Stretch marks are the visible signs of skin stretching. They are most often talked about in relation to pregnancy, but in fact any type of rapid growth, including growth spurts during puberty, rapid weight gain and body building, can cause stretch marks to appear.

Whenever flesh grows at a more rapid rate than the skin covering it is able to match, the layer of collagen in the skin may be broken down and tear, leaving behind a mark which, when newly formed, is a pink through to deep purple colour, and which will fade to a silvery shade in dark skinned people and to pinkish in fair skinned people once the stretching has stopped.

Stretch marks do not hurt. However, while they are forming the separation of the collagen layer in the skin can cause a horrible itching or a tingly sensation. Some creams and ointments on the market can alleviate these sensations.

That is all they can do, however. Nothing applied to the top of the skin can affect the way your collagen will react to stretching. Some people believe that because they have seen postpartum women with minimal or no stretch marks that medications and before-care can prevent them. 

People have different levels of cortisone in their bodies, and cortisone stops nearly every aspect of collagen formation. People with adequate levels (for other body functions) of cortisone in their bodies are more likely to suffer stretch marks, while those deficient in this hormone are least likely to be affected. The use of cortisone-containing creams and ointments over a long period will make the likelihood of being affected by stretch marks greater.

Once the skin is no longer being stretched, a strong vitamin A cream or ointment can, in some cases, reduce the redness of stretch marks (which usually disappears with time anyway), but it will not make them go away. Stretch marks can also be surgically treated with microdermabrasion. Neither treatment will make your skin look as though it had never been stretched.

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