Stretch marks are scars on the skin, which occurs when the collagen fibers and elastin tear during conditions like pregnancy, puberty, quick weight gain or sudden weight loss.
During pregnancy or puberty, the hormone levels tend to change as adrenal glands secrete more of glucocorticoids.
These hormones have the ability to break the elastin and collagen fibers when the skin is stretched beyond a limit.
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What Causes Stretch Marks?
There can be a number of reasons, which can cause stretch marks on your body. Some are biological in nature while some are caused owing to a few external factors.
Sometimes one or more of these causes like pregnancy and obesity, for example, can trigger the development of stretch mark in the body.
When you are pregnant, your body prepares to accommodate your baby by secreting various hormones that can make your ligaments much softer.
The ligaments that are present in your pelvic region are made much softer to offer it a pliable feel to make a passage for your baby’s arrival.
However, in this process, these hormones tend to soften the collagen present in your skin while softening the ligaments.
This might hamper the structure of your dermis layer making your body prone to stretch marks while you are carrying your baby to full term.
Another reason for getting stretch marks on the skin during your pregnancy is the stress of your growing belly and its weight.
This can take a toll on the elasticity of your skin and your breasts, hips and thighs tend to get bigger during this period, especially during the last trimester thereby resulting in the appearance of stretch marks on all these parts of your body.
2. Sudden weight gain
Your skin has a dermis layer that features the supportive tissues and connective fibers that can hold your skin firmly.
The fibers that are made up of elastin and collagen would also be very strong that offers your skin the ability to hold any kind of stress on the skin with great ease.
However, if you experience a sudden weight gain, these fibers tend to stretch a lot owing to the stretching action of your skin to support your growing body.
This would cause the skin to become very thin and would cause a tear in the dermis layer resulting in the development of stretch marks in your body.
When there is a sudden weight gain, the layers of the skin tears, which cause the blood vessels that, are present beneath it to be shown, which offers the reddish look on the stretch marks, initially.
Later these blood vessels would get smaller thereby allowing the fatty layer to show, which makes the stretch marks to appear in a white or silver hue.
3. Puberty stage
During the puberty stage, your body would experience a sea of changes such as spurts of hair growth in different parts of the body, chest, and shoulders tends to get broader for boys, breasts tend to get bigger for girls, thighs and back would begin to develop, which would tax the skin and triggers a breakage of collagen fibers.
This, in turn, would cause stretch marks on various parts of the body for both boys and girls such as shoulders, arms, knees, breasts, thighs, lower back etc.
4. Role of genes
Whether you like it or not, this skin limitation is a family present!
This biological cause of stretch marks is proven by various studies, which simply means that if your parents have stretch marks then, you are more prone to get them.
5. Use of certain medications
Cortisol is a steroid hormone, which is widely used in the medical field.
It can ease the issues like inflammation, which makes it useful to manage any issues with the heart, treat skin conditions such as eczema and for regulating cellular processes.
When cortisol is used for a longer time, it can cause deterioration of collagen levels, which can get weaker and break easily.
This makes the person who is using cortisol, either as a topical cream or as a medicine administered internally, to get stretch marks.
6. Cushing’s Syndrome
The cause explained above, also indicates why people suffering from Cushing’s syndrome tend to have stretch marks.
This disease makes the body to lose control over the cortisol levels, which causes the appearance of huge prominent looking stretch marks in dark hues.
Cushing’s syndrome would raise the level of cortisol production in the body.
7. Increased growth of muscles while bodybuilding
This is somewhat similar to quick weight gain.
When there is a rapid increase in muscle growth, it can put a lot of stress on the dermis layer, which in turn would cause the collagen or elastin fibers to break easily.
This can happen if you are building your muscles much faster without allowing it to happen at a normal pace.
8. Reduced water intake and following a bad diet
When your body is dehydrated, then it means it is prone to the occurrence of stretch marks as the skin would be very dry and malnourished.
Having a diet that is loaded with lots of junk food, sugary food, and fried goodies can hamper the skin greatly as you are not getting any vitamins or minerals from it.
Your skin requires antioxidants, protein, amino acids, vitamin C etc to improve the blood circulation, flush out the toxins and keep it well nourished.
Apart from all these functions, drinking lots of water and eating a healthy diet would help in quick regeneration of cells, failing which would make it have lots of stretch marks that offers an unsightly appearance.
In the end...
There are so many reasons stretch marks can come on your skin. This makes it difficult to pinpoint a single reason in most cases.
But knowing potential causes can help you prepare your skin to minimize the marks from happening.