The dermis is the middle layer of the skin that is elastic and helps the skin retain its shape. However, when the dermis is constantly stretched like it is during pregnancy or weight gain, it can deteriorate. This breakdown in elasticity results in thin red or purple streaks that turn whiter and scar-like over time. Stretch marks can also be caused by medications that disrupt the formation of collagen, a glue-like protein that helps give skin and tissue its shape.
Both men and women can experience stretch marks, and while they are often associated with the abdominal area, they can also be found on the hips, thighs, flank, breasts, upper arms and buttocks. A patient’s age, skin tone and nutrition can all influence the success of various treatments for stretch marks, which include both topical creams and cosmetic surgical procedures for more severe cases.
Reviewed by: Michael Fuller, MD