Like lighting strikes and fingerprints, no two stretch marks are exactly alike. They can appear on your butt or hips or back or breasts or stomach or really anywhere your skin might stretch. The marks, which are technically scars, can reach up vertically or branch out like a tree or wind along your curves. They can vary in colour from bright white to deep red. Oh, and they can itch — like really itch.
It's a phenomenon that we've experienced ourselves that — to be honest — concerned even us. It's never reassuring when any part of your body randomly tingles or aches, so we talked to a number of dermatologists to find out what's behind it. Turns out, itching is as natural as the marks themselves. And, as you might have guessed, it does mean they're growing.
"They itch when they are developing," explains California-based dermatologist Dr Annie Chiu. "Stretch marks are essentially a type of scarring, and there are changes in the collagen that occur. They only typically itch during that progressive phase."
Active stretch marks, which are often red, tend to itch more because the skin in that area is thinner. "Because a stretch mark is thin, it feels softer, and therefore it has less support," dermatologist Ellen Marmur, MD, says. "The nerve effectors aren’t supported by collagen, so they’re more sensitive and are more prone to making you feel that itch."
Typically a stretch mark doesn't itch for days on end, but if you are looking for some relief, Dr. Chiu recommends a soothing neutral moisturiser, while New York City-based dermatologist Hadley King, MD, likes a topical anti-itch cortisone cream.
If you're a person who loves and embraces your stretch marks, then the itch is natural and nothing to worry about. But if the fact that they're growing concerns you, there are things you can do to help them fade — especially during this phase when they're still young and easier to treat. Dr. Marmur recommends Bio Oil, while aesthetician Jodi Shays of Queen Bee Salon & Spa says that vitamin E oils and even shea butter can be incredibly helpful as well. Just whatever you do, don't scratch.