Stretch marks 

Introduction 

Stretch marks that develop during pregnancy are known as striae gravidarum 

Who gets stretch marks?

Stretch marks are very common. Anyone can get them, but they tend to affect women more than men.

About 8 out of 10 women get stretch marks during pregnancy. About 7 out of 10 girls and 4 out of 10 boys get them during puberty.

Look after your skin

Benefit your skin by stopping smoking, plus how to protect your skin against sun damage and more

Stretch marks are narrow streaks or lines that occur on the surface of the skin.

Doctors often refer to stretch marks as stria, striae or  during pregnancy  striae gravidarum.

The tummy (abdomen), buttocks, breasts and thighs are the areas of the body most often affected.

Stretch marks are often red or purple to start with, before gradually fading to a silvery-white colour. They're usually long and thin.

Read more about the characteristics of stretch marks.

What causes stretch marks?

Stretch marks are the result of the skin suddenly stretching. The middle layer of skin (dermis) breaks in places, allowing the deeper layers to show through.

The dermis can be stretched:

  • during pregnancy
  • as a result of weight gain
  • due to growth spurts during puberty

Read more about the causes of stretch marks.

When to see your GP

See your GP if you have stretch marks that don't seem to be linked to weight gain or growth, because they may be due to another condition.

In rare cases, stretch marks are caused by syndromes such as Cushing’s syndrome or Marfan syndrome, or from the overuse of powerful steroid creams or ointments on the skin.

Treating stretch marks

Most stretch marks aren't particularly noticeable and will fade over time.

If you have unsightly stretch marks, or if they affect a large area of your body, you may want to try one of the treatment options available. 

Creams, gels, lotions, laser surgery and cosmetic surgery are all used to treat stretch marks. However, there's little medical evidence to show that these treatments are particularly effective, so it's important to be realistic about what they can achieve.

It should also be noted that laser treatment and cosmetic surgery for stretch marks aren't available on the NHS, and private treatment can be expensive.

Read more about treating stretch marks.

Preventing stretch marks

In certain situations, such as during pregnancy, it isn't possible to prevent stretch marks.

However, maintaining a healthy weight and looking after your skin can reduce your risk of getting them.

Read more about preventing stretch marks.




Page last reviewed: 16/07/2014

Next review due: 16/07/2016

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Comments

The 12 comments posted are personal views. Any information they give has not been checked and may not be accurate.

Bill1991 said on 20 October 2014

I had stretch marks since puberty. got them from growing too fast, i have them all over but the ones on my lower back are the worst. its like a tiger claw or smth..so far i tried many different creams and stuff, but nothing worked. now im trying some natural remedies, shea butter, baking soda, essential oils...you can read about it on stretchmarksecrets.com. So far i started to notice small improvements but it takes time to heal stretch marks. gotta be persistent. i hate stretch marks ,hope i will get rid of them soon :(

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loli104 said on 06 April 2014

It's so frustrating to look to the NHS and just be told that there is nothing you can do. There are private treatments such as DermaEraze offered privately that have proven results that have helped thousands of women, including me, at an affordable price. No one expects the NHS to pay for these treatments, but we do expect to be pointed in the direction of a solution. Most women in my situation are happy to save in order to have a treatment that works.

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NatA84 said on 07 March 2014

I am 29, haven’t had children, nor gained/lost weight. I have rather bad stretch marks on my breasts, hips and thighs...and started to get them on the back of my knees (sounds strange I know). I have never been larger than a size 8. I have been using Bio Oil for about 2 years now on and off and I haven’t really seen any improvement to my stretch marks. I visited a Doctor who said there isn’t really anything you can do about them and keep trying creams and oils, which really wasn’t helpful. I heard about derma rollers and thought I would give it a try. I have used the roller 4 times now and can’t see any improvement yet but I guess time will tell. I am really self conscious about my stretch marks and am petrified about having children because I can’t imagine what my body will look like after if I have them in abundance now! If anyone had stretch marks before pregnancy, I would be interested to know what happened to your body during and after the birth. Did they get worse? Did the amount of stretch marks double?

