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Home > Learn > FYI > >How to Remedy Fresh Stretch Marks: A Guide

How to Remedy Fresh Stretch Marks: A Guide

May 15, 23 7 min

By OBGYN Dr. Kenosha Gleaton

If you have stretch marks or if you’re waiting for them to appear, know that you’re not alone, and remind yourself that stretch marks are nothing to be ashamed of or worried about. Up to 90% of pregnant people develop stretch marks at some point during or after pregnancy. [1] Your body is going through pretty extreme changes in order to grow and bring life into the world; it’s only natural that it may look a little different during that process. It’s not always possible to prevent or completely get rid of stretch marks, but there are some ways to lessen the severity or discomfort that sometimes comes with them. 

An overview of the skin

Let’s talk about the anatomy of our skin. There are a few different layers of the skin, known as the epidermis (top layer), dermis (middle layer), and hypodermis (bottom layer). [2] The hypodermis is the fatty layer of skin responsible for cushioning our muscles and bones and regulating body temperature. The epidermis acts as our protective layer, keeping out bacteria and germs. The dermis is the thickest layer that makes up 90% of our skin and contains hair follicle roots, produces oil and sweat, houses nerve receptors, and consists of collagen and elastin. [2] Collagen and elastin are proteins that help keep the skin, tissues, and organs strong, resilient, and flexible. The dermis begins to thin as we get older and naturally start to lose collagen and elastin. This is why we begin to develop wrinkles or sagging skin. If there is damage to elastin or collagen in the dermis, we can also develop stretch marks. Learn the difference between biotin and collagen → 

Types of stretch marks

Stretch marks may appear in various parts of the body, including the abdomen, thighs, breasts, buttocks, and more. There are actually a few different types of striae (stretch marks) classified by their appearance or cause [3]: 

  • Striae gravidarum: These are seen during or following pregnancy
  • Striae atrophicans: These are caused by thinned skin, which may occur as a result of medical conditions, surgery, and some treatments. 
  • Striae distensae: These occur as a result of stretched skin, which may happen as a result of pregnancy, puberty, muscle or weight gain, etc. 
  • Striae rubrae: These are typically red or pink stretch marks and are relatively new.
  • Striae albae: These are white, faded stretch marks that are likely older. 
  • Striae nigra: Sometimes called the “pregnancy line,” this is a dark vertical line that sometimes appears on the stomach during pregnancy. 
  • Striae caerulea: These are dark blue or purple stretch marks. 

What causes stretch marks?

Are stretch marks really related to your skin “stretching” or getting bigger? For the most part, yes! Anytime the skin stretches or shrinks rapidly, as it does during pregnancy and with muscle or weight fluctuations, the elastin and collagen in the skin can break. [3] As these fibers begin to reorganize and heal, striae form in perpendicular lines to the direction of the skin tension. 

Some experts also believe pregnancy hormones could play a role in skin structure and the development of stretch marks. Hormones such as estrogen and relaxin may decrease the bond between different fibers in the skin, allowing striae to form more easily. [4] The pregnancy line, also known as striae nigra or linea nigra, is also thought to be caused by an increase in melanocyte-stimulating hormone during pregnancy. This hormone is also responsible for causing melasma, darkened areolas, and other darkening of the skin. [5] 

Some medications, conditions, and treatments can also cause stretch marks. Examples include anorexia nervosa, Cushing syndrome, corticosteroids, chemotherapy, and others. [3] There are some potential risk factors for the development of stretch marks during pregnancy, including younger age, family history of stretch marks, and increased birth weight. [1] 

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When do stretch marks begin to form during pregnancy?

Every pregnancy is different, but most will begin to notice stretch marks somewhere between the second and third trimester. Initial stretch marks are striae rubrae, slightly raised pink or red marks. Within a few months to a few years these will fade to white scars, known as striae albae. [3] The linea nigra typically becomes visible around week 20. [5]

Care tips for fresh stretch marks

I’d like to start by pointing out that there are no proven remedies to prevent or “cure” stretch marks. [6] As discussed, stretch marks are a very natural and normal part of having a growing body and they occur in a large majority of pregnancies. [1] It’s understandable that some may want to learn how to treat itchy stretch marks or prevent permanent scarring, however no one should feel as if they have to reduce their stretch marks. 

