Stretch marks are striations on the outermost layer of the skin due to the ruptured and damaged collagen and elastin fibers underneath. The primary reason of irritated and torn collagen and fibers is excessive stretching of the skin beyond its normal capacity, just like in the cases of pregnancy, growth spurt, and body building. Other conditions that lead to the appearance of stretch marks will be further discussed in this article.
Initial stages of stretch mark formations appear to be red, pink, purple or brown linear lines that are quite raised. The colors all depend on your natural coloring. If you are fair, expect that fresh stretch marks look pink purplish. If you have a deep tan coloring, your stretch marks may appear reddish brown at first. In time, stretch marks turn silvery white as they age.
Body parts like abdomen, thighs, breasts, buttocks and upper arms are the areas where skin is most likely to be stretched; hence the common places of stretch marks. Stretch marks are not debilitating or life threatening. Although they become less noticeable as time goes by, the sight of stretch marks is a cosmetic disadvantage for both men and women.
It was found out by the medical experts that stretch marks occur when there are increased glucocorticoid hormones circulating in the system. Glucocorticoids are released by the adrenal glands and are seen to be in power during pregnancy, growth spurt, rapid and excessive weight loss and gain, body building, and medical conditions like Cushing’s Disease and Marfan Syndrome. When these hormones inhibit fibroblasts from generating elastic fibers and collagen in the middle layer of the skin called dermis, stretch marks occur.
In the aspect of skin stretching, the outermost layer of the skin (epidermis) becomes thin that defects in the middle layer (dermis) get noticeable.
1. Increased Production of Cortisol
Cortisol is an adrenal-cortex hormone that is active in carbohydrate and protein metabolism. This hormone makes other people more vulnerable in getting stretch marks. Increased production of cortisol in the body can be attributed to serious medical conditions.
Blame it to the expanding belly, and thickening hips and thighs, stretch marks are common to pregnant women. Some women experience stretch marks as early as on their sixth month while some never experienced it even after giving birth. Glucocorticoids are also seen to be high during this event.
3. Weight Gain
Apart from fluctuations of the hormones glucocorticoids in the bloodstream, your body parts increase in size when you gain extra weight, thus stretching your skin. If the weight gain is minimal, stretch marks can be avoided. However, if the extra pounds gained are intense, expect that stretch marks are coming your way.
Obesity is considered to be more than average fatness. In here, your skin is stretched more than its limit. Thus, tearing your elastic fibers and supportive collagen located in your dermis, and spreading your epidermis think and weary.
5. Muscle Growth
Body builders get stretch marks, but they are not fat, why is that? There is excessive muscle expansion in body building. This is especially true to gym rats who like to spend hours and hours packing on lifts and weights. Because of the more than average muscle growth, skin is stretched, and fibers under the skin are torn.
During puberty, a spike in the rate of growth occurs. This is the period of growth spurt where body parts of adolescent boys and girls expand and grow in size or thickness. This explains why you notice white and faded stretch marks in your adulthood when you were never a fat kid. Usually, boys get stretch marks on their back and shoulders because these are the areas that expand in their puberty years. Whereas, girls tend to get stretch marks on their breasts, thighs and hips.
Ask your mother if she had a special relationship with stretch marks during her prime. If she said yes, then you probably will gain the same companionship. Stretch marks can be inherited from grandparents and parents. If your close relatives have stretch marks, chances are your cells contain the same genetic makeup featuring the displeasing stretch marks.
8. Overuse of Corticosteroids Skin Creams
Creams that contain corticosteroids are prescribed to provide relief from inflammatory dermal conditions like eczema. However, this steroid hormone has an effect of decreasing collagen production in the skin. The less amount of collagen present in your skin, the higher the likelihood of stretch mark development.
9. Marfan Syndrome
Blame it to the defective gene, Marfan syndrome affects the elasticity of your skin through weakened connective tissues. When you are afflicted with Marfan syndrome, your skin is not as tolerant to expansions.
10. Cushing’s Syndrome
When your body produces excessive amounts of cortisol, Cushing ‘s syndrome occurs. Cortisol, just like corticosteroids, is the hormone that increases the probability of gaining stretch marks.
11. Lichen Planus
An autoimmune skin disease, Lichen planus gives rise to rashes in various parts of the body. This particular skin condition calls for oral and topical streroid treatments. Steroid, as mentioned previously, has the capacity to slow down the body’s production of collagen. The lesser collagen you have in your system, the more likely you are to develop stretch marks.
12. Bad Diet and Water Intake
A lifestyle of inadequate water intake, and excessive salt, sugar and food preservative consumption will likely lead you closer to stretch marks. If you consume at least 8 glasses of water and indulge in fruits and vegetables, your skin has a better chance of appearing supple and more resistant to stretching.
Stretch marks are unappealing linear streaks on the skin that initially appear red, pink or purple and gradually become silvery white in time. Stretch marks occur because the elastin fibers and collagen in the dermis are ruptured, inflamed, or deficient in amount as a result of increased steroid hormones in the body.
Pregnancy, growth spurt in puberty, body building, heredity, rapid weight gain and loss, excessive fat in the body, unhealthy lifestyle, and medical conditions like Cushing’s syndrome, Marfan syndrome and Lichen planus are incidences where the development of stretch marks is seen the highest.