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helptome said on 09 November 2013

The Danaefabienne cream might help you to prevent stretch marks; just like it helped me and still does. I was even able to almost completely erase one very red streak on my tummy and two purple ones on my breasts.

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stacie123 said on 09 April 2013

Please help. Im 26, a size 10 and have had 2 kids. I have no desire for anymore and would like to gain back some body. My youngest is nearly 2 and I have what I would consider to be quite bad stretch marks on my stomach (mainly on the sides) which have now turned silvery white with a reddish tone in some lights. Some are quite wide and relatively long. Is there anything anyone could recommend for me to use?? It really needs to be no more than £20 ish - especially if its something that only last 3 months or so. Thanks!

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KirstyEmm said on 28 December 2012

I found bio oil helped a smidgen so did coco butter. Creams don't help me at all. Only thing that has visibily reduced my stretch marks is mummies with tummies oil. You can only notis the marks now if you go up close. I have only been using this for just over a month and i am lovin my bump.

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Suzane78 said on 07 August 2012

Honestly, for me it was Lamaze Belly Rub it s absolutely the best body butter for pregnant bellies. Its got lots of oils in the butter which slowly absorb into the skin making the skin softer/more elastic longer. Has great smell and isn't overly watery/oily when its applied. You can feel the difference from using this butter as compared to Palmers coco butter. I love this butter with a passion, and i'm pregnant with twins so that's gotta speak for something!

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RosieTalk said on 16 May 2011

I have found Bio Oil to be very helpful on acne scars, and I have heard excellent things on what it can do for stretch marks. Worth a go! It is mid-price but lasts a long time. Use morning and evening for best results.

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babsey said on 16 May 2011

Hello, I’m 16 and I’ve had stretch marks since I was 13, they’ve never really bothered me but they are still appearing even though my weight and size is stable. They are appearing in place that will be noticeable like above hips and back of my legs. I moisturise with cocoa butter, e45 and body oils. But they still appear :(please some advice would be helpful. I’ve heard there are vitamin e injections that could help (heard from embarrassing body’s channel 4) could I get some more information on this topic please.

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lynjenkins said on 05 September 2010

Diet has helped improve my stretch marks more than anything else. I've cut out all processed foods, coffee, alcohol etc and have progressed to a 100% raw vegan diet. I'm not saying you have to go that extreme but definitely substituting "bad" foods for more fruit and veg helps.

<a href="http://www.stretchmarksfade.co.uk/">stretch marks</a>

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Musto said on 23 July 2010

Hi, sorry to hear about your stretch marks. It sounds as if you have a healthy diet and that your stretch marks are not a result of being overweight. However, they are clearly causing you some distress, affecting your self esteem and making you self conscious.

You should go to visit your GP who will be able to examine your stretch marks and recommend suitable treatment options. Also, just to let you know that this topic is currently being reviewed and the updated version will be available within the next couple of weeks - good luck!

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yasaybar said on 26 June 2010

hello. I'm 14, nearly 15 and i have bad stretch marks on my inner thighs. I dont think its due to being overweight as i am a size 10 and have never been over just into a size 12. I also didn't have much of a growth spurt as i have always been tall and have only developed the scars in the last few years. i have a healthy diet, i dont eat fast food, anything processed or sweets, and i only have the right amount of carbs and dairy each day and i eat a lot of fruit and vegetables. i've tried a number of creams and oils, etc. and it has only made them more purple/silver rather than red. my aunt is due to be treated by the nhs for acne and she said she was told that a similar thing could be provided for me, and i've heard some things are free for under 16's. Also, in the "useful links" there is a link to the plastic surgery section, is that appropriate? i dont know what else i'm going to do, i dont show my legs and have refused to go swimming for the last 3 years, i think my mum is concerned with me being so self concious but i can't show my legs how they are now. please reply and tell me if any of the information i've heard is correct. thankyou

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