What are stretch marks? A common skin concern that affects people of all ages and genders. They can appear on various parts of the body, including the abdomen, thighs, hips, breasts, and upper arms. While stretch marks are harmless and do not pose any health risks, they can impact an individual’s self-esteem and body image. In this blog post, we explore what they are, and what causes them.
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What are Stretch Marks?
Stretch marks, medically known as striae, are visible lines or streaks that appear on the skin’s surface. They are often a different colour and texture compared to the surrounding skin. They may appear as red, blue, brown or purplish marks, but vary depending on your skin, how long you’ve had them, what caused them, and where they are on your body. Over time, they tend to fade and become lighter in colour.
Causes of Stretch Marks
Now that we know what they are, it is time to understand the causes and risk factors associated with the lines. As their name suggests, stretch marks occur when the skin stretches or shrinks rapidly, causing the middle layer of the skin to tear or rupture. The severity of the streaks is affected by genetics, and hormone levels in the skin. Cortisol in particular is thought to play a role. The stress hormone can weaken elastin fibres in the skin, making lines more likely.
The chances of getting stretch marks can be increased by a number of factors, for example:
- Pregnancy – As the baby grows, the skin stretches rapidly, especially around the abdomen, leading to the formation of striae.
- Puberty – Adolescence is a time of rapid growth and hormonal changes. During this phase, growth spurts can result in stretch marks on various parts of the body.
- Weight Fluctuations – Significant weight gain or loss can cause the skin to grow or contract abruptly, which can lead to stretch marks.
- Exercising – Intensive muscle-building exercises can cause the muscles to grow quickly. This rapid expansion of muscles can be a cause, particularly in bodybuilders and athletes.
- Hormonal Changes – Certain hormonal imbalances or conditions, such as Cushing’s syndrome or Marfan syndrome, can make the skin more susceptible.
Understanding Stretch Marks
A common skin concern that affects individuals for a variety of reasons, including pregnancy, weight fluctuations, and growth spurts. While they are a natural part of the body’s response to rapid changes, you do not have to live with them. If the appearance of stretch marks bothers you, there are a number of treatments available. Find out more in our next blog.