Have you noticed thin, scar-like lines on your mother’s tummy? These are probably stretch marks. Can we call them “marks of motherhood”? I suppose we may, as they are extremely common during pregnancy, affecting nearly 50-90% of pregnant women. They occur in certain other conditions as well, such as in people who have gained excessive weight, in body builders, in certain diseases or due to the use of steroids. 1 These scars, or stretch marks, are medically called as striae distensae (SD) or Striae gravidarum.1,2
There are two types of stretch marks, those that appear red, are flat, stretched and appear at right angles to the tension in the skin; these are called as striae rubrae. These are temporary. The other type appear pale, faded and wrinkled, and are known as striae albae; these are permanent stretch marks.2 Eventhough you have all the reasons to love them and should be flaunting them, its not wrong to want to lighten them. How? Let’s find out.
What Causes Stretch Marks?
Stretch marks appear when there is rapid stretching of skin. This may occur due to a host of reasons. Stretch marks can be seen:
- During pregnancy, on the abdomen and the surrounding area3
- Due to sudden gain in weight3
- During puberty3
- If we overuse creams that contain a steroid called cortisol3
- If someone in your family has stretch marks, it is likely you might also have them1
- People of certain ethnicities are said to be more inclined towards developing stretch marks1
- In Cushing syndrome: A medical condition in which there is an increased production of the steroid cortisol3
- In Ehler-Danlos syndrome: It is a genetic medical condition in which the skin gets easily bruised as it is too elastic3
Symptoms of Stretch Marks:
Stretch marks look like lines on the skin. They commonly appear as bands, stripes or lines, irregularly on the stretched skin. These lines may be red, glossy, thinned out and are parallel to each other. They are initially red in colour but later become white, pale and wrinkled, like a scar. They are generally seen on the breasts, hips, thighs, abdomen and flank areas.3
Also Read: Best Home Remedies for Dry Skin
Home Remedies for the Stretch Marks:
Stretch marks often disappear after the cause for stretching of skin disappears and there is no specific care needed for them.3 Research done on the agents that can be applied over the stretch marks for their treatment is limited.2 However, there are a few home remedies that can help you in reducing these ugly lines from dotting your tummy as follows:
1. Aloe vera:
The outer layer of the aloe vera leaf is removed and the inner gel is sliced out to be applied on the stretch marks. This can be washed off after 2-3 hours.
2. Coconut oil:
Coconut oil is used for removal and lightening of stretch marks by many people. Virgin coconut oil is used to gently massage the area in which stretch marks are noticed. However, there is not much evidence as to why and how this works. One hypothesis as to why it might work is that coconut oil hydrates the skin deeply and makes it more elastic, allowing it to stretch easily, without scaring.
It is commonly used in Korean beauty products. It is an herb, and its scientific name is Centella asiatica. The exact mechanism of its action is unclear, but it is said to stimulate the cells which produce collagen (a protein providing elasticity to skin).It stops the action of the hormone glucocorticoid which destroys collagen in skin. 4
4. Hyaluronic acid:
It is hypothesised that hyaluronic acid protects the cells producing collagen i.e., fibroblasts from getting destroyed under tension and pressure, i.e. the condition in which stretch marks appear. Though the exact mechanism is not yet known, it is widely used for treatment of stretch marks.4 Hyaluronic acid can be applied on the skin directly. It is also present in various creams, lotions and other skin care products as well. There is need for further research to prove its beneficial effects.
