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Supermodels have them. So do A-list actresses, your family members, and your friends—and chances are you do, too. We’re talking stretch marks, which occur in up to 80% of the population. And even though they’re supercommon, there still isn’t an easy way to get rid of them. The same thing goes for scars, which tend to stay with you for life. Here’s what you can do to minimize marks and feel better when you bare it all.
Scars can occur anywhere a wound heals. “Depressed or raised scars happen when the body is mending damage in the deep layers of the skin,” says Dendy Engelman, M.D., a New York City-based dermatologic surgeon. “The new collagen created to replace the damage can have a different texture, which results in a raised or indented scar.”
Stretch marks are actually a type of scar. “Stretch marks, or striae, are the thin streaks or lines that develop on the skin’s surface when the skin is stretched beyond its elastic capacity,” explains Paul Jarrod Frank, M.D., a cosmetic dermatologist and the founder of PFrankMD. “When a part of the body grows in a short amount of time, the fibers in the middle layer of skin, or the dermis, can break and cause small tears in the tissue. These tears can reveal blood vessels in the deeper skin layers, resulting in pink, red, or purple lines on the skin’s surface. Eventually, as the blood vessels contract, the discoloration will fade and the streaks may look similar to a scar.”
Though our skin is amazingly resilient, a rapid body change—such as during puberty, pregnancy, major weight gain, or a growth spurt—can literally leave its mark. Stretch marks can appear anywhere on the body, but they’re most likely to crop up in places with larger fat deposits, including the abdomen, butt, breasts, and thighs. They’re more common among women.
The size of a scar largely depends on the elasticity and thickness of skin. Genetics and ethnicity can influence both. “Darker skin types may form enlarged scars,” says Charlene DeHaven, M.D., clinical director for Innovative Skincare.
While you can’t control your genes, you can take steps to reduce the appearance of stretch marks and scars.
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