Stretch marks are lesion-like striations that appear on the skin's surface wherever the skin is stretched for prolonged periods of time. Depending upon your skin colour, they start out as raised pink, purple or dark brown lines that then fade to a shade lighter than your natural skin tone. They are commonly seen on the abdomen of pregnant women and also around the thighs, buttocks and waist of people who are overweight. Other than being unsightly stretch marks pose no risk to our health.
Stretch marks appear because our skin is actually made up from three layers. The top layer, called the epidermis, is very stretchy and can easily be pulled out of shape without breaking. The bottom layer closest to our interior is called the subcutaneous stratum, and in-between these two layers is the dermis.
The dermis is made up of hard connective fibres that are responsible for giving our skin strength. It is this dermis layer that under pressure of stretching begins to break, revealing a lighter skin layer below.
Effective treatment for stretch marks are few and far between. Cosmetic surgery offers the best route for many people, although even this is unlikely to remove evidence of them altogether.
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