The skin is the body’s largest organ and has the remarkable ability to expand and contract as needed. The skin is strong and elastic, but its supporting tissues can be damaged if they are stretched too far or too quickly.

This rapid expanding of the skin can lead to stretch marks. Stretch marks are a common problem that affects men and women of nearly all ages and skin types.

Up to 90 percent of women get stretch marks during pregnancy, though they also affect men, women, and teenagers. They often occur during periods of growth and body changes such as significant weight gain, puberty, and extreme muscle building.

What are stretch marks?

Stretch marks are lines or bands caused by stretching of the skin’s connective tissue.

When the middle layer of skin gets stretched too quickly, some of its collagen fibers can break. This allows underlying blood vessels to show through, leaving behind the telltale red or purplish marks.

Over time, they fade to a white or silver color as blood vessels heal. Typically, the marks don’t go away fully.

Though they are not physically painful, stretch marks can affect a person’s confidence and self-esteem. They can be disfiguring in severe cases.

Because of their psychological effects, experts have tried for years to find an effective treatment for these marks. Unfortunately, no treatment has been shown to erase them fully. New ways of treating stretch marks are emerging, however, and some of them show promise.

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