Stretch marks

What is a stretch mark?

Stretch marks are narrow streaks or lines that can appear on different parts of men's and women's bodies.

They start off a purplish red colour and then gradually lighten to a silvery white. These streaks are, in fact, minuscule furrows caused by a break in the collagen fibres in the dermis. They resemble scars and can be treated if they are recent (still vascularised and in the healing phase).

Stretch marks are caused by two factors:

  • Distension of the skin: stretch marks can result from the skin being overstretched when you put on a lot of weight rapidly. The pull on the tissues causes some of the elastic fibres in the dermis to break. This is accompanied by a loss of skin elasticity.
  • An increase in the amount of cortisol in the body: their appearance can also be due to an increase in the body’s cortisol secretion. This hormone, produced by the adrenal glands, has an effect on the skin’s structure:  when the level of cortisol rises, less collagen and elastin are produced. This changes the structure of the dermis and the skin loses elasticity.

These two factors are often but not always related. However, stretch marks can also appear in slim people whose weight does not vary. They have been closely linked to hormonal activity.

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The main causes:



During this period of increased hormonal activity, the adrenal glands produce more cortisol, increasing the risk of stretch marks.


Pregnancy represents the main "at risk" period, as both factors linked to the formation of stretch marks are present:

- The body is producing more cortisol, as it does in puberty
- There is rapid weight gain, especially around the stomach. So the skin is under considerable strain.
Almost 75% of pregnant women get stretch marks.
They usually appear in about the sixth month of pregnancy. The number of previous pregnancies does not affect the likelihood of them occurring.



Stress and anxiety trigger an increase in cortisol secretion (also known as the stress hormone) linked to the formation of stretch marks.
People under a lot of stress for an extended time can also develop stretch marks due to the simple fact that their cortisol level has increased. This is why many women get stretch marks on their skin between the ages of 25 and 35, when they are not pregnant and have not put on weight.
This phenomenon is often seen in elite athletes who are under frequent stress.

Some conditions and cortisone-based treatments

Some rare conditions like Cushing's syndrome are accompanied by an overproduction of cortisol. The use of cortisone-based treatments or topical corticosteroid-based products (cortisone and its derivatives) can also lead to stretch marks.

The use of skin lightening products

Most of these products contain cortisone derivatives, which can lead to the formation of stretch marks.

Genetic factors

The predisposition for developing stretch marks is often passed down from one generation to the next.


The toxic substances contained in cigarettes damage the structure of the dermis and the quality of elastin and collagen produced.

Difficulty maintaining a stable weight

Successive weight gain and weight loss can weaken the skin.
How to treat stretch marks

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