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 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, black, blue or purple streaks
- Bright streaks that fade to a lighter color
- Streaks covering large areas of the body
When to see a doctor
See your doctor if you're concerned about the appearance of your skin or if the stretch marks cover large areas of your body. Your doctor 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 — a hormone produced by the adrenal glands — weakens elastic fibers in the skin.
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's syndrome or Marfan syndrome