Symptoms of stretch marks 

Not everyone gets stretch marks  it depends on your skin type.

Collagen is a protein in your skin, which keeps it elastic and stretchy. Having a lot of collagen in your skin makes it less likely that you'll get stretch marks.

How stretch marks develop

Before the stretch marks appear, the affected skin will become thin, flattened and pink, and may feel itchy.

The stretch marks themselves then appear as red or purple streaks or lines, but can be pink, reddish-brown or dark brown, depending on your skin colour.

They can occur in patches of parallel lines on your body and often appear "scar-like".

To start with, the lines will be slightly raised and may feel wrinkly, before eventually flattening out.

As the lines become flatter, they will begin to fade and change to a white or silvery colour.

Stretch marks usually fade and become less noticeable over time, but this can sometimes take years.

Where stretch marks occur

Stretch marks can occur anywhere where the skin has been stretched.

They usually  but not always  develop on areas where fat is stored, and can occur on your:

  • tummy (abdomen)
  • buttocks
  • thighs
  • upper arms
  • breasts
  • shoulders (in bodybuilders)

Stretch marks can also sometimes occur on the back, where they overlie the spine horizontally (rather like the rungs on a ladder), particularly teenage boys.

Stretch marks that are caused by Cushing’s syndrome (where a person has high levels of a hormone called cortisol in their blood) tend to be wider and larger, and can also appear on the face.

Page last reviewed: 16/07/2014

Next review due: 16/07/2016