Men and Stretch Marks

The Causes of and Treatments for Stretch Marks

Man Running
Man Running. Michael Regan / Staff / Getty Images

We tend to think of stretch marks, also known as striae, as something that affects women much more than men, but that is just not true. Men can - and do - get stretch marks, too. Even though the skin is incredibly flexible and adaptable, it does reach a point where it can no longer stretch any more without showing signs of wear and tear.

Stretch marks appear when the skin stretches faster than it can grow.

The dermis - the middle layer of the skin - gets thinner as it stretches and tears. These small tears cause the blood vessels to become  visible, which is what gives stretch marks their signature pinkish, purplish color. After some time the dermis heals and the stretch marks fade to return to a color closer to that of the surrounding, unaffected skin.

What Causes Stretch Marks?

Some men do seem to be predisposed to getting stretch marks. In some cases stretch marks may appear due to any number of health conditions that cause the overproduction of corticosteroid, a hormone. In addition to causing rapid weight gain, corticosteroid also decreases the amount of collagen in the skin, a protein that maintains skin elasticity.

Stretch marks are not harmful. They appear as irregularly shaped, discolored markings on the skin that look like stripes, lines or bands. Stretch marks might not be cosmetically appealing, but they are more common than you might think.

Some common causes of stretch marks for men include:

  • Rapid growth. Stretch marks commonly appear during adolescence due to growth spurts.
  • Body training. Athletes training to bulk up muscle, especially weightlifters, are more likely to get stretch marks due to the rapid changes in their bodies.
  • Weight gain. The skin is forced to stretch faster than it can grow, thus producing stretch marks.

    As previously mentioned, stretch marks are typically harmless, but they can occur as a result of medical conditions, including diabetesCushing's disease, and Ehlers-Danos syndrome. Certain medications, including hormone therapies, steroids and cortisone creams, have also been known to cause stretch marks.

    Stretch marks are almost always attributed to recent weight gain and are usually not indicative of any underlying health issues. However, if stretch marks appear and you haven't recently gained weight, you might want to meet with your doctor to rule out any health concerns.

    How to Get Rid of Stretch Marks

    Unsightly stretch marks can have a profound effect on a person's self-confidence. Know that they are very common, but if you feel embarrassed by them, there are treatment options out there. There are many over-the-counter personal care products that treat stretch marks, but finding a product that's truly effective comes down to trial and error. Many have a minimal effect on the appearance of stretch marks - or no effect at all.

    If you're serious about getting rid of your stretch marks, you should meet with your doctor. Tretinoin creams that are used to treat acne have been found to be effective on stretch marks. A tretinoin cream is believed to work by increasing the amount of connective tissue in the skin and preventing the breakdown of existing skin. Dermabrasion and laser treatment can also improve skin color and texture, and help reduce the appearance of even the most severe, unsightly stretch marks.

    Some causes of stretch marks - such as the rapid growth that occurs during the teenage years - are obviously unavoidable. Other things - like the rapid skin stretching caused by weight loss and weight gain - can be controlled. You can prevent stretch marks from forming by maintaining a healthy lifestyle, enjoying regular exercise and eating a sensible diet.

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