lady preventing stretch marks on thighs

What Are Stretch Marks?

Everything you need to know about stretch marks, including how to reduce them if you get them.

What Are Stretch Marks?

What are stretch marks and what causes them? All your stretch mark questions answered.

Stretch marks - lines or streaks across the skin - are very common and affect both men and women. Apart from sometimes being a bit itchy, stretch marks are harmless and totally normal. They are your body’s map of the journey you've been on together, whether it’s carrying a baby or growing and developing as a teenager. They might look a little different on others - they come in all shapes and sizes and shades and depths - but pretty much everyone has stretch marks and they are absolutely nothing to be ashamed of. Stretch marks can sometimes fade over time, but if they are bothering you, there are treatments that can help minimise them and soothe the affected areas.
What are stretch marks and what causes stretch marks? Here’s all you need to know about stretch marks, including how to reduce them if you get them.

What are stretch marks?


Stretch marks are a type of scar that is left when the skin is stretched quickly or shrinks rapidly. These sudden changes cause the collagen and elastin, two proteins that give the skin its elasticity, to rupture. When the skin is stretched suddenly, the middle layer of skin (called the dermis) becomes broken in places (think how an elastic band is left slack when it is stretched to its limits). Because the skin loses its elasticity, it can’t bounce back as easily, leaving the deeper layer of skin exposed. In short, the answer to what are stretch marks is that they are what remains after the skin has healed - another chapter in the story of your body.


What do stretch marks look like? 

Stretch marks are as varied as the individuals they appear on. Stretch marks come in a beautiful array of colours and shapes that are, like you, completely individual. They may appear as narrow bands across the skin or pitted, rippled marks, or sometimes they are angry red lines. On other people, they appear as purple slashes or silvery threads. They can be pink, red, brown, black, silver or purple and usually start off darker before fading. They may appear as indented streaks or lines on the abdomen, breasts, hips or buttocks. In other people, stretch marks show up as bright streaks that fade to a lighter colour.

What they look like will largely depend on what caused the stretch marks, how long you've had them, the colour of your skin and where they appear on your body. 
The type of skin you have will also impact whether you get stretch marks and what they look like - some people’s skin is more elastic meaning it can better accommodate expanding and is less likely to leave behind stretch marks. 

lady using cream to prevent stretch marks on thighs

young woman preventing stretch marks on thighs

Where do you get stretch marks?

Stretch marks are most common where your body stores fat, like your tummy, chest, bottom or hips, although they can appear anywhere on the body. Stretch marks on your thighs, lower back, or the backs of your arms are also common. 

What are stretch marks?

What causes stretch marks?

The most common causes - but by no means the only ones - of stretch marks are sudden growth or quick weight gain. While anyone can develop stretch marks, there are some factors that are more likely to cause stretch marks including:

1. Pregnancy 

What are stretch marks in pregnancy? Stretch marks in pregnancy usually appear on the tummy as it grows to accommodate the baby you are carrying. Hormonal changes in pregnancy can also affect your skin and make you more likely to get stretch marks. Stretch marks on thighs are common in pregnancy, and they also often appear on the breasts. 

What they look like and where they appear will be different for every woman. Often the first sign of stretch marks in pregnancy is feeling itchy where the skin has become thinner. The marks may gradually fade and become less visible after the baby is born, but the stretch marks are unlikely to go away completely - a beautiful reminder of how amazing your body and the new life it nurtured.


2. Puberty

What are stretch marks in puberty? Growth spurts during teenage years can cause the skin to stretch and tear leaving stretch marks behind that are likely to live with you well past your adolescence. Teen girls may notice them on their breasts, thighs, hips, or buttocks while adolescent boys are more likely to develop them on their lower backs or hips. 


3. Losing or gaining weight quickly

What are stretch marks related to weight gain or loss? Any dramatic changes to the body that cause the skin to expand or contract suddenly will leave their mark. And that's absolutely OK.


4. Other factors 

Women are more susceptible to stretch marks than men. It is estimated between 50% to 90% of women have them. But men can get them too, especially as a result of weight gain or loss, whether as a result of added muscle or fat. Using certain steroid creams or tablets can also lead to stretch marks, like the best china, stretch marks can be passed down from your mum or dad. So, if your mother got stretch marks on her thighs when she was pregnant with you, there's a good chance you will.  And they can be every bit as beautiful as the best china.  


5. Genetic disorders 

Rare genetic disorders such as Cushing's syndrome or Marfan syndrome can cause stretch marks.


What Are Stretch Marks?

Can stretch marks be treated?

Now we know what stretch marks are and what causes stretch marks, the next question is, can you minimise their appearance if you wish?
woman confident with stretch marks on thighs

Should you wish, stretch marks can be reduced and the affected area soothed and hydrated which can help particularly if they are new and may be inflamed and itchy. Natural oils in particular can help reduce the appearance of stretch marks on thighs and other areas, while creams and gels deliver excellent hydration and firming powers that absorb quickly, making them ideal for daytime use.


NIVEA Q10 Firming + Stretch Marks Body Oil works to firm and nourish the affected area helping to even out the skin tone. But if you’d rather a fast-absorbing gel-lotion, the NIVEA Q10 Multi Power 5 In 1 Firming + Cellulite Gel gives you a fast-absorbing hit of coenzyme Q10 and Lotus Extract which work together to firm and smooth the skin.


For more targeted treatment, NIVEA Q10 Firming + Reshaping Body Cream reduces the appearance of stretch marks on thighs, bottom and belly.