Causes of Stretch Marks

The appearance of stretch marks–scar-like, discolored streaks across the skin–may alarm and distress you, but usually they do not indicate anything more severe than the superficial breaking of the epidermis. According to research by New York dermatologist Dr. Neil Sadick posted on the Fox News website, stretch marks, or striae, occur naturally in men, women and children for a variety of reasons, including heredity, rapid weight gain or loss, pregnancy and steroid use.

Heredity

The elasticity and color of the skin as well as the rate at which it stretches greatly depend upon your inheritance. Genes determine the overall elasticity of your skin and how prone you are to stretch marks.

As indicated by Dr. Sadick’s research, ethnicity and melanin levels also affect the likelihood of stretch mark development, showing that individuals with lighter skin tones, or less melanin, are more prone to stretch marks than individuals with more melanin.

Weight Gain

Based on research reported by the Mayo Clinic staff, extreme weight gain or rapid growth spurts during puberty can push the skin’s elastic capabilities beyond their limit, causing skin to “break” and creating the appearance of stretch marks. The marks can also develop on bodybuilders, predominantly in the arms, as the skin stretches in relation to expanding muscle growth.

Pregnancy

SureBaby.com states that 50 to 90 percent of all pregnant women develop stretch marks that may appear as the abdomen expands and stretches the skin during pregnancy.

Stretch marks occur mainly in the third trimester as the skin extends beyond its elastic ability to make room for the developing fetus. Moisturizing with a hydrating cream may increase the elasticity of the skin and help prevent the appearance of stretch marks during pregnancy.

Oral Steroids and Topical Creams

Continuous ingestion of oral steroids and the use of creams containing steroids also contribute to the cause of stretch marks on the skin. According to DermaDoctor.com, steroids increase the level of the glucocorticoid hormones in the body, reducing the formation of elastin and collagen fibers that normally increase skin elasticity.

Consequently, with fewer collagen and elastin fibers, skin becomes more likely to break as a result of weight gain or other bodily changes, triggering the appearance of stretch marks.