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Stretch Marks

Medically reviewed by: Melanie L. Pitone, MD

What Are Stretch Marks?

Stretch marks are fine lines in the skin that happen when quick growth or weight gain stretches the skin (like during puberty). Skin is usually fairly stretchy, but when it's overstretched, the normal production of collagen (the major protein that makes up the tissue in skin) is disrupted. As a result, the skin can develop stretch marks.

At first, stretch marks may show up as reddish or purplish lines that can look indented and have a different texture from the skin around them. Stretch marks often turn lighter and almost disappear over time.

Who Gets Stretch Marks?

Stretch marks are a normal part of puberty for most people. People who are obese often have stretch marks. Bodybuilders can get stretch marks because of the quick body changes that can come with bodybuilding. People who use steroid-containing skin creams or ointments (such as hydrocortisone) for more than a few weeks also may get stretch marks. So might people who have to take high doses of oral corticosteroids for months or longer.

How Can I Get My Stretch Marks to Go Away?

A or plastic surgeon are doctors who can help treat stretch marks. They specialize in caring for the skin. To reduce the appearance of stretch marks, they might use prescription creams, microdermabrasion, and laser treatment. But doctors don't usually recommended these for teens because they're still growing. So new stretch marks might appear and existing ones will probably fade a bit over time. Also, these treatments can be expensive and usually are not covered by insurance.

How Can I Make Stretch Marks Less Noticeable?

Here are some things to consider if you want to make stretch marks less noticeable:

  • Some people find that sunless self-tanners can help cover up stretch marks. This isn't true with regular tanning or tanning beds, though: Stretch marks are less likely to tan so may end up looking more obvious. Plus, the sun and tanning beds do more harm than good when it comes to the long-term health of your skin.
  • Try using body makeup matched to your skin tone to cover stretch marks.
  • Wear board shorts or rash guards. Bathing suits with more coverage work well for hiding stretch marks on the buttocks, upper thighs, and chest.

Many creams and other skin products claim to get rid of stretch marks, but the truth is that most don't work and are costly. Usually, the best thing to do is be patient because stretch marks often fade with time. If they still bother you when you’re an adult, you can ask your doctor or see a specialist for treatment.

Medically reviewed by: Melanie L. Pitone, MD
Date reviewed: November 2020