Stretch marks are a common skin condition. They occur as a response to rapid skin stretching. At first, fresh stretch marks typically appear red. They can also vary in color between:
As stretch marks heal, they turn white and continue to fade over time.
Since stretch marks occur from skin stretching, the resulting red marks are most common in certain parts of the body at risk for stretching. These include your abdomen, thighs, and hips. However, stretch marks can occur anywhere.
Curious about the redness of fresh stretch marks? Read on to learn more about their various causes and what you can do to treat them.
You can think of new stretch marks as small injuries to your skin. Your skin then has a mild inflammatory response as your tissues try to adapt to the stretching effects. This explains why fresh stretch marks are red.
The redness doesn’t last forever. As stretch marks heal, they’ll eventually turn white and start to become less noticeable as they fade over time.
While red stretch marks are often stereotyped as being associated with weight gain, there are many other causes. Some of these other causes are related to underlying health conditions.
Some of the most common causes of stretch marks include:
- Weight changes. Gaining a lot of weight in a short amount of time puts pressure on your skin, which has to stretch out to accommodate the increased body mass. Depending on where you gain excess pounds, red stretch marks could appear anywhere on the body. Sometimes stretch marks can also occur due to rapid weight loss.
- Pregnancy. During pregnancy, you may experience rapid spurts of body growth, particularly around the abdomen, thigh, and hip areas during the second and third trimesters. The increased pressure can stretch out the skin, thereby leading to red stretch marks.
- Growth spurts. Adolescents can develop red stretch marks during puberty. These are a result of rapid body growth and not necessarily weight gain.
- Rapid muscle growth. Both weight training and body building can sometimes lead to red stretch marks from muscles that grow much bigger in a short period of time.
- Breast augmentation. Breast augmentation can result in stretched-out skin in the chest area. The risk for stretch marks may be greater depending on the elasticity of your skin, as well as the size of the implants you’re getting.
- Corticosteroids. While intended for short-term usage, using corticosteroids for too long can lead to adverse side effects. They can induce inflammation in the body, leading to weight gain and stretched skin. Using over-the-counter hydrocortisone may also thin your skin over time, putting you at risk for stretch marks.
- Family history. Stretch marks tend to run in families.
- Gender. Females are at least 2.5 times more likely to develop stretch marks. However, it’s important to note that both women and men are at risk of developing red stretch marks at some point, especially during puberty.
- Certain underlying medical conditions. Aside from rapid weight gain or obesity, other underlying health issues may lead to stretch marks. These include Ehlers-Danlos syndrome and Cushing syndrome.
Common locations for red stretch marks include:
- abdomen or stomach area
Stretch marks are also common on the arms and legs of athletes who experience rapid muscle growth.
Stretch marks fade on their own in the long term. There’s no way to completely erase them for good. Still, certain dermatological treatments may lighten red stretch marks so they look far less noticeable.
Talk to your dermatologist about some of the treatments used for stretch marks, including:
- Retinoid creams. One study found that just as much as 0.1 percent retinoid can reduce the appearance of red stretch marks.
- Light and laser therapies. These procedures work by using rapid pulses of light to destroy skin cells at the surface. They may reduce redness and inflammation for stretch marks. Still, laser therapy isn’t appropriate for all skin types, so you’ll want to make sure you go over all the possible risks and side effects with your doctor ahead of time.
- Microdermabrasion. Using small crystals, this procedure works by buffing off the top layer of skin, revealing smoother skin underneath. This won’t completely get rid of stretch marks, but it can reduce overall redness and appearance. While it’s available at beauty counters with a smaller price tag and quicker recovery time, professional procedures may work best for stretch marks.
- Chemical peels. These treatments also remove the outer layer of skin, with more intense effects. Chemical peels help with both tone and texture, reducing overall stretch mark appearance.
Not all treatments for stretch marks work, and some of them come with a large price tag without any guarantee. Instead, you can give home remedies a shot. Some of the following are used to reduce the appearance of red stretch marks:
Over-the-counter (OTC) creams
Certain OTC creams are specifically designed for stretch marks. These can contain ultra-moisturizing ingredients, such as cocoa butter, coconut or olive oil, and vitamin E.
While your skin might feel softer and suppler, there’s little evidence that these moisturizers treat stretch marks. Still, there’s a better chance these might work for red stretch marks versus white marks that are already starting to fade.
The key, according to the American Academy of Dermatology, is to make sure you massage these products into your skin. They can also take several weeks to work.
Also called “sunless tanners,” these OTC products come in the form of lotions, creams, and sprays. These can help cover up the redness of stretch marks, making them less noticeable.
You should never tan in the sun to get rid of stretch marks — not only can tanning increase your risk of premature skin aging and skin cancer, but it can also darken your stretch marks, making them morenoticeable instead.
Other products may contain glycolic acid, which is used as a chemical peel. The purpose is to smooth out the stretch marks on the skin.
Camouflaging body makeup can also help reduce the redness of your stretch marks as they heal. Make sure you look for waterproof formulas so the makeup stays on in the heat and humidity. You’ll also need to keep reapplying the product to maintain the desired effects.
While there’s no magic food you can eat to make your red stretch marks disappear, Cleveland Clinic notes that certain nutrients can, in fact, promote skin health and reduce stretch mark appearance. These include protein, vitamins A, C, and D, as well as zinc.
New stretch marks can appear bright red at first. This is due to the stretching of the surface of your skin, and the color is only temporary. After a while, the stretch marks will fade over time, eventually turning into light pink or white.
If home remedies don’t improve the appearance of your red stretch marks, consider talking to your doctor for treatment. They might suggest proper hydration, nutrition, and skin care. Your doctor may also run tests to make sure your stretch marks aren’t related to any underlying medical conditions.
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