Stretch Marks

Striae on the right chest/upper arm caused by medication
Stretch marks (striae) are linear scars that develop as a result of rapid growth or over-stretching of the skin. They can be of significant cosmetic concern to many people. This is a common condition seen in people who gain weight or are obese, in people who exercise a lot and stretch their skin, in pregnant women on the abdomen, hips, buttocks, and sometimes breasts, and in adolescents who undergo growth spurts and develop striae on their lower back, legs, arms, and breasts. Certain topical medications may also cause the appearance of stretch marks in susceptible areas of the skin.

There are different types of stretch marks. Initially, stretch marks have a pink or purple color and can be slightly elevated. These stretch marks are called striae rubra which can later change color, at which time they are called striae alba. Striae alba are white and linear. Names for other types of stretch marks are striae distensae and striae atrophicans.

What causes stretch marks? Striae are a result of many factors. These include a patient’s genetics, mechanical stress (e.g., stretching the skin), and hormones. Certain topical medications with prolonged application can lead to stretch marks on the skin.

Who gets stretch marks? Striae distensae occur on up to 90% of pregnant women, 70% of adolescent women, and 40% of adolescent men. Most of these adolescents participate in sports that aggravate the stretching of the skin and cause these linear scars. Weight-lifting is one of the most common sports that lead to striae, usually seen on the chest and shoulder area.

How can striae be treated?
Treatment should be gradual and the best results come from a combination of multiple treatment modalities. In general, older striae (striae alba) responds more slowly and less dramatically to therapy than the redder striae (striae rubra).

  • Many studies have shown that topical tretinoin and glycolic acids can improve the appearance of striae which are caused by reduced volume; both of these products stimulate the production of new collagen which helps to repair the damaged skin in the stretch mark.
  • Non-ablative lasers such as the Smoothbeam laser and V-Beam laser has been shown to produce improvement by stimulating the production of collagen underneath the skin surface. Smoothbeam lasers are used to improve striae alba and the V-Beam lasers are used to improve striae rubra. To learn more about our lasers, you may visit

We look forward to discussing all of the above treatment options and finding the best regimen for you.