Stretch Marks 101 – What Are Stretch Marks?

What are stretch marks? For many, stretch marks are embarrassing, unsightly scars that make us feel uncomfortable with our own bodies. Although not an actual health issue, stretch marks can have a profound effect on ones lifestyle and overall body image. These marks can be a significant source of embarrassment and mental pain to many women and men. When individuals feel the need to hide themselves, it affects how they interact with others and can limit their involvement in social activities.

Stretch marks commonly affect both women and men and studies have shown as much as 80 to 90 per cent of women will experience some degree of stretch marks during their lives either from adolescence, weight variations or pregnancy. Men are just as capable of developing the marks as women, but tend to get them in different areas depending where fat is stored or muscle is developed.

Red Stretch Marks

Red stretch marks are “new” recently developed stretch marks and are the cause of most distress with sufferers. These marks start as linear thin areas of the skin that gradually become red to purple or much darker depending on the individuals skin pigmentation. The gradual change to a darker livid color is due to bleeding in the dermal layer similar to bruising.

Yet, at this stage, successful treatment of stretch marks can be the most effective. Any treatment that encourages collagen growth in the dermis will be more effective in the early phase of stretch marks. This could enhance and speed the bodies natural healing process by fading stretch marks quicker and minimizing the depressions in the skin.

Sometimes, most often with pregnancy, red stretch marks can be itchy. If the stretch marks are from pregnancy and are raised and itchy it may be a condition called polymorphic eruption of pregnancy or PEP for short. This condition is normally harmless, last only a few weeks and most often occurs in the last trimester of pregnancy. However, if the itch spreads or a rash develops in other areas, consult your doctor for treatment or to rule out other causes.

White Stretch Marks

White stretch marks are “older” healed marks that are usually not as noticeable as the red marks. Gradually, over time the scar tissue of stretch marks shrinks and loses pigmentation resulting in glossy bands which can be smooth or depressed and have a white-silver color in light skinned people or light brown in darker skinned individuals.

White stretch marks, because they are already “healed”, are more difficult to minimize. Better success is often achieved by treatments that target the texture of the stretch marks by encouraging collagen growth in the dermal layer. Smoothing out the depressions or furrows can dramatically improve the look of the affected areas.

Recently, advanced treatments such as fractional laser therapy or combinations of laser, chemical peels and other dermatological procedures have shown great promise for reducing white stretch marks. Consult the “Laser Treatment Topics” or “Stretch Mark Cream Reviews” sections in the left sidebar for more information.

Stretch Marks – What Do The Medical Terms Mean?

Striae distensae

Striae distensae is the generic medical term for stretch marks. They are characterized by thinned linear areas of the dermis appearing as depressed bands on the epidermis. The term striae distensae is often combined with the other medical terms such as striae distensae rubra, striae distensae alba, etc.

Striae rubra

Striae rubra are stretch marks that turn a more livid color due to bleeding in the dermis. The scars can be red to purple in lighter skinned individuals or red-brown to dark purple in darker skinned individuals.

Striae alba

Striae alba are lighter colored stretch marks that are older and healed.

Striae gravidarum

Striae gravidarum are better known as pregnancy stretch marks. These marks are more commonplace on the belly, but can appear on the thighs and breasts as well.


Keep in mind, if you’re bothered by your stretch marks and looking to reduce their visibility, education and good advice is the key to your success. In the sidebar to the left of this webpage, you’ll find basic information, reviews on popular stretch mark creams, articles on laser therapy topics and other common stretch mark topics.

Most importantly, discuss your stretch marks with a qualified dermatologist. Dermatologist have experience and insight that could save you a lot of time and money by ensuring you get the right treatment program for your particular case.

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