Authored by Revere Health

What Causes My Stretch Marks?

May 5, 2017 | Dermatology

The skin is naturally stretchy and flexible to accommodate for events like pregnancy or growth, but when it’s stretched too far, stretch marks can result. Stretch marks are indented streaks called striae that can appear on several areas of the body, including the breasts, hips, buttocks and thighs.

Stretch marks can fade over time, and certain treatments may help speed up the process. Here are some basic facts about stretch marks, including how to treat and prevent them. 

Causes and Risk Factors

Stretch marks are caused by any extreme stretching of the skin. A variety of factors impact their severity, including genetics, stress on the skin and cortisone levels—cortisone is a hormone that weakens elastic fibers within the skin.

There are several factors that can increase your risk of stretch marks:

  • Gender: Females are more likely to have stretch marks
  • Pregnancy: Especially in younger women, pregnancy is a common cause of stretch marks
  • History: A personal or family history of stretch marks can make you more likely to have them
  • Weight: Being overweight or obese can lead to higher risk of stretch marks, especially if weight     gain or loss is achieved quickly
  • Breast enlargement surgery
  • Corticosteroid medication
  • Genetic disorders: Certain genetic disorder such as Cushing’s syndrome, Marfan syndrome and others can increase risk of stretch marks


Visible Symptoms

Not all symptoms of stretch marks are the same, and they can vary depending on a few factors—their cause, their location and certain qualities of your skin. A few symptoms are relatively common across most cases, however:

  • Indented streaks or lines in the skin, colored pink, red, black, blue or purple
  • Bright streaks that eventually fade to a lighter color
  • Streaks on the abdomen, breasts, hips, buttocks or thighs
  • In some cases, streaks will cover large areas of the body

Stretch marks don’t hurt and aren’t harmful from a health standpoint, but many people experience low self-esteem or have a poor body image due to the appearance of stretch marks—especially those that are widespread. If this is the case, speak to your doctor about treatment options.

Treatment Methods

Treatments for stretch marks can only be so effective—they won’t go away completely, however, there are treatments that can help improve the appearance of stretch marks:

  • Retinoid cream: This is a cream derived from vitamin A, and it can help improve appearance for newer stretch marks that have existed for only a few months. Tretinoin is a particularly common cream that helps rebuild collagen and can help stretch marks blend in more effectively with normal skin. However, tretinoin can also irritate the skin in some cases. If you are pregnant or nursing, speak with your doctor before using retinoid creams.
  • Microdermabrasion: Microdermabrasion is a procedure using a handheld device that blows crystals onto the skin. These crystals take off a fine layer of skin, prompting the body to grow more skin with better elastic properties.
  • Chemical peels
  • Therapies: Your doctor may use different laser or light therapies to stimulate collagen production and elasticity of the skin. Your doctor will discuss these with you if they’re appropriate.



Many creams claim to prevent stretch marks, and while certain individuals may find success, there’s no consistent evidence that any of these are helpful. The best prevention against stretch marks is weight moderation, especially during pregnancy. Speak to your doctor about proper diet and exercise habits, and about any other stretch mark concerns you may have.

As Utah County’s leading dermatology practice, Revere Health Dermatology provides the best in skin care for our patients.



”Stretch marks.” The Mayo Clinic.

“Your Skin and Stretch Marks.” WebMD.


The Live Better Team

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This information is not intended to replace the advice of a medical professional. You should always consult your doctor before making decisions about your health.