Partially due to genetics, stretch marks are small tears in the dermis that result when the fat or muscle beneath the skin is growing at a faster rate than the skin itself.
“Even though the injury is happening below the surface, we can see these semithick colored and/or textured marks on the surface of the skin because the epidermis cells become full-thickness scar tissue,” says Dr. Barry DiBernardo. If your weight is fairly steady, you may be less likely to develop stretch marks, but there’s no guarantee that they won’t form. They commonly occur during pregnancy.
Ranging in size from fine lines to thick waves, stretch marks can vary in color and are usually red, pink or purple or white or silvery, which transition from darker to lighter with time. Regardless if they are new or old, stretch marks are permanent. “They are all dermal injuries, just with varying degrees of how deep the damage is,” says Dr. Barry DiBernardo.
Red stretch marks: These fresh, new marks are spread out, have just formed and are at the ideal stage for treating. “Their redness comes from prominent blood vessels that are in the growth phase of the scar,” says Dr. Marcene Alexiades-Armenakas.
White stretch marks: Older marks that have been on the skin for at least one year or more.
One thing’s for sure: There is no treatment that can completely eliminate or erase stretch marks but there are treatmetns and procedures that may help reduce their appearance. The earlier you treat them—when they’re darker in color as opposed to when they begin to fade and turn white or silvery—the better your chances of reducing them. The lighter they are, the harder they are to treat because there’s less pigment in the mark, making them less responsive to treatment.