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Striae distensae, stretch marks

What is it?

Stretch marks are lesions resulting from the degeneration of elastic fibers in the skin which occur due to their excessive distension or to hormonal changes. Is a common occurrence during puberty because of the accelerated growth at this stage of life and also in obesity and pregnancy.

Stretch marks can appear in both sexes, being more common in females.

Characteristics and symptoms

Stretch marks are linear lesions, generally parallel, which can vary from one to several inches in length. Arise mainly in the thighs, buttocks, abdomen (pregnancy) and dorsal trunk (men).

Initially the lesions are red or pink evolving later into a whitish hue. In dark-skinned people stretch marks may be darker than the normal skin. The skin in the affected area has loose consistency.

Prolonged use and high doses of corticosteroids may lead to the formation of broad and purplish stretch marks as a side effect. Even the use of creams containing potent corticosteroids in areas of thin skin, such as armpits and groin, may lead to the emergence of the lesions (photo below).


To prevent stretch marks it is recommended intense hydration of the skin with appropriate moisturizing creams and lotions, especially in people with a family history of stretch marks and who are undergoing intense growth or weight gain. They should drink at least eight large glasses of water a day (about 2 liters), avoid gaining weight too quickly, eliminate sweets and fats in the diet and exercise regularly.

Stretch marks are permanent lesions and therefore there is no treatment that makes the skin go back to what it was before. Treatment aims to improve the aesthetic appearance by stimulating the formation of collagen tissue in the lesions. For this purpose various techniques may be employed, including: peeling, subcision, dermabrasion, intradermotherapy, laser and daily use of medicines with tretinoin.

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