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6 Things to Know About Getting Rid of Stretch Marks

Medical experts weigh in on those pesky red lines on your skin—what causes them, how to treat them, and how to prevent them.

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6 Things to Know About Getting Rid of Stretch Marks

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It can be frustrating to work hard to gain muscle or lose weight, only to be plagued by stretch marks. For Timothy Schley, 32, stretch marks have been a part of his life from a young age when he had a big growth spurt, and he developed more on his shoulders and biceps when he started lifting weights frequently after high school. “I distinctly remember when they first started to appear—I had no idea what they were because they were only a quarter of an inch long but they gradually got bigger and bigger and then I realized they were stretch marks from weightlifting,” Schley says. “When they reached their maximum length at 4", they were pretty red and about half an inch wide.”

At the time, he hadn’t realized he could get stretch marks from working out. Schley tried some lotions to help fade the marks, but nothing seemed to make a difference. While he said there is some self-consciousness when he takes off his shirt for the first time in front of someone, it hasn’t stopped him from exercising, and he’s come to accept the marks. “Personally, I have looked at them as almost a badge of honor,” he says. “I think if I was a bodybuilder [who was getting on stage for competition], there might be a stigma simply because appearance is everything.” Still, Schley said he’d be willing to try something to get rid of them if he knew it was effective.

Kevin Hayen, 30, echoed a similar feeling. He developed stretch marks on his shoulders from lifting weights. “They kind of look like purple streaks. They bothered me a little when I first got them,” Hayen says. “I did a quick Google search on solutions and there didn't seem to be any fix so I settled for doing what I could to prevent any more, mainly making sure I was well hydrated before, during, and after lifts.” (Keep reading to learn more about how hydration plays a part with preventing stretch marks.) Hayen hasn’t gotten any more marks, and isn’t bugged by them, but would be open to trying a quick, easy, and effective solution.

The good news is, if you’re dealing with stretch marks, there is plenty you can do to fade them and make them less noticeable. Here, we’ve broken down everything you need to know about stretch marks and how to handle them.

 

What are stretch marks?

 

There’s a lot of confusion about what stretch marks actually are. Are stretch marks scars? Are they another skin condition altogether? The verdict is that the pesky marks are indeed scars, according to Bruce Katz, M.D., director of Manhattan’s Juva Skin and Laser Center and director of the Cosmetic Surgery & Laser Clinic at Mt. Sinai Hospital in New York City. “They’re caused by excessive stretching of the skin’s collagen,” he says. “There are two types, red marks are in the early stages and white marks are older scars.”

Stretch marks are known medically as “striae,” (linear marks), says Ariel Haus, M.D., of Dr. Haus Dermatology in London. “They are created when your skin is stretched very quickly and the skin cells cannot grow as fast,” he says. “The damage that you see is actually formed in the middle layer of the skin known as the dermis.” While the stretching/tearing of the skin isn’t painful, it does create the scars we know as stretch marks, says Haus. Stretch marks may look different on various skin tones, he says. They can be more noticeable in people with darker tones because of the higher melanin content in their skin.

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