Stretch marks are a form of scarring caused by the overstretching of skin. This stretching disrupts the normal production of collagen and a scar results. Stretch marks are not a disease, but rather a term to refer to the physical appearance of these scars.
The term "stretch marks" is a nonprofessional term. Dermatologists (skin doctors) refer to stretch marks by their scientific names, such as striae distensae, striae atrophicans, striae rubra (red stretch marks) and striae alba (white stretch marks). Though stretch marks first appear as reddish or purple lines, they usually fade very gradually to a lighter color.
Stretch marks may appear anywhere on the body. They are most likely to appear in places where fat is stored, or that have a tendency to stretch. Most common places are the abdomen (especially near the belly button), breasts, upper arms, underarms, thighs (both inner and outer), and buttocks. They pose no health risk in and of themselves, and do not compromise the body's ability to function healthily.
Stretch marks may occur with pregnancy, obesity, bodybuilding and, occasionally, puberty. Women with darker skin are less likely to get stretch marks. Though stretch marks are relatively common, especially among athletes and women who have given birth, many individuals feel self-conscious about their scars.
There are several popular treatments for the prevention and minimization of appearance of stretch marks. Diet, hydration and physical exercise are among the therapies thought to prevent stretch marks. Over-the-counter creams, lotions, and oils are also available, although there is mixed evidence about the safety and efficacy of some of these products. Prescription medications are available. Some people have also used chemical peels or laser/light therapy to minimize the appearance of stretch marks.
AHA, alpha hydroxya acid, cocoa butter, collagen, dermabrasion, dermis, epidermis, intense pulsed light therapy, IPL, pulse dye laser therapy, Retin-A, striae alba, striae atrophicans, striae distensae, striae rubra, subcutaneous stratumn, topical retinoid therapy