The short answer to what causes stretch marks is that the skin forms scars due to stretching. These scars your doctor will call striae and everyone else calls them stretch marks. But wait, there’s more. Let’s take a closer look at the underlying causes of stretch marks and just maybe we can prevent or lessen them.
Now that you have the quick answer to what causes stretch marks, let’s dig a little deeper.
Our skin is composed of layers. There’s the epidermis or outer layer. It consists of five sub-layers. Under the epidermis is the dermis and this is the layer that causes stretch marks. When the fibroblasts that form collagen and elastin fibers can’t keep up with rapid growth or if they are impaired, stretch marks are the results. Let me explain how this all fits together.
- Connective tissue is a matrix or kind of net that separates one part of our body from another. Within this connective tissue there exist cells known as fibroblasts.
- Fibroblast cells are responsible for creating collagen and elastin fibers.
- Collagen is a protein that is responsible for building new connective tissue.
- Elastin fibers are tiny spring-like protein fibers that give skin its elasticity.
Ergo, when fibroblast cells can’t keep up, there’s not enough collagen and elastin fibers and you get stretch marks. Now you can see the importance of having turbo active fibroblast cells if you want to prevent stretch marks.
What’s a girl (or guy) to do? (Yes, guys get stretch marks too.)
So what really causes stretch marks is the fibroblasts inability to do their job. The next question is what can you do to help your little overworked or underperforming fibroblasts?
The diet connection –
It’s no big secret that diet and exercise play a big part in healthy cell growth. An increase in protein may stimulate fibroblast production according to one study.
The rapid growth connection –
In the case where you’re body is growing faster than your body’s ability to keep up, creams can help. Creams with Retin A stimulate collagen production. Some oils such as grape seed oil and essential oils (carrot seed, calendula, geranium, lemon and others) are excellent collagen stimulators.
The genetic connection –
How well your body is able to produce collagen can have a genetic connection. Will your genes cause stretch marks? Not necessarily. It largely depends on the genes involved. There are genetic diseases that cause severe stretch marks. However, your genetic makeup may simply make you more prone to having stretch marks. This would be similar to your having a fat gene. Because you have the fat gene doesn’t necessarily mean you will be fat. However, knowing there may be a genetic connection should prompt you to take preventive measures.
See your doctor time
If you have severe stretch marks that don’t appear to be caused by rapid weight gain, pregnancy, rapid growth or taking drugs known to cause stretch marks, check with your doctor. You may have a medical condition that needs attention.
Who gets stretch marks?
- Women who are pregnant or gain too much weight too fast.
- Men who build muscle too fast, particularly if they use steroids or gain weight too rapidly.
- Teenagers who gain weight too rapidly or experience a sudden growth spurt.
- Anyone who has a genetic disorder that predisposes them to stretch marks or is on certain medications such as glucocorticoids.
Hope this post helps answer your question on what causes stretch marks. Two good things to keep in mind are that stretch marks, though they may be unsightly, they aren’t a threat to your health and they usually fade with time.
Now go have fun and relax.