Stretch marks, medically called “striae,” are different textured and colored streaks that may appear on the body as you grow. They are a completely natural part of growing up!
Skin is pretty elastic, meaning that it can stretch and bounce back fairly easily thanks to a protein in our tissue called collagen. However, sometimes when the skin stretches too much or too quickly, collagen production is disrupted and stretch marks may form.
The most common causes of stretch marks are things that literally stretch the skin. Some examples are:
- Hormone changes
- Rapid weight gain or weight loss
- Muscle increase or decrease
- Weight and girth gain as associated with pregnancy
It’s important to keep in mind that anyone can get stretch marks and so they don’t necessarily indicate how “healthy” a person is. Regardless of how much you weigh, how athletic you are, or how old you are, stretch marks can still happen. They are completely harmless.
Just like the different types of people who can have stretch marks, the marks themselves also come in different forms. They can be:
- Red, purple, pink, or brown
- Dark or light
- Raised, intended, or wavy looking
- Slightly itchy at first
- Thin or thick lines
- (Think tiger stripes!)
You might notice stretch marks on your stomach, thighs, arms, legs, butt, or boobs. They are more common in women, and most have them on the chest since boobs grow from completely flat skin. Stretch marks also show up perpendicular to the direction of growth; this means that if you grow really tall really fast and the skin stretches, the stretch marks will run horizontally.
Stretch marks can sometimes start out dark and fade to lighter colors. There are products available with vitamin E oil and other antioxidants that can help them fade, and using makeup can help temporarily minimize the appearance of them. There is no medically proven way to prevent stretch marks from forming, but it’s always recommended to lose/gain weight safely and slowly, to keep your skin moisturized with lotion, and to wear sunscreen (sun exposure can make them worse).
Stretch marks are nothing to be ashamed of, and are just a sign that your body is changing!