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Written by Megan Ayala. Last Updated: February 12, 2022
Stretch marks are a skin concern that commonly occurs in women and men. That said, women tend to be more prone to getting stretch marks. More than 50 percent of female patients get them during pregnancy.
Most people are looking forward to fading and removing their stretch marks. However, some people embrace them as tiger stripes. However, they are more than a cosmetic concern since many people report associated itching.
In this article, you’ll explore more on stretch marks itch and how you could treat these itchy marks. You will also learn about different ways you can prevent them.
Stretch Marks: A Quick Definition & Explanation
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Stretch marks are generally variegated indentations that differ in coloration and size on the skin. Furthermore, the lines are the remnants of serious body changes that led to the skin stretching rapidly.
Common situations that cause accelerated growth and stretching of the skin include pregnancy, weight changes, breast augmentation surgery, and puberty. Autoimmune diseases and genetics can also make people more susceptible to stretch marks.
These lines typically come in different shapes and forms. Below are common examples:
- Striae atrophica. The marks, grooves, or ridges may be brightly-colored and large in number. Mostly, this formation occurs during a pregnancy’s last stage.
- Striae distensa. The marks are often stripe-like and tend to form horizontally. They appear with weight gain or puberty.
- Striae gravidarum. These stripe-like and vertically-oriented marks are commonly exclusive to pregnancy. Maternity may cause stretch marks on the belly, breasts, or thighs.
- Vergetures. This is a French word for “stretch marks,” particularly describing long stretch marks that cause the skin to look like it has been lashed with a whip.
Any of these formations may occur on your skin.
What Makes Stretch Marks Itchy?
It makes much sense that human skin would itch from different environmental irritants such as an insect bite or even poison ivy. However, what makes stretch marks itchy? When it comes to stretch marks, the itchy feeling may occur either because of dry skin, dermal tearing, or both.
Let’s expound on this.
- Dry skin. If the hydrolipidic barrier (that’s primarily responsible for holding water, oil, or fat molecules) on your skin breaks down, it will create small holes that inhibit the skin from retaining moisture. And when your skin lacks the required moisture, it results in that itchy discomfort.
- Healing skin. Once dermal tearing occurs because of stretched skin, your nerves will transmit an itchy feeling as part of the healing procedure.
Pregnant or postpartum women are often more prone to dry skin because of hormonal shifts and sudden changes in the body. Usually, this factor contributes to itchy skin.
Why Do You Get Stretch Marks When Gaining Weight?
An expanding belly, enlarged breasts, and weight gain are all factors that play a role in getting stretch marks. And as previously stated, hormonal changes during the pregnancy period cause the breaking down of the hydrolipidic barrier, and this results in an itchy sensation.
Pruritic urticarial papules and plaques of pregnancy (PUPPP) is an example of an irritating skin condition that women may encounter while pregnant. Patients who are undergoing their first pregnancy or have a bigger belly expansion are more prone to develop this condition.
With PUPPP, you may have red-colored bumps on the abdomen, thighs, and buttocks. The rash can form in the same place as stretch marks. Since these bumps are extremely itchy, they’ll irritate stretch-marked skin.
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Because PUPPP could be mistaken for other serious pregnancy concerns, it would be best to talk about this skin issue with your doctor during your check-up. The rash may clear up within several days after giving birth. However, antihistamines, anti-itch lotions, or even topical steroids may relieve symptoms in the meantime.
Other Causes Of Itchy Stretch Marks
It is worth noting that irritating stretch marks are not just experienced with pregnant women or bodybuilders. Any person may end up with stretch marks. That said, certain factors increase the chances of development.
Common characteristics of people with stretch marks include:
- Family history (or genetic predisposition)
- Rapid weight changes
- Undergone breast augmentation surgery
- Ongoing hormonal fluctuations
- Going through puberty
- Users of topical hydrocortisone (it causes thinner skin).
The above illustrates how the formation of stretch marks is beyond our control. Furthermore, other diseases e.g., autoimmune disorders enhance the likelihood of stretch mark development.
Such medical conditions include:
- Ehlers-Danlos syndrome
- Cushing syndrome
- Marfan’s syndrome
While stretch mark prevention is not always possible, you can discover ways to treat and relieve itchy stretch marks.
Tips On How To Treat Itchy Stretch Marks
Scratching becomes old after some time, and it just makes it feel better for a fairly short period. Here are some solutions/ useful tips on how to treat your itchy stretch marks.
If your skin’s itchiness is caused by a loss of the hydrolipidic barrier, using a moisturizer or lotion can be enough for alleviation since it replenishes dry skin.
Use Topical Corticosteroids
When it comes to severe irritation on stretch marks from certain conditions such as PUPPP, using topical corticosteroids will offer relief.
Vitamin E or Coconut Oil
Oils can nourish and soothe your skin. Various plant-based oils like coconut, almond, or olive oil work perfectly on irritated skin. Additionally, Vitamin E oil is also a product that’s highly beneficial to the skin and is available at many retailers. If you’d prefer to avoid these because of your oily skin, you can use jojoba oil as an alternative.
Going for massages works the same! Massaging your stretch marks with these oils can help minimize itchiness. It also assists to improve your skin’s elasticity and hydration levels. Apart from keeping your skin healthy and relieving stretch marks, oil massages during pregnancy may also help calm pregnancy-related anxiety and stress.
That said, always consult a health specialist before massaging your abdomen. You also need to be careful of the pressure that’s being applied.
Quite frankly, this is one of the most commonly used skin care products available. Its moisturizing benefits calm itching. It may also minimize the appearance of stretch marks.
Another method of avoiding itchy stretch marks is to prevent them from occurring in the first place. Below are some tips for itchy stretch mark prevention.
- Take good care of your skin. Consider giving your skin some TLC by staying hydrated, eating a healthy diet, or taking necessary supplements. This helps your skin to lock in nutrients and moisture.
- Weight moderation. By maintaining a steady weight, you may prevent the rapid body changes that result in stretch marks. Generally, extreme weight loss programs may promise favorable results quicker but enhance your likelihood of developing stretch marks. For this reason, we recommend sticking with a diet that has been proven to work long-term.
- Using stretch mark cream. Stretch mark cream is highly beneficial in getting ahead of your stretch mark issue since it enhances elasticity and resilience. Undoubtedly, this is highly useful for people who are naturally susceptible to stretch marks. A pregnant woman needs to apply stretch mark cream when it comes to rapid growth areas like the belly, thighs, and breasts. A top-quality stretch mark cream is uniquely made to nourish the skin since it recovers from stretch marks resulting from rapid body change.
Just like most stretch marks fade with time, you will likely experience a gradual decline in your itchiness. Nonetheless, if your stretch marks continue itching seriously despite home treatments, it would be prudent to visit your doctor for an evaluation. You also need to call your doctor in case your stretch marks come with a rash.