Finally: Science Can Explain Why Stretch Marks Happen

Photographed by Alexandra Gavillet.
Pretty much everyone is going to get stretch marks at some point (estimates of the marks' prevalence range from 50 to 80%), but we know surprisingly little about the way they form. However, new research gives us an up-close and personal look at the way our skin is changing when those lines appear.

The study, published online recently in the British Journal of Dermatology, examined the way pregnancy stretch marks (technical term: "striae gravidarum") actually form on our skin at the molecular level. The researchers took samples from the stretch marks and surrounding skin of 27 pregnant women and checked them out using 3-D imaging.

They found that, as you might suspect, pregnancy disrupts the stretchy network of fibers in your skin (which you can see in an amazing 3-D video below). Normally, the elasticity of these fibers is what allows your skin to snap back into place if you stretch it, but your body isn't able to repair them after they've been disrupted like this. And, what's more, the study authors say many of the products out there claiming to make stretch marks disappear aren't actually targeting this root cause.

"Because stretch marks may compound the stress of new motherhood for many women, it's important to learn more about them," Frank Wang, MD, the study's lead author, said in a press release. "Some women feel like their self-esteem, quality of life and willingness to engage in certain activities are affected."

Indeed, as we've written before, we aren't always prepared for the way our bodies change during and after pregnancy, and stretch marks may come as an unwelcome surprise. But, as this study proves, they are a totally normal part of many totally normal processes, including just growing up. So we say embrace your tiger stripes.
Video: Courtesy U-M Health System; Via YouTube.
Advertisement

More from Body

Ragazzi mi state seguendo in tanti e vorrei ringraziarvi e scusarmi se non riesco a rispondere a tutti...vi proprio ho una foto che mi ricorda tutte ...
Update: Kopp's original Facebook post has been removed, and, as Shape reports, the chances of contracting an infection so severe that draining is ...
Breast-feeding has numerous benefits for both mother and baby, but it doesn't always come as naturally as we might assume. And, as one viral photo shows, ...
Pregnant women get a lot of advice about motherhood, even when they don't ask for it. And in the first episode of Expecting, from Refinery29's comedy ...
Last week, Kelly Stanley was breast-feeding her 9-month-old baby during dinner when someone else at her table decided to grab a cloth napkin and try to ...
Periods may be annoying, but at least they're predictable — sort of. If yours is a little delayed this cycle, and you're not trying to get pregnant right ...
It sustains life. It boosts immunity. It may or may not taste like the milk left over from a bowl of Lucky Charms. (Full disclosure: I sampled mine just ...
(Paid Content) Stress sweat is different from regular sweat in that it feeds off bacteria and causes odor. Then you start to think about it — producing ...
Gina Rodriguez is the master of keeping it real. She's been open about everything from losing her virginity to coping with thyroid disease, so it makes ...
When you see your friend's adorable baby, your first instinct, understandably, is probably to hug and kiss her all over. However, you might want to think ...
Two years ago, Ericka Hart was about to walk into a Sephora in Lower Manhattan when she looked down at her ringing phone, and stopped right there on Wall...
Eve Torres Gracie, former WWE wrestler and current very dangerous person, posted a moving Instagram photo of her post-baby body today. Inspired by the ...
In an interview for People's Mom Talk video series, model and actress Molly Sims opened up about suffering through a thyroid problem that went ...
When I think about the aspect of sex that has made me most anxious over the course of my seven years of sexual activity so far, it’s not the risk of ...