The skin is like a large layer of spandex covering our body. If you pull on your skin and let go, it will snap back into place, following the contours of your body. When the skin is forced to stretch at a rate that cannot be sustained by its elasticity, stretch marks can form.
Stretch marks commonly occur during the rapid growth experienced during puberty and pregnancy. The development of body contours, such as breasts, the bulking up of muscles and rapid weight gain can also cause stretch marks. The likelihood of stretch marks forming is increased when the cortisone levels in the body are elevated.
Seen under a microscope, a stretch mark will reveal only a few elastic fibers in the centre and an abundance of curled and clustered elastic fibers at the edges. The collagen fibers, which are protein building blocks of the skin, are separated rather than grouped into bundles.
Initially these appear as red and purple lines of varying lengths and widths. Sometimes they are wrinkled and shiny. Gradually they fade to the same color or shade lighter than the surrounding skin and remain that way.
Women are more prone to stretch marks than men because of their hormones. They usually appear on the breasts, the lower abdomen, and buttocks and thighs, and the under portion of the upper arms.
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