Stretch Marks – What Is It, Different Types And How Can You Treat It?

Stretch marks, also known as welts or stretch marks, are linear skin lesions that occur when the skin stretches or shrinks too quickly. They commonly appear on the abdomen, buttocks, legs, breasts, and hips. In this blog we take a closer look at what it is, what causes it and what treatment options are available to reduce stretch marks.

What is striae?

Stretch marks, are common skin lesions with a prevalence between 50% and 90%. They usually occur between the ages of 5 and 50 years. Stretch marks are more common in women than in men and are more prominent in people with darker skin tones. During puberty, the prevalence of stretch marks varies between 6% and 86%, and in obesity it is 43%. There is also a higher prevalence in people with a larger abdominal area and weight gain.

During pregnancy, where stretch marks are known as striae gravidarum, the prevalence ranges between 50% and 90% and is more commonly seen in younger women. Clinically, newly formed stretch marks first appear as linear pink or purple lesions, without significant skin depression (striae rubra). Over time, this lesion loses its pigmentation and becomes atrophic and white (striae albae). The most affected body parts are the breasts, forearms, abdomen, buttocks and thighs.

Prevalence may vary depending on age, gender, skin color, weight gain and pregnancy. More on skin care and pregnancy

What are the causes

Stretch marks can be classified according to their appearance:

  • Atrophic stretch marks (narrowed skin);
  • stretched stretch marks (stretching of the skin);
  • Black stretch marks;
  • Striae rubrae (red)/Striae albae (white);
  • Striae gravidarum (during pregnancy);
  • Striae caerulea (dark blue).

Clinically, stretch marks appear as red/purple lines or streaks that are aligned perpendicular to the direction of skin tension and lighten over time. Striae rubrae and albae can be distinguished by their clinical appearance. In the beginning, striae present as erythematous lesions (rubrae), but in the chronic stage they develop into hypopigmented (white) atrophic scars (albae).


It is a common problem that many people face. The main cause is the rapid stretching of the skin, but other factors can also play a role, such as genetic predisposition, hormonal changes and certain medical conditions. Pregnancy is a common cause of stretch marks as the abdomen grows rapidly during pregnancy and the skin is stretched. In addition, hormonal changes during puberty or the use of topical corticosteroids can also contribute to the development of stretch marks. An interesting finding is that high alcohol intake and reduced water intake were also found more frequently in women who developed Striae gravidarum.

Treatment options

While stretch marks cannot be completely removed, several treatment options are available to help reduce their appearance:

  1. Skin hydration: Regularly applying creams or oils with moisturizing and nourishing ingredients, such as vitamin E, aloe vera, and cocoa butter, can help hydrate the skin and improve its elasticity, making it less visible, but not healing it.
  2. Topicals: Applying topical agents such as tretinoin, glycolic acid, ascorbic acid, hyaluronic acid, and Centella Asiatica can help reduce stretch marks.
    • Tretinoin: Also known as vitamin A acid (prescribed by a doctor), may help reduce the appearance of stretch marks by boosting collagen production and renewing the skin. However, it is important to note that tretinoin is not safe to take during pregnancy. And also not wise to apply it to large parts of the skin due to possible skin irritation, burning and absorption in the body.
    • Glycolic Acid: May help reduce stretch marks by exfoliating the skin and boosting cell turnover. More about gycolic acid
    • Ascorbic Acid: Also known as Vitamin C, may help reduce stretch marks by boosting collagen production and firming the skin.
    • Hyaluronic Acid: May help hydrate the skin and improve elasticity, which can help reduce the appearance of stretch marks.
    • Centella Asiatica: Also known as Gotu Kola, may help reduce inflammation and improve skin elasticity, which can help reduce the appearance of stretch marks. It is important to note that the effectiveness of these ingredients may vary from person to person and using these ingredients alone is not enough to remove it completely.
  3. Laser Therapy: Laser treatments can help reduce redness and texture. Different types of lasers, such as fractional lasers and pulsed dye lasers, can be used to stimulate collagen production and improve skin texture.
  4. Microneedling: With microneedling, small needles are pricked into the skin, stimulating the skin to produce new collagen and elastin fibers. This can also help improve texture and color.
  5. Chemical peels: Chemical peels can help remove the top layer of skin, revealing new, healthier skin cells.

It is important to note that the effectiveness of treatments can vary depending on factors such as the age and depth of the stretch marks.

In other words

Stretch marks are linear skin lesions that are caused by the rapid stretching of the skin. While they cannot be completely removed, several treatment options are available to help reduce the appearance of stretch marks. Regular use of moisturizing creams, laser therapy, microneedling and chemical peels can help improve the texture and color of stretch marks.

Iconic Elements skin hydration squad

Collection of skin care products specially formulated to nourish, soothe and hydrate your skin.

Scar Care White Spots Vitiligo Facial Massage Calming Cream Natural Moisturizer Sensitive Cream Striae Stretch Marks
Iconic Elements selection

Natural Moisturizer Cream: Our Natural Moisturizer Cream offers triple action to moisturize, protect and soften your skin. It contains high-quality ingredients such as glycerin, ceramide, squalane and wax to intensively hydrate your skin and strengthen its natural barrier.

Sensitive Cream:Our Sensitive Cream has been carefully developed for delicate skin and includes avena sativa (oat extract), a soothing ingredient that keeps sensitive skin in harmony. This soft cream helps your skin glow in a calm and healthy way.

Calming Cream: It is enriched with ectoine and marshmallow root, both known for their calming properties. This cream soothes the skin, reduces inflammation and helps protect the skin against harmful external influences.

Picture of Dr. Francis Wu

Dr. Francis Wu

Dr. Francis Wu, een vooraanstaande dermatoloog, is de drijvende kracht achter Iconic Elements. Hij heeft sinds 2004 zijn expertise ingezet om een veilige en effectieve huidverzorgingslijn te creëren, geschikt voor zowel gezonde huid als huidproblemen. Iconic Elements, opgericht in 2016, is de eerste brede skincare lijn in Nederland ontwikkeld door een dermatoloog. Als medisch specialist streeft Dr. Wu naar het bevorderen van het welzijn van mensen door hoogwaardige en effectieve huidverzorgingsproducten te bieden. De proefdiervrije en vegan producten vermijden schadelijke chemicaliën en bevatten natuurlijke ingrediënten.
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