What causes stretch marks?
Stretch Marks Are Scars
Where You Get Them
You won’t get stretch marks on your face, hands, or feet, but they can be almost anywhere else. They’re most likely to be where your body stores fat, like your belly, hips, thighs, breasts, and buttocks. You also might notice them on your lower back or the backs of your arms. Genetics may play a role in stretch marks. For example, if your mother got them on her thighs during pregnancy, you may be more likely to have them there.
Anyone Can Get Them
An estimated 50% to 90% of women have them, but men can get them, too. It’s also common for teen girls (breasts, thighs, hips, or buttocks) and boys (lower backs or hips) to get stretch marks during growth spurts.
They Don’t Go Away
Cause: Weight Gain
Some drugs can cause weight gain, swelling, bloating, or other physical changes that stretch your skin and lead to stretch marks. Hormones (like birth control pills) and corticosteroids (which ease inflamed areas of your body) are two that can do this. If you take a medication and are concerned about stretch marks, talk to your doctor about things you can do about them
Cause: Medical Conditions
Any health condition that leads to weight gain, sudden growth, or skin problems may cause stretch marks. Some medical conditions lead to physical changes that can bring them on. For example, problems with your adrenal glands, like Cushing’s disease and rare conditions like Marfan and Ehlers-Danlos syndromes (which affect the tissues that connect body parts), can make you more likely to get them.
Can You Prevent Them?
Experts think genetics play a role in stretch marks, but if your parents had them, that doesn’t mean you will, too. One of the best ways to prevent them is to keep your weight steady. Drinking plenty of water may help prevent damage when your skin stretches. And foods that keep your skin healthy may cut your odds, too. Eat foods rich in zinc, like nuts and fish, and ones with vitamins A, C, and D, like citrus, milk, and sweet potatoes.
What May Help: Self-Tanning Products
These lotions and sprays can darken your stretch marks and make your all-over skin tone look more even. That can make them less obvious, especially if they’re white or very light in color. You may have to try different products and shades before you find one that works best for you.
Not Likely to Help: Exfoliating
Not Likely to Help: Most Lotions and Creams
Many skin products claim to fade stretch marks. But there’s little evidence that over-the-counter products can fix the torn elastic fibers that cause them. And experts don’t know if rubbing oils or cocoa butter products will prevent stretch marks during pregnancy, either. They may make your stretching skin less itchy, though, which can make you more comfortable.
What May Help: Laser Therapy
The American Society for Dermatologic Surgery says laser or light therapy can make stretch marks less noticeable -- light triggers skin changes that help stretch marks blend in. Research shows they’re most effective for medium-tone skin. Laser treatments can be expensive, and it can take 20 sessions to see results. If you go the laser route, see a board-certified dermatologist or plastic surgeon who has worked with your skin tone.
See a Dermatologist