What Causes Stretch Marks & How to Prevent Them

Pregnancy is common of what causes stretch marks

Pregnancy is a Common Cause of Stretch Marks on the Stomach


Today we are going to talk about what causes stretch marks and how to prevent them. Nearly 75% of pregnant women experience stretch marks around their stomach in the latter part of their pregnancy. Teenagers often experience stretch marks during the puberty years due to growth spurts. Though stretch marks may fade over time, they will rarely if ever completely disappear. Weight lifters are also prone to stretch marks in their arms and shoulder areas as the muscles expand quickly in these areas stretching the skin.


The stretching of the skin due to increased size of the body and an increase in cortisone is what causes stretch marks. Cortisone is a stress hormone created by the adrenal glands. Simply stated, the collagen layer in the dermis of the skin is not able to keep pace with the expansion of the body, resulting in damaged collagen that splits the skin (stretch marks are actually scars). The most common causes that lead to stretch marks include pregnancy, weight gain, weight training, use of certain medications and certain diseases.

Stretch marks on the breast caused by pregnancy

Stretch marks on the breast caused by pregnancy

Pregnancy: Most women (75%) experience stretch marks due to the rapid growth of their stomach or breasts during pregnancy. Hormonal changes during pregnancy can also play a role in additional stretch marks.

Weight Gain: Stretch marks appear when people gain weight rapidly, or go through growth spurts during puberty. The skin literally does not have enough time to adjust and stretch during these periods of growth, thus creating stretch marks.

Weight Training: Those who body build or experience rapid muscle growth may also notice stretch marks due the same reasons mentioned above.

Medication Use: Pills, creams, lotions or other medications that contain cortisone or steroids can cause stretch marks.

Diseases or Conditions: Cushings’s syndrome and adrenal gland diseases can cause stretch marks on the entire body. Ehlers-Danlos syndrome and Marfan syndrome are also known to cause stretch marks.


New medical data indicates that stretch marks may be caused by glucocorticoids which include natural stress steroids. Cortisol is the most common and well-known of these steroids. The human body releases Cortisol in response to elevated amounts of stress, which can include:

  • Abnormal daily life stress
  • Weightlifting
  • Excessive stimulants such as caffeine
  • Pregnancy
  • Teenage growth spurts
  • Improper nutrition or smoking
  • Poor sleep
  • Among other stressors

To make the conditions that cause stretch marks even worse, Cortisol prompts the body to accumulate excess fat. This additional fat is often stored around the middle of the body, forcing the skin to stretch and eventually causing stretch marks.


Doctor examining Stretch Marks

Diagnosing the Cause of Stretch Marks

Your doctor can diagnose stretch marks in a routine examination of your skin. The doctor may gain more knowledge of your stretch marks by asking about your family medical history, medications or any other medical conditions you have. If necessary, your doctor may request blood, urine or other tests to further diagnose the origin of the stretch marks.


Even daily use of lotions or creams will not prevent stretch marks. The surest way to reduce the chances of getting stretch marks is to stay at a healthy weight. Pregnant women should work with a doctor to minimize stretch marks, as lots of weight is gained in a relative short period of time will boost your chances of stretch marks. There are several ways to prevent or lessen the chances that future stretch marks may appear.

First, stay hydrated! Drinking at least 8 oz. of water for every 10 lbs of body weight each day will promote elasticity in your skin, which will help guard against stretch marks. If you consume an excessive amount of caffeine you need to drink more than the recommended 8 oz. per 10 lbs of water per day as part of protecting against stretch marks.

Second, do your best to gain weight slowly during pregnancy so that you skin isn’t overly stretched too fast which creates stretch marks. Doctors say a healthy weight gain ranges anywhere from 25-35 pounds, depending on your BMI. Gradually gaining weight will allow the skin to stretch with the body reducing your chances of stretch marks.

Third, don’t scratch! Even if it itches, scratching the areas that are stretching and likely to form stretch marks can cause more damage to the skin. The problem stretch mark areas should be gently massaged rather than scratched. Massaging the probable stretch mark areas will create blood circulation and increase lymph flow and prompt cell growth, which will allow the skin to stretch naturally and avoid stretch marks.

Fourth, use stretch mark creams daily. Using specialized creams or ointments every day can help reduce your chances of stretch marks.

Fifth, make sure your body is moving! Having a regular exercise regimen will improve your overall health and lessen your chance of weight gain and stretch marks. Exercise promotes healthy stretch mark free skin.


Laser Stretch Mark Removal on the Thigh using an Erbium Laser

Stretch Mark Removal on the Thigh using an Erbium Laser

While stretch marks do not look pretty, they are harmless and should fade over time. Stretch marks do not require medical treatment if they are not bothersome. Regardless of what caused the stretch marks, if they bother you, there are many stretch mark removal treatments available to help get rid of stretch marks. The most effective treatment for stretch marks by far is laser stretch mark removal.