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What are Striae?

By Shawn Bryan
Updated May 21, 2024
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Striae, also commonly called stretch marks, are unsightly bands in the skin normally caused by rapid growth or expansion. People are prone to striae when they gain weight rapidly or go through growth spurts as a teenager. Though there are a number of creams sold commercially that promise to get rid of stretch marks, there has been little evidence verifying their effectiveness.

Striae are most often seen in obese individuals who have gained weight at a rapid pace. These stretch marks often begin as purple bands in the areas where the skin has been forced beyond its natural elasticity. For women, these areas are usually located in the buttocks and thighs. For men, stretch marks are more often seen around the waist, where men typically put on excess fat.

Obesity is not the only cause of striae, however. Pregnancy can carry with it an almost inevitable rash of striae around the abdomen. There is little that can be done to prevent this from happening. Pregnant women looking to reduce the number of stretch marks from pregnancy may keep their skin well moisturized and avoid gaining excess weight beyond what is healthy for the baby.

Striae can also occur as a result of certain metabolic disorders, such as Cushing's syndrome. Cushing's syndrome is typically found in individuals who are exposed to a high dose of cortisol. Cortisone skin creams can also cause striae to appear. Sufferers often see marks on the knees and legs as a result of the disorder.

Stretch marks are perfectly normal if found as a result of obesity, puberty, or other known causes. However, if there is no obvious cause, a dermatologist should be consulted to get a definitive diagnosis. A dermatologist can make sure that what the person is seeing is actually striae and not something more serious, such as an infectious rash. The doctor can also work to discover what might be causing the stretch marks.

Though there are numerous products on the market that promise to get rid of or reduce stretch marks, no creams or ointments have been shown to make much of a difference. Stretch marks typically fade and lose their color over time. While they won't generally disappear, they may gradually become pale enough so as not to be particularly noticeable. Like scars, stretch marks don't normally tan with the rest of the skin, so staying out of the sun may be a good way to keep stretch marks from standing out.

BeautyAnswered is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.
Discussion Comments
By orangey03 — On Nov 10, 2011

Stretch marks that might go unnoticed on pale skin really do spring forth and announce their presence when you get a tan. I gained a lot of weight after a surgical procedure that rendered me unable to exercise for several months, and I got stretch marks on my thighs.

I lost the weight before I agreed to put on a bathing suit, but the marks were still there, though they had faded. You couldn't see them unless you looked closely. That all changed after a few trips to the tanning bed.

While the rest of my skin turned a lovely bronze shade, the stretch marks stayed white. My friend could see them on me from the other side of the beach.

By seag47 — On Nov 09, 2011

@Perdido - Striae can be horrifying to a teenager if they don't know what they are. Your husband is lucky he had his sister to keep him informed and tell him how to help them fade.

I got striae on my butt when I was about fourteen and it started to grow. I was glad to finally be getting a womanly shape, but I was frightened by the purple stripes on my flesh.

I thought that something was wrong with my veins. My dad raised me, and I was embarrassed to ask him about this, so I went to the school nurse.

She told me that it was a totally normal part of growing up, and I felt so relieved. It was nice to know that I didn't have some horrible disease.

By Perdido — On Nov 09, 2011

My husband got stretch marks when he had an extreme growth spurt during puberty. His legs grew to be very muscular and large, and he got bright purple stretch marks on his thighs.

He wasn't too vain about his appearance, so they didn't bother him much. He didn't plan to walk around in a bikini or anything, so it didn't matter.

He still has striae on his inner thighs, but they have faded a lot. I wouldn't have noticed them if he hadn't pointed them out. His sister told him when he was young that he should put cocoa butter on them, and because it is such a good moisturizer, it helped.

By kylee07drg — On Nov 08, 2011

I have never been pregnant, nor have I seen the abdomen of someone who has. So, I had no clue that stretch marks don't fully disappear. This is so sad to me!

Pregnancy is hard enough on a woman's body and mind. Women could surely do without the added downer of knowing their stretch marks will be with them forever.

What do models and actresses do after they have babies? They generally have to expose their abdomens for work, so how do they hide their stretch marks?

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