Stretch marks, known medically as “striae”, are actually a form of scarring on the skin, caused when the skin is put under strain by stretching rapidly. They are often a result of fluctuating weight or rapid weight gain and are most commonly associated with pregnancy.
Our skin is very elastic and is able to stretch to a certain point without any damage being cause. However when the skin is put under excessive strain, caused by rapid stretching of the skin, due usually to weight gain, the dermis (one of the layers beneath the surface of our skin) can “tear” leaving a red stretch mark. As this mark heals and the body sends new collagen to repair the damaged skin it turns silvery in appearance and leaves a permanent mark on the skin.
Stretch marks can appear anywhere on the body where the skin has been stretched. Common places to find them are the abdomen (particularly following pregnancy), breasts, hips, thighs, buttocks and arms (this is particularly common in body builders).
Anyone can get stretch marks but they are most common among women due to their association with pregnancy, which combines two influential factors – rapid weight gain and hormonal changes. Stretch marks are also common in those whose weight fluctuates or who people who gain or lose weight quickly. Bodybuilders can also be susceptible.