No doubt that down the years, you’ve heard your fair share of weird or quirky stretch mark facts and myths. Well, in this article, that’s exactly what I set out to study and hopefully clear up once and for all. See, a lot of the information out there seems to be factually inaccurate or, at the very least incomplete. So below, we’ll look at 19 facts (and fictions) about tiger stripes and hopefully put them right once and for all.
1. You have to be pregnant to get stretch marks.
Fake. Stretch marks occur as a result of, yes, you’ve guessed it, stretching. As such, they are likely to form every time that a rapid and extreme weight change stretches the skin. Obesity, bodybuilding, and plain old puberty growth spurts are just as likely to leave you with stretch marks as pregnancy.
2. Stretch marks happen on the skin.
Fake. Stretch marks happen underneath the skin, sort of like a tattoo. See, when your body changes rapidly and forces your skin to stretch more than it can endure, it is, in fact, stretching the mid-layer of skin, also known as the dermis. This is why stretch marks are considered scars and are challenging to get rid of with topical products alone – because they do not affect the topmost layer of skin (the epidermis) but instead go a little deeper.
3. Stretch marks only happen to women.
Fake. Perhaps women complain about them more, and statistically, more women than men end up having stretch marks (yeah, this one’s got to do with the whole pregnancy thing, I’ll admit). But many men carry stretch marks as well somewhere on their body, mostly as a result of either puberty growth or intense training. The use of steroids to increase muscle mass may also make you more likely to develop stretch marks.
4. Stretch marks only appear on the belly.
Fake. Many people have this misconception that stretch marks only appear on the belly. This is mostly due to the whole “only women get stretch marks” myth and its close ties to pregnancy. But the truth is, you can get stretch marks pretty much anywhere – on the belly, breasts, arms, thighs, buttocks, knees, and so on. Stretch marks in certain areas may also be more hidden (such as on the buttocks, around the pubis, or on the breasts), which may explain why they’re less known-about.
5. Stretch marks are hereditary.
True. Unfortunately, the likelihood of you getting stretch marks is directly related to the genes you’ve inherited from your ancestors. So if you’re worried about getting pregnancy tiger stripes and your mother/older sister/grandmother had them, then it is quite likely you’ll get them, too.
The unfortunate truth is that no matter the amount of moisturizer you use or how hydrated you keep your body, if it is written in your genetics, then you’ll probably get stretch marks (sorry!).
6. Younger moms have more chances of getting stretch marks.
True. It’s odd because you expect it to be the other way around. Still, at least one study that we know about has shown a clear connection between pregnancy-related stretch marks (striae gravidarum) and younger expecting mothers. So if you thought you were safe getting pregnant young since, you know, your body’s producing more collagen, and technically, your skin is more elastic, think again.
7. Moisturizer will prevent stretch marks.
Fake. Sorry, I know you had high hopes. See, the logic behind this is that moisturizer can stimulate the production of collagen and elastin in your skin and strengthen the moisture barrier. The better moisturized your skin is, the better it will be able to fare in the case of extreme stretching. And that is accurate. Using a good, competent moisturizers in early pregnancy, for example, will make your skin better at dealing with intense stretching and may improve the appearance of stretch marks. However, it will not prevent their formation completely, because as we’ve just seen, this is dictated by genetics and other factors.
Tip: That doesn’t mean you should skip out on the moisturizer, though! You still need it to maintain a healthy moisture barrier and stimulate the healing/fading of stretch marks.
8. Stretch marks are itchy.
True – unfortunately! Several people affected by stretch marks report a mild (or sometimes intense) itching sensation, particularly in fresh, bright red stretch marks. This may be intensified by dry skin, and that is often the case with stretch marks. But do cheer up because the reason your stretch marks are itching so is that your body is already working to repair them. It is the healing process that is causing the itching, so it’s so important to fight the need to scratch and instead apply a soothing ointment that will support this healing process.
9. Stress impacts your stretch marks.
True. You know how sometimes you get pimples when you’re stressed? That’s because the stress hormone (Cortisol) is converted into cortisone, which affects the elasticity of the skin and increases the risk of dryness and irritation. So yes, the more stressed out you are, the tighter your skin will become, and thus more prone to stretch marks. Stress may also impact the marks’ severity since it reduces the skin’s ability to deal with stretching. So for the sake of your sanity and skin, stay calm!
10. Drinking plenty of water soothes stretch marks.
True. I mean, you should be drinking plenty of water already, since it helps keep your entire body in proper working order, as well as supports skin health. Water is directly related to the appearance and state of your stretch marks because part of the water is, of course, used to hydrate the skin from the inside. And again, the more hydrated skin is, the less severe the stretch marks.
Tip: You should drink roughly 2.5 liters (or half a gallon) of water per day to stay in peak condition.
11. Weight loss will cure stretch marks.
Fake. It makes sense, in a way, since the stretch marks appeared as a result of intense weight gain, but the sad truth is, you won’t automatically get rid of stretch marks once you lose that weight. Once the tear has been created inside the dermis, there is no undoing that.
12. Stretch marks fade in time.
True. Beware, though, stretch marks don’t disappear in time (which is what some people seem to think). As your skin naturally regenerates, it sheds dead skin cells and brings forth new, healthy ones. Simultaneously, the fresh wound at the core of the stretch mark heals, and so, the redness disappears, and the appearance of the affected area improves.
13. Thin people don’t get stretch marks.
Fake. This common misconception is that thin people don’t have stretch marks since the marks are related to weight gain. However, that’s not true; thin people are just as likely to get stretch marks because of puberty or muscle development.
14. Stretch marks signify an underlying condition.
True, though very rare. While most stretch marks don’t mean a thing and are a natural reaction to stretching from lack of moisture, in some rare cases, they may be a sign of an underlying health condition, such as Cushing Syndrome,
15. There are ways to avoid getting stretch marks.
Largely fake. Stretch marks are genetic, and so, there’s little you can do to “avoid” them during puberty or pregnancy. The only time when you might have some control over their appearance is when you work out. If you want to avoid stretch marks related to bodybuilding, it’s best to follow a moderate workout routine rather than an extreme one.
16. Stretch marks are scars, really.
True. Stretch marks are essentially a type of scar that happens on a deeper skin layer and starts out as an injury. This is why stretch marks, like scars, will fade over time.
17. There are multiple types of stretch marks.
True, sort of. Well, there are two phases in the life of a stretch mark: striae rubrae (when it’s bright red) and striae albae (when they’re white and faded). It’s said that red ones are easier to treat since your body is still trying to heal them at that point, and you may do things to support that.
18. All fresh stretch marks are red.
Fake. Yeah, I know I just said new marks are literally called red stretch marks, but the truth is, new stretch marks can also appear blue, purple, greenish, dark brown, and sometimes even black!
19. Tanning fades stretch marks.
Fake. The assumption here is that the tanning will make your skin appear more even-toned, but that’s not true. See, whether you use tanning beds or go suntanning, the rays will not penetrate deep enough to affect the color of the stretch mark and might actually make it stand out more, in contrast to your tanned skin. Not only that, but excessive tanning can have serious health repercussions!