Stretch marks are a form of scarring on the skin.
Stretch marks are normally located on areas of the body that have high skin tension, such as thighs and the area around the stomach. Stretch marks typically appear as bands of parallel lines over the skin.
There are two types of stretch marks:
- striae rubra (red and wider)
- striae alba (white and narrower)
Striae rubra are newer marks, while striae alba are older, more mature marks.
Stretch marks are not to be confused with cellulite. Cellulite gives the appearance of dimpled, bumpy skin.
Stretch marks occur when skin is rapidly stretched and expanded. When the connective tissue of the skin is stretched beyond the limits of its elasticity, the dermis (middle layer of the skin) tears, allowing deeper layers of the skin to show through.
Stretch marks are common in certain circumstances:
- Quick weight gain
- Rapid growth during puberty
- Body building
- Use of corticosteroid creams, lotions and pills
- Adrenal gland disorders such as Cushing’s syndrome, Marfan syndrome or Ehlers-Danos syndrome.
There are several ways to help prevent, or reduce the size of stretch marks. Maintaining a healthy diet and ensuring you drink lots of water is advised. Helping the skin remain hydrated reduces the risk of stretch marks.
Keeping the area well moisturised is another way to prevent or reduce stretch marks.
Massaging the skin also contributes to healthier looking skin. By massaging these high prone areas, you improve blood circulation, which in turn helps with cell growth.
Striae rubra are easier to treat than their older counterparts, striae alba, because they are younger and newly formed. The most effective treatments are Vitamin A derivatives and pulse-laser treatments at a clinic.
Striae alba are older and cannot be treated with topical products. These marks appear white, silvery or glossy because the blood vessels underneath the skin have receded, leaving the fat visible. Moisturising the area to keep the skin supple will reduce the appearance of any marks.