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NHS Choices - Symptoms of stretch marks

Stretch marks do not affect everyone and some people will not get them. It depends on your skin type. If your skin is more elastic, you are less likely to get stretch marks. If your skin contains a lower amount of collagen (a type of protein that keeps the skin stretchy), you are more likely to get stretch marks.

Stretch marks

An early sign of stretch marks is when the area of affected skin becomes thin, flattened and pink. Initially, the area may also feel itchy.

Stretch marks first appear as red or purple streaks or lines (striae rubra) on the surface of your skin. They are slightly raised to the touch and may feel wrinkly. Depending on your skin colour, they may also look pink, reddish brown or dark brown.

The lines will appear purple or pink in colour, before eventually flattening out. As the lines become flatter they will begin to fade and will usually change to a white colour (striae alba).

Stretch marks may appear in patches of parallel lines on your body. Your skin over the stretch marks may look thin and silvery and can often look scar-like.

In many cases, stretch marks fade and become less noticeable over time, but this can take years.

Common areas for stretch marks

Stretch marks can appear anywhere on your body where your skin has been stretched. However, they usually occur on the parts of your body where fat is stored, such as your:

  • abdomen (tummy)
  • buttocks
  • thighs
  • upper arms
  • breasts (in women)
  • shoulders of bodybuilders

Stretch marks that are caused by using corticosteroid treatments and by Cushing’s syndrome tend to be wider and larger and can also appear on the face.

See Stretch marks - causes for more information about corticosteroid treatments and Cushing’s syndrome.

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Related Information

Introduction - Find everything you need to know about Stretch Marks including causes, symptoms, diagnosis and treatment, with links to other useful resources.... more

Symptoms of stretch marks - Stretch marks first appear as red streaks or lines on the surface of your skin that are slightly raised to the touch. Depending on the colour of your skin they... more

Causes of stretch marks - Stretch marks appear when your skin is stretched suddenly. They occur in the strong middle layer of your skin (the dermis), which supports your skin's outer... more

Diagnosing stretch marks - Stretch marks are not harmful and there is usually no need to see your GP about them.However, if you feel that your stretch marks are unsightly and they are... more

Treating stretch marks - There is no specific medical treatment for stretch marks and in most cases there is no need to see your GP about them. Most stretch marks fade over time and... more

Preventing stretch marks - Stretch marks are very common and they cannot be prevented altogether. However, the following advice may help you to reduce your risk of developing stretch... more

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