5. Vitamin A:
Vitamin A is a vitamin necessary to maintain skin health. It is thus present in multitude of skincare products by the name of retinol. Tretinoin is a retinoid (a form of Vitamin A) which is used for treating stretch marks. It was found in studies that the use of retinol makes the stretch marks appear less severe and smaller.4 However, there is need for more research in this area. A word of caution: Oral vitamin A should not be used during pregnancy, while lactating or even while you’re trying to get pregnant as it is known to cause harmful effects. Sometimes it can cause skin irritation too.4
6. Olive oil:
Olive oil is rich in vitamin E and moisturises the skin. A few studies have found that application of olive oil regularly during pregnancy reduced the occurrence of stretch marks, while other oils in the study showed no such effect. Therefore, the role of olive oil in reduction of stretch marks remains unclear, demanding more research in this area. 4
7. Black tea:
You can boil a couple of tablespoons of black tea in water and dissolve a little salt in it. You can use this solution to apply on the stretch marks after it cools down. The preparation is to be applied until the stretch marks completely disappear. This remedy is another one with little scientific evidence but used by many.
8. Potatoes juice:
Potatoes are used to lighten dark circles under the eye and are well-known for lightening stretch marks. In fact, potato skin and juice are touted to be useful even to reduce scars due to burns. The exact mechanism and mode of action is little to known, but it has been found useful by many people.
9. Egg whites:
The egg yolk is separated from the egg whites and the whites can then be applied directly onto the stretch marks. However, more studies need to be conducted to understand the exact mechanism of action of this complete food.
You can try using: Mamaearth Body Creme Stretch Mark Cream
When to Seek Medical Help:
It is advised to seek medical attention by consulting your doctor or healthcare provider when you notice the appearance of stretch marks. A doctor will take a detailed history, conduct a thorough physical examination and then guide you regarding the correct treatment for your specific condition.3
Stretch marks occur due to the stretching of skin. They commonly occur during pregnancy, weight gain, or due to a medical condition that might cause the skin to lose its elasticity. The red stretch marks are temporary while the white ones are permanent. The red ones evolve into the white stretch marks over time. There is very little evidence about the usage of products (natural or artificial) for application on the skin to reverse these stretch marks. However, there are a few home remedies that can be used to lighten these scar-like lines on our bodies.
Frequently Asked Questions:
Are stretch marks normal?
Appearance of stretch marks is normal in case of pregnancy, weight gain and puberty. If you notice unexplainable appearance of stretch marks, a doctor should be consulted and the reason should be ascertained.3
Does the appearance of stretch marks mean that I have cholesterol?
No. Stretch marks appear when there is stretching of skin as seen during pregnancy, rapid growth during puberty, in body builders with bulky muscles and due to gain of weight.1 There is no evidence or connection between high cholesterol and stretch marks.
Are red stretch marks dangerous?
Striae rubrae are a type of stretch mark that appear red in colour and are usually temporary. If you notice the appearance of stretch marks without any explainable cause, you should seek medical attention.2
Can hyaluronic acid be used to treat stretch marks?
Hyaluronic acid is used in various creams and gels for its beneficial effects for the skin. It might have fibroblast (collagen producing cells) stimulating activity that helps restore skin elasticity and reduces appearance of stretch marks.4
Can stretch marks effect the liver?
No. There are no reports stating the effect of stretch marks on liver.
Can stretch marks cause cancer?
No. There is no evidence showing the development of stretch marks into cancer.
1. Wollina U, Goldman A. Management of stretch marks (with a focus on striae rubrae). J Cutan Aesthet Surg [Internet]. 2017;10(3):124–9. Available from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5782435/
2. 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 Dermatology Venereol [Internet]. 2016;30(2):211–22. Available from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5057295/
3. Tizard H. Stretch marks [Internet]. Vol. 23, Practising Midwife. 2020. p. 19. Available from: https://medlineplus.gov/ency/article/003287.htm
4. Korgavkar K, Wang F. Stretch marks during pregnancy: A review of topical prevention. Br J Dermatol [Internet]. 2015;172(3):606–15. Available from: https://deepblue.lib.umich.edu/bitstream/handle/2027.42/110856/bjd13426.pdf
Disclaimer: The information included at this site is for educational purposes only and is not intended to be a substitute for medical treatment by a healthcare professional. Because of unique individual needs, the reader should consult their physician to determine the appropriateness of the information for the reader’s situation.