Why Do I Get Stretch Marks?

  • 1st Revision: Faiza Zahir
  • 2nd Revision: Jit Yih [Linkedin]

Stretch marks are a type of scar that forms as a result of quick stretching or shrinking of the skin. 

While some stretch marks can be due to rapid weight loss, it is more common for them to be formed from rapid weight gain from skin stretching, which is also evident in the name “stretch marks.”

People get stretch marks because collagen and elastin fibres that hold the skin break from rapid stretching and leave marks which show on the skin.

Anyone can get stretch marks, but it is more common in women and is usually found on the hips, thighs, buttocks, abdominal area, and breasts. Pregnancy, sudden weight gain, and growth spurts in puberty are the most common causes.

While these lines/indented streaks/stripes are harmless and not contagious or painful, many people do not like the way it looks on their skin and look for ways to get rid of them.

In this article, you will get to know the causes of stretch marks, people that are more likely to get them, and possible ways to get rid of them.

What are stretch marks?

Stretch marks are scars that occur as a result of quick stretching or shrinking of the skin. They happen when a person suddenly gains or loses weight. They are also called striae, striae distensae (SD), striae atrophicans, and striae gravidarum. It is also very likely to occur in puberty growth spurts, muscle growth from workouts, and pregnancy.

Symptoms of stretch marks

There are ways to know when a stretch mark is forming or about to form. In the early stages, you will notice:

  • Raised lines on your skin that may feel itchy
  • These lines become indented as it progresses
  • Discolouration (red, pink, blue, black, purple or brown) depending on your skin colour
  • There is a gradual change in the texture of the skin, which appears shiny and streaked in silver or white

Causes of stretch marks

When your skin stretches or shrinks rapidly, the abrupt change causes collagen and elastin, which are proteins that support our skin, to break. They are both found in the middle layer of the skin (the dermis). 

The main role of collagen is to give strength, support and structure to the skin, helping it to withstand stretching, while elastin allows the skin to stretch and recoil. 

When you notice stretch marks on your skin, they are a sign that the collagen and elastin in that area of your skin have recently broken and are now healing. 

Risk factors

Now that you know what causes stretch marks, it is clear that anyone can get them. However, you're more likely to get stretch marks if:

  • You are pregnant, especially if you’re Black, Hispanic, East Asian or South Asian

When the stomach of a pregnant woman stretches from the growing foetus, the collagen and elastin fibres are stretched and can rupture

  • You’ve recently gained or lost a lot of weight

While some stretch marks can be formed from weight loss, it is more common for them to be formed from rapid weight gain due to skin stretching

  • You’ve been working out for bodybuilding recently

If you do workouts and exercises that build muscles, and you build muscle fast, there is a high tendency for the collagen and elastin in your dermis to be impacted and show up as a stretch mark

  • You have people in your family with stretch marks (genetics)
  • You’re undergoing puberty
  • You’ve been using oral or topical steroids long-term

While oral and topical steroids help to reduce inflammation, they also reduce the collagen in the skin, thereby reducing elasticity

What can get rid of stretch marks?

There are lots of products on the market in the form of creams, ointments, serums, oils and butters that promise to get rid of stretch marks. Remember that stretch marks are scars from under the skin and will not go away easily - the key is to start as soon as you notice the symptoms.

On their own, stretch marks will gradually fade and become less noticeable overtime, but with treatment they fade faster. Researchers have found that many remedies said to prevent stretch marks don’t actually work. Studies have shown that stretch marks are not prevented by olive oil, almond oil, cocoa butter or vitamin E, whilst Centella Asiatica or hyaluronic acid have been shown to be useful.

Centella is a herb, and hyaluronic acid is naturally found in our skin. It is a powerful humectant, which means it draws moisture from the air to the skin, and moisture is important for the strength of the skin.

Tretinoin is a retinoid, which may also make early stretch marks less noticeable. According to one study, people who applied this prescription cream every night for 24 weeks had less noticeable stretch marks. When the cream was not applied, those with early stretch marks saw them grow.

Another type of retinoid, retinol, can also help fade early stretch marks.

There are several ways dermatologists can reduce the appearance of stretch marks, but none will eliminate them completely:

  • Laser skin resurfacing
  • Microdermabrasion
  • Microneedling
  • Radiofrequency
  • Ultrasound

Can anything prevent stretch marks?

There’s nothing to guarantee the prevention of stretch marks; however, there are some things that can reduce your chances of developing stretch marks:

  • Consider using products that contain hyaluronic acid, aloe vera and Centella asiatica
  • Skin-firming products containing collagen and elastin would help maintain the firmness and elasticity of your skin
  • Eat foods that promote healthy skin

When to seek a dermatologist’s expertise

Without using products that claim to get rid of stretch marks, your stretch marks will gradually become less noticeable on their own.

However, if your stretch marks are giving you a lot of concern and you’ve tried a lot of remedies, consider seeing a board-certified dermatologist so you can discuss what treatment options would work best for you. Dermatological procedures have proven more effective than creams, lotions, and gels. Dermatologists can also tell you about any new product or procedure that may help.


Stretch marks are pretty common and will eventually go away or become less noticeable on their own. Staying hydrated, eating nutritious foods, and avoiding sun exposure will help to strengthen your skin and reduce your chances of getting stretch marks.


  1. Baumann L, Bernstein EF, Weiss AS, Bates D, Humphrey S, Silberberg M, et al. Clinical relevance of elastin in the structure and function of skin. Aesthet Surg J Open Forum [Internet]. 2021 May 14 [cited 2023 Feb 9];3(3):ojab019. Available from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC8239663/ 
  1. [cited 2023 Feb 9]. Available from: https://www.hsph.harvard.edu/nutritionsource/collagen/#:~:text=Human%20studies%20are%20lacking%20but,with%20osteoarthritis%20or%20in%20athletes
  1. Stratakis CA. Skin manifestations of cushing’s syndrome. Rev Endocr Metab Disord [Internet]. 2016 Sep [cited 2023 Feb 9];17(3):283–6. Available from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5181654/ 
  2. Judge DP, Dietz HC. Marfan’s syndrome. Lancet [Internet]. 2005 Dec 3 [cited 2023 Feb 9];366(9501):1965–76. Available from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1513064/ 
  3. Ud‐Din S, McGeorge D, Bayat A. Topical management of striae distensae (Stretch marks): prevention and therapy of striae rubrae and albae. J Eur Acad Dermatol Venereol [Internet]. 2016 Feb [cited 2023 Feb 9];30(2):211–22. Available from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5057295/
This content is purely informational and isn’t medical guidance. It shouldn’t replace professional medical counsel. Always consult your physician regarding treatment risks and benefits. See our editorial standards for more details.

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Godswill Samson

BSc, Pharmacology, University of Lagos, Nigeria

Godswill is a budding health writer with a passion for health and wellness. She combines this with her writing skill to educate the public on ways to live fuller and healthier lives.

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