Stretch marks appear when the skin is stretched excessively as a result of growth or weight gain. Stretchmarks in teenagers are common, especially as they approach puberty. They are not painful, but we recommend seeing a dermatologist because your teen may be concerned about the appearance. Stretchmarks in teenagers have several origins, symptoms, diagnoses, treatments, and preventions, as discussed in this post.
Where Do Stretchmarks Appear On Teen’s Body?
Stretchmarks usually appear on the abdomen, hips, thighs, legs, and chest (1) However, they can appear at any place where the skin is overstretched. Extreme stretching can cause purple or red scars due to changes in the connective tissues and collagen fibers within the skin.
Signs And Symptoms Of Stretchmarks In Teenagers
The appearance of stretchmarks may vary depending on the cause, duration, location, and type of skin. Usually, the following variations are noticed on the skin (2).
- Indented (edges with zigzag line) streaks
- Lines on the skin
- Bright streaks or fade streaks
- Streaks covering major parts of the skin
- Pink, red or purple colored streaks
- Black or blue streaks
Over time, darker streaks may fade to lighter colors.
Causes Of Teenage Stretchmarks
Any factors or conditions causing overstretching of the skin could result in stretchmarks. Puberty, rapid muscle growth and weight gain can be some of the causes for stretchmarks in boys and girls during teenage (3) (4).
Remember that the severity of the stretchmarks may vary depending on the skin type, genetic factors, skin elasticity, and cortisol levels. Cortisol is a hormone produced in adrenal glands, and increases the elasticity of skin fibers (5).
Risks Of Developing Stretchmarks
- Female gender
- Family history of stretchmarks
- Being overweight or obese
- Rapid weight loss or weight gain
- Long term use of corticosteroid medications (oral or topical steroid)
- Cushing’s syndrome (high levels of cortisol)
- Marfan syndrome (connective tissue disorder)
When To See A Doctor?
You may consult a pediatric dermatologist if your teen is concerned about the appearance of the skin. It is also good to see a doctor if stretchmarks are accompanied by other conditions, such as rapid weight gain, skin bruising, etc. Doctors can help identify the cause and initiate the treatment for the underlying cause if required.
Diagnosis Of Stretchmarks
Stretchmarks can be diagnosed on the physical examination of the skin. Your doctor may obtain a detailed medical history.
Blood tests and urine tests may be ordered to determine the level of cortisol. This can also be done by the dexamethasone suppression test, which is the collection of blood samples after taking a steroid (dexamethasone) pill (6).
Treatment For Stretchmarks In Teenagers
If there is an underlying cause of concern, then your teen’s doctor may initiate treatment for the condition. If stretchmarks are caused by obesity or overweight, then the teen would be guided by a nutritionist for a healthy diet and workout regime.
Stretch marks can fade away over time and are harmless. Treatments may only partially remove/diminish stretch marks. The best way is to identify and treat the underlying cause and maintain a healthy weight so that these marks may disappear over time.
The following treatments may be given to improve the appearance of stretchmarks. None of these methods has been proven to be highly effective. A dermatologist may recommend any of the following treatments (5) (7).
- Retinoid creams, lotions, or gels: These are derivatives of vitamin A. Tretinoin is one of the retinoid creams which is available as Retin-A, Renova, or Avita. Stretchmark creams can be applied to the skin, and they may help rebuild the skin collagen fibers and make them look somewhat like normal skin. This may cause skin irritation in some individuals.
- Laser and light therapies: These therapies stimulate the production of collagen and elastin of the skin.
- Microdermabrasion: This treatment uses a hand device to blow crystals that remove a fine layer of the skin. It could eventually stimulate the growth of more elastic skin.
- Non-ablative radiofrequency: It involves treatment with special radiofrequency devices to promote collagen growth.
- Microfocused ultrasound therapy: It is also known by the brand name Ultherapy. This method uses ultrasound waves to promote collagen growth and regain skin elasticity.
The following instructions may ensure better results with topical treatment:
- Apply products when the stretchmarks are new; mature stretchmarks are difficult to remove
- Massage the product gently over the marks to enhance its effectiveness
- Apply a product for a few weeks daily to get results
Researchers say that home remedies, such as massaging almond oil, olive oil, vitamin E, and cocoa butter, are not shown to be effective (7).
The dermatologist may recommend treatment depending on the skin type, cause, convenience, cost, and expectations. Do note that dermatologists may not encourage teens to undergo microdermabrasion and laser surgery for stretchmark removal since teens are growing, and new stretchmarks may appear.
How To Prevent Stretchmarks During Puberty?
The best way to decrease the chances of developing stretchmarks during teenage is to maintain a healthy weight. Parents need to discuss with their children about the need for a healthy diet and an exercise regime to avoid excess weight gain.
There are no proven procedures or medications to prevent stretch marks in puberty. Most stretch marks fade away over time (5).
How To Make Stretchmarks Less Noticeable?
The following may make stretchmarks less noticeable.
- Sunless self-tanners: Tanning lotions, sprays, or creams could help camouflage the stretchmarks. Do note that regular self-tanning will not help reduce stretchmarks or make them disappear (7).
- Makeup: You may ask your teenager to try water-resistant, cover-up makeup to hide the marks if they are concerned about it.
- Covering with clothes: You could also suggest your teens choose dresses that could cover the marks.
Stretch marks in teenagers are common. Your adolescent child may be conscious of the appearance of stretch marks. The occurrence and severity of stretch marks differ from one person to another. Overweight teens or those with a family history of stretch marks may be more prone to developing stretch marks. However, you should consult a healthcare professional if you notice other alarming symptoms, such as sudden weight gain, skin rashes, or any other abnormalities along with stretch marks.
2. Stretchmarks; St. Clair Hospital
3. Stretchmarks; The United States National Library of Medicine (NLM)
4. Stretchmarks; The National Health Service
5. Amanda M. Oakley and Bhupendra C. Patel, Stretchmarks (Striae); The United States National Library of Medicine (NLM)6. Cushing’s Syndrome; The National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases
7. Stretchmarks: Why They Appear And How To Get Rid Of Them; The American Academy of Dermatology