Stretch marks, also known as striae, are a form of scarring marked with an off-color hue. Over time, they may diminish, but they do not disappear completely. They are caused by the tearing of the dermis layer of skin and are often the result of the rapid stretching associated with sudden growth or drastic weight changes. Stretch marks may also be triggered by hormonal changes associated with puberty, pregnancy, bodybuilding, or hormone replacement therapy.
The skin is usually fairly elastic, but when it is overstretched, the normal production of collagen (the primary protein that makes up the tissue in the skin) is disrupted. As a result, stretch marks may form. Genetics can also play a role—if your mother had stretch marks, you’re more likely to have them as well. Other factors, such as race (individuals with darker skin are less likely to get them), diet, and the skin’s elasticity, can also influence whether a person develops stretch marks.
While it’s not always possible to prevent stretch marks, maintaining a healthy weight and caring for your skin can decrease the likelihood of developing them. Keeping the skin hydrated and elastic through moisturizers and avoiding prolonged sun exposure can also help. During periods of rapid growth, like pregnancy, creams and oils are often recommended to maintain skin elasticity.