That being said, some data suggests that keeping the skin well moisturized may be beneficial for increasing skin elasticity and reducing itching or dry skin. [7] The moisturizing ingredients in this study included argan oil, cocoa butter, beeswax, and mineral oil. (Most of the ingredients found in Natalist Belly Oil) These can be helpful in general for treating dry skin during pregnancy. Keep in mind that some products, including retinol, should not be used while pregnant or breastfeeding. [3] Some research also suggests that taking collagen peptides can help improve skin elasticity and may play a role in the appearance of stretch marks. [8] At the very least, collagen supplementation can aid in the regeneration of skin. [9]

There are some other treatment options used on more mature stretch marks, but the efficacy is unknown or difficult to interpret. Some examples include laser treatment, massage, silicone gels, light therapy, chemical peels, etc. You should always consult a healthcare provider before using any treatment, service, or product, including topical creams, gels, and belly oil. 

Is it better to tend to stretch marks early on?

While there is no proven method for reducing the appearance of striae, some studies do suggest that tending to stretch marks early on may have more noticeable effects than attempting to treat more mature stretch marks. [7] 

Do stretch marks fade on their own?

Most stretch marks will eventually fade after some months or years. New or fresh striae are often red or pink and feel raised, whereas more mature striae become white and sink beneath the skin, feeling more like a depression. It’s rare that stretch marks will fade away completely, but they often become much less noticeable with time.

Important takeaways

  • Striae, also known as stretch marks, are a beautiful reminder of your body’s growth and appear in the vast majority of pregnancies. 
  • The dermis is the middle layer of the skin that contains elastin and collagen. When the skin stretches rapidly, these proteins break and stretch marks form. 
  • There are multiple types of stretch marks, including pregnancy induced marks, red or pink (new) stretch marks, white (older) stretch marks, and more. 
  • Aside from stretching skin, hormones, medications, medical conditions, and treatments may all cause striae to form. 
  • Most stretch marks will begin to appear in the second and third trimester of pregnancy and will typically fade after a few months to a few years. 
  • While there are no proven methods for preventing or getting rid of stretch marks completely, it may be more beneficial to treat stretch marks early.
  • Keeping the skin hydrated with products such as pregnancy safe belly oil may help support skin elasticity and reduce itchy or dry skin. 

 

References:

  1. Wollina U, Goldman A. Management of stretch marks (with a focus on striae rubrae). J Cutan Aesthet Surg. 2017;10(3):124-129. doi:10.4103/JCAS.JCAS_118_17
  2. Skin. Cleveland Clinic. October 13 2021. URL
  3. Oakley AM, Patel BC. Stretch Marks. [Updated 2022 Aug 8]. In: StatPearls [Internet]. Treasure Island (FL): StatPearls Publishing; 2023 Jan-. Available from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK436005/
  4. Osman H, Rubeiz N, Tamim H, Nassar AH. Risk factors for the development of striae gravidarum. Am J Obstet Gynecol. 2007;196(1):62.e1-62.e625. doi:10.1016/j.ajog.2006.08.044
  5. Linea Nigra. Cleveland Clinic. July 18 2022. URL
  6. What causes stretch marks during pregnancy? American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists. October 2020. URL
  7. Bogdan C, Moldovan ML, Man IM, Crișan M. Preliminary study on the development of an antistretch marks water-in-oil cream: ultrasound assessment, texture analysis, and sensory analysis. Clin Cosmet Investig Dermatol. 2016;9:249-255. Published 2016 Sep 6. doi:10.2147/CCID.S107298
  8. Al-Atif H. Collagen Supplements for Aging and Wrinkles: A Paradigm Shift in the Fields of Dermatology and Cosmetics. Dermatol Pract Concept. 2022;12(1):e2022018. Published 2022 Jan 1. doi:10.5826/dpc.1201a18
  9. Bolke L, Schlippe G, Gerß J, Voss W. A Collagen Supplement Improves Skin Hydration, Elasticity, Roughness, and Density: Results of a Randomized, Placebo-Controlled, Blind Study. Nutrients. 2019;11(10):2494. Published 2019 Oct 17. doi:10.3390/nu11102494

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