatologists may combine multiple procedures. For instance, a combination of procedures may be utilised to achieve the most effective results.

While stretch marks are a common dermatological occurrence, understanding their underlying causes ad available treatment options can greatly assist individuals in managing this condition. It is essential that we seek advice from certified medical professionals like dermatologists. Individuals can make empowered judgements regarding their particular situations by combining professional expertise with informed self-care practices.

The cover image was generated by Bing using DALL-E 3 technology.