Stretch marks occur when the skin is stretched rapidly leaving the skin with a scar like appearance. Some medical conditions such as overexposure to high amounts of cortisol may also be the cause of stretch marks.
What is the anatomy of the skin
The integumentary system, also known as the skin has three main layers. The top layer known as the epidermis, the dermis (middle layer), and the hypodermis (deeper layer). Skin pigment cells (melanocytes) are found in the epidermis in the basal layer. Connective tissue and fat are found deeper within the hypodermis. Most important to us today are fibroblasts (collagen and elastin cells), which are found in the middle layer or dermis.
Our skin starts loosing it’s elasticity due to loss of collagen production, gravity and ageing. There are 3 major factors in your overall skin presentation which will determine how you look as you get older:
- Skin tone (refers to your overall skin colour, sun damage and any potential pigmentation issues)
- Skin texture (refers to the overall tightness of your skin. Wrinkles, droopy eyelids, heavy nasolabial folds and jowls are examples of poor skin texture)
- Skin volume (refers to how full and plump your skin is; it’s collagen and fat content)
The skin is made up of three layers. The top layer is the epidermis and it contains skin pigment (melanin) producing cells (melanocytes). The second layer is the dermis which contains sweat glands and hair follicles. The last layer is the hypodermis and it primarily contains fat cells (subcutaneous tissue) and connective tissue.
What causes stretch marks
Put simply, stretch marks are a type of scar tissue caused by rapid stretching of the skin.
When skin is abruptly stretched or forced to expand, collagen and elastin proteins in the dermis rupture, and as they heal they leave significant scar tissue. Since the injury occurred in the second skin layer, a deeper layer of tissue, the scarring is more pronounced and leaves noticeable surface level skin changes.
At first stretch marks are often purple or reddish in colour, may be slightly raised, and can sometimes cause itchiness. Over the course of months, usually about a year, stretch marks naturally fade to a pale colour and flatten. Some stretch marks may even become depressed below the surrounding skin level.
What are the main concerns related to stretch marks
Without intervention stretch marks will typically become less noticeable, however, even after one year, which is typically when their appearance finalizes, these marks can still be quite noticeable.
Uneven Skin Texture: Stretch marks can be slightly raised or depressed depending on the length of time an individual has had them, and their underlying skin composition and structure.
Uneven Skin Tone: Stretch marks are a form of scar tissue so they do not have the same melanin (skin pigment) composition as surrounding, healthy skin. This can lead to hyperpigmentation (darker skin tone) when stretch marks first form and hypopigmentation (lighter skin tone) as they evolve.
Who may wish to seek treatment for stretch marks
Stretch marks occur under specific sets of circumstances correlated to quick and intense changes in body contours. Basically, if the body is asked to quickly accommodate more size there is a risk of stretch mark formation. Adolescents undergoing growth spurts are also at risk for stretch marks.
Post-Pregnancy: The rapid growth of the uterus during pregnancy forces the skin of the abdomen to grow to accommodate the baby. This can lead to the formation of stretch marks that do not resolve on it’s own after the baby is born.
Bodybuilders: Athletes who fluctuate in their weight due to muscle gain are at risk of stretch mark formation. This is more specific to extreme bodybuilders.
Extreme Weight Changes: Rapid weight gain or weight loss and body transformations can cause stretch mark formation as skin does not have sufficient time to accommodate body composition changes.
Some medications, especially corticosteroids, can lead to the formation of stretch marks with prolonged use due to the effects of steroids on the skin matrix. Additionally, the medical conditions Marfan Syndrome and Cushing’s Syndrome increase the risk of the appearance of stretch marks.
How can someone treat stretch marks
Whilst stretch mark do not present a health risk, some people may find them unsightly. We can improve stretch marks and have numerous treatment option.
Some of our treatments for stretch marks include:
Contact us to find the best treatments available for Stretch marks