Stretch marks (striae) are indented streaks that appear on the abdomen, breasts, hips, buttocks or other places on the body. They're common in pregnant women, especially during the last trimester. Stretch marks aren't painful or harmful, but some people don't like the way they make their skin look.

Stretch marks don't require treatment. They often fade over time, with or without treatment. They may never disappear completely.

Stretch marks on arm

Stretch marks on arm

Some people are prone to develop stretch marks on the upper arms, abdomen, buttocks and thighs. New stretch marks are bright pink, red, blue, black or purple. Older stretch marks fade.


Stretch marks don't all look alike. They vary depending on how long you've had them, what caused them, where they are on your body and the type of skin you have. Common variations include:

  • Indented streaks or lines on the abdomen, breasts, hips, buttocks or other places on the body
  • Pink, red, discolored, black, blue or purple streaks
  • Bright streaks that fade to a lighter color
  • Streaks covering large areas of the body
Stretch marks in pregnancy

Stretch marks in pregnancy

Stretch marks are common in pregnancy, especially during the last trimester. They often fade but don't usually disappear.

Widespread stretch marks

Widespread stretch marks

Stretch marks can cover large areas of the body, but it happens rarely. This can result from corticosteroid medicine use or a disease such as Cushing syndrome.

When to see a doctor

See your health care provider if you're concerned about the appearance of your skin or if the stretch marks cover large areas of your body. Your health care provider can help determine the cause of the stretch marks and discuss treatment options.


The cause of stretch marks is stretching of the skin. Their severity is affected by several factors, including your genetics and the degree of stress on the skin. Your level of the hormone cortisol also might play a role. Cortisol is a hormone produced by the adrenal glands. It weakens elastic fibers in the skin.

Risk factors

Anyone can develop stretch marks, but some factors increase your likelihood of getting them, including:

  • Being female
  • Having a personal or family history of stretch marks
  • Being pregnant, especially if you're young
  • Rapid growth in adolescence
  • Rapidly gaining or losing weight
  • Using corticosteroids
  • Having breast enlargement surgery
  • Exercising and using anabolic steroids
  • Having a genetic disorder such as Cushing syndrome or Marfan syndrome

Jan 12, 2023

  1. Kang S, et al., eds. Skin changes and diseases in pregnancy. In: Fitzpatrick's Dermatology. 9th ed. McGraw Hill; 2019. https://accessmedicine.mhmedical.com. Accessed Nov. 10, 2020.
  2. Ferri FF, et al., eds. Striae (stretch marks). In: Ferri's Fast Facts in Dermatology: A Practical Guide to Skin Diseases and Disorders. 2nd ed. Elsevier; 2019. https://www.clinicalkey.com. Accessed Nov. 10, 2020.
  3. Landon MB, et al., eds. Skin disease and pregnancy. In: Gabbe's Obstetrics: Normal and Problem Pregnancies. 8th ed. Elsevier; 2021. https://www.clinicalkey.com. Accessed Nov. 10, 2020.
  4. Wick MJ, ed. Month 8: Weeks 29 to 32. In: Mayo Clinic Guide to a Healthy Pregnancy. 2nd ed. Mayo Clinic; 2018.
  5. Kutlubay Z, et al. The color of skin: Brown diseases of the skin, nails, and mucosa. Clinics in Dermatology. 2019; doi.org/10.1016/j.clindermatol.2019.07.007.
  6. MacGregor JL, et al. Striae distensae (stretch marks). https://www.uptodate.com/contents/search. Accessed Dec. 2, 2020.


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