Stretch Marks are technically referred to as “striae” in medical parlance. So if you hear/read striae, it is really the same thing. Stretch Marks are usually found on the breasts, thighs, hips, lower back, buttocks, arms, and lower abdomen. They are commonest there.
So What is Stretch Marks?
Stretch marks are a form of skin scarring that develops usually when the skin is stretched sometimes as a result of rapid growth, or rapid weight changes. Sometimes it’s as a result of weight gain, other times it can be a result of weight loss.
Where do Stretch Marks occur?
Stretch marks occur anywhere the skin has been stretched, but are commonest in areas where fat is stored in the body such as the:
-stretch marks on butt
shoulders (in bodybuilders).
What Causes stretch marks?
A few known causes include
-rapid weight gain/loss
-If you have family members who also have stretch marks
-medical illnesses, such as Cushing’s syndrome or Marfan syndrome
-prolonged or inappropriate use of steroids
For many people, stretch marks are a result of hormone changes, puberty, pregnancy, bodybuilding, rapid weight gain/loss, HRT & steroid drugs. Depending on the location and cause, dermatologists usually call them different terms. But such details are not beneficial here.
Pregnancy is a very popular cause of stretch marks especially in the last months, affecting up to 8 out of 10 pregnant women. However, it is not automatic that every woman will get stretch marks after pregnancy because it also depends on your skin type and how elastic it is. What happens is that pregnancy causes the release of hormones that soften the ligaments in a woman’s pelvis so they’re more flexible during delivery. However, the other side of it is that the same hormones also soften the woman’s skin, making it prone to stretch marks.
And obviously, as the baby grows and the skin stretches over the tummy, it may cause stretch marks. And the whole weight gain that comes with pregnancy may also leave breast stretch marks and thighs. But there’s some good news. And the good news is that for a good number of women, Stretch Marks become markedly reduced and fade after the birth of the baby. However, for some women, the stretch marks never completely disappear totally.
The truth is that during the course of a pregnancy, a woman can gain about 10kg additional weight while her tummy expands drastically. This is why women are living heroes and the work/stress of carrying a pregnancy from conception to delivery is no mere feat.
Now to other causes of Stretch Marks, Extreme dieting or undisciplined eating habits can cause stretch marks as your weight goes up and down. If you need to lose/gain weight, do it slowly and steadily so that your skin doesn’t go through sudden stretching leaving marks.
As for family history, If a close family member has stretch marks, such as your mom, you’re very likely to develop them yourself. And while stretch marks can affect both men and women in the same family, they’re more common in women.
Medical illnesses like Cushing’s syndrome and Marfan’s may cause stretch marks. Cushing’s syndrome makes the body to overproduce cortisol, which can cause stretch marks. In Marfan syndrome, there’s a faulty gene that weakens the body’s skin/tissues & alters its elasticity.
Before we go far, stretch marks in itself & by itself is NOT a disease. That someone has stretch marks does NOT mean they have an illness. Please do not join people who stigmatize others because they have stretch marks. It is nothing but sheer ignorance to act that way.
Stretch marks simply means your body is growing/changing faster than the skin can cope with, so the elastic fibres of the skin breaks down. And because parts of the body that grow rapidly include breasts, buttocks, thighs and abdomen, stretch marks are very common there.
People who feel dissatisfied with being slim should also know that the drugs they take for rapid weight gain may give them stretch marks. Many of the weight-gain drugs are steroids which has stretch marks as a side effect of prolonged use. Let’s be clear on that.
Types of Stretch Marks:
Terms like striae gravidarum, linea albicantes, striae albicantes, striae vegetures etc. are all names of different types of stretch marks. But in all of the different risk factors for developing stretch marks, please note that pregnancy seems to be the most notorious one.
How can you treat Stretch Marks?
Many people ask do stretch marks go away? Sadly, there is no medical evidence that creams used for “treating” stretch marks can totally or completely remove them without a trace. Kings and Queens, don’t be fooled. The focus is put rather on fading and helping to reduce it.
Please remember that most stretch marks are NOT actually particularly obvious and they usually naturally fade over time on their own. But if you have really bad stretch marks, or if they affect a big part of your body, there are a few treatment options you can consider.
I should reiterate that there’s really no cream that can completely wipe out stretch marks, once there. But some creams can help it fade. A trial of gels made of onion extract and hyaluronic acid, can help with stretch marks, but please, you should be patient to see changes.
Home remedies for stretch marks or another good treatment option for stretch marks that you can try is to use Lotions with retinoid such as Retin-A and Torazec gels/creams. They are quite helpful. Stay away if you are pregnant or breastfeeding though. It’s contraindicated. Cosmetic camouflage (makeup) is a very good option to think of. Especially for small areas of skin affected by stretch marks. Cosmetic camouflage is available over-the-counter at many pharmacies. You could try the waterproof ones which may last two to three days.
Dermabrasion, laser surgeries, and tummy tuck are all surgical options for stretch marks; however, these are expensive and not 100 percent certain. As a matter of fact, you may need more than one of such expensive procedures to see any visible result.
However, the success of a treatment option for stretch marks depends on age, number of pregnancies, skin tone & the medications. But if the stretch marks are mild, or in non-obvious places, do not bother yourself at all about it. Don’t waste your time or money.
Although if you think you have very disturbing, multiple and embarrassing stretch marks, try and see a dermatologist, they will advise you better. Please, NEVER just walk into a store and buy creams without the recommendation from a doctor/skin-expert. Don’t ruin your skin. On a final note, stretch marks are usually not medically sinister. In simple terms, it is mostly nothing to worry about, at all. But if it affects your esteem, see a doctor/dermatologist. Thank you for your time.
For more inquiries please contact Dr Olufunmilayo via Twitter on @DrOlufunmilayo