Stretch marks are tiny tears in the dermis − the second layer of skin − that result in permanent scarring. They occur when the tissue under the skin is stretched and loses its elasticity. Marks vary in color, ranging from red to purple and usually fading to white or flesh color over time. Some stretch marks will disappear altogether.
Stretch Marks are a Normal Part of Puberty
It is normal for teenagers to get some stretch marks. The marks occur when a person experiences a significant amount of growth or weight gain in a short period of time, such as during puberty. Getting stretch marks does not necessarily mean a person is overweight. Thin people can get the marks too, especially when experiencing a rapid growth spurt.
Who Gets Stretch Marks?
There are certain factors that increase a person’s chances of stretch marks, including:
- Having a dry skin type
- Rapid weight gain or loss
Most people think that only girls get stretch marks. Although they are more common in girls, boys can get stretch marks too, especially those who lift weights and gain a lot of weight quickly.
Stretch marks typically appear on the breasts, thighs, hips and butt, but some people will get marks on their backs and upper arms as well.
Making Stretch Marks Less Obvious
Although many manufacturers claim products containing emu oil, oleic acid, cocoa butter, wheat germ oil, vitamin E and lanolin will make stretch marks disappear, there is no scientific data backing up these claims. There are, however, many ways to make stretch marks less noticeable:
Sunless tanning treatments − Over-the-counter sprays or in-salon treatments can help to cover up stretch marks. Outdoor tanning or tanning beds do not work to diminish the appearance of stretch marks because the marks do not tan as well as undamaged skin.
Body makeup − When matched to an individual’s skin tone, body makeup can temporarily cover stretch marks.
Surgery − A dermatologist or plastic surgeon can use surgery or certain techniques to reduce the appearance of stretch marks. Microdermabrasion and laser treatments, although expensive, can make stretch marks less visible. Such techniques are not recommended for teens that are still growing.
Retin-A − Some dermatologists prescribe Retin-A Micro, a topical vitamin A treatment, to fade stretch marks.
When to Call a Doctor
If your child has stretch marks but has not experienced a rapid weight gain or growth spurt, there may be a different medical reason for the marks. Schedule an appointment with your child’s physician for an examination right away.