Stretch Marks in Pregnancy: types (red), cream, how to avoid?

Pregnancy brings a series of changes to a woman’s life. The routine is impacted, the mood becomes more unstable and, above all, the organism changes to provide conditions for the baby to gestate.

Countless cares can – and should – accompany the 9 months of pregnancy , which will be of intense organic and physical transformations.

One of the first changes, and also the most noticeable, is the growth of the belly. Generally, between the first 2 or 3 months it is already possible to identify a slight accentuation in the region. In addition to the enlargement of the uterus, due to fetal development, weight gain throughout the body tends to accompany pregnancy.

Although many women are aware of skin changes, undergoing treatments and using creams during pregnancy, it is not always possible to avoid stretch marks during pregnancy. However, the incidence can be minimized through preventive measures that combine treatments and food.

What are stretch marks?

Stretch marks are linear injuries or scars caused by the rupture of the elastic fibers of the skin. Initially they may itch or burn, but in general they have no reactions. The appearance of lesions is considered an aesthetic disorder, without causing risks or damage to health.

The condition can also be called atrophic striations or striae distensae, the condition is seen as a degeneration or cutaneous atrophy capable of showing variations in color and evolution.

Even though most people have some amount or degree of stretch marks, the condition still prevails in women. The assumption is that the incidence in females is higher due to genetic and hormonal factors, pregnancy and more frequent changes in weight.

The skin, which has a certain degree of elasticity, is prepared to adapt to changes in the body, which may involve growth, in addition to increasing or reducing weight.

However, when these changes are sudden, accelerated or very accentuated, the elasticity of the dermis may not be able to sustain the distention. Thus, fiber breakage occurs. Very fine-tuned skins are more susceptible to the appearance of stretch marks.

If there is a sudden stretch or elongation of the collagen and elastin fibers, they break and weaken the skin’s structure.

The rupture is considered a lesion that initially tends to be reddish due to the presence of blood supply.

However, over time, the blood supply stops, giving the atrophies white tones or closer to the color of the skin.

The amount is varied, depending on the proportion of damaged fibers, and can appear in any skin region, but the prevalence occurs in the belly, breasts, back, thighs and butt.

The skin

The skin constitutes about 15% of the body weight, being the largest organ of the human body. It is assigned the functions of protection, signal reception (touch), thermal regulation, secretion and excretion.

The organ consists of 3 layers, which are the epidermis, the dermis and the hypodermis.

In general, the composition of the skin is vascularized, with nerves, hair follicles and sweat and sebaceous glands. Of the 3 layers, the dermis is the richest in collagen and elastic fibers.

Among some functions, the dermis is responsible for the nutrition of the epidermis. Therefore, its disposal is just below the epidermis.

Although stretch marks are generally very noticeable, it is in the middle layer, the dermis, that they occur, as it is the portion with the highest concentration of elastic and collagen fibers.

Collagen

It is an abundant substance in the body, especially in the skin. The term collagen designates a group composed of 27 types of proteins , which are arranged in the extracellular matrix and in the connective tissues.

The collagen formation is composed of the amino acids proline, glycine, lysine hydroxylisin, hydroxyproline and alanine, which form chains and result in collagen fibers.

But in order for collagen to be synthesized and perform its organic functions correctly, the action of ascorbate (vitamin C), iron, glutamine and arginine is necessary.

When properly synthesized, the protein results in fibers capable of providing support, flexibility and stability to the tissues .

More than helping to shape and adapt the skin, it acts on other structures and tissues of the body, such as nails, hair, cartilage, as well as helping to maintain the intestinal walls after inflammatory processes.

The substance is found in food, but in cases where it is difficult to consume the proper amount, supplements may be an option.

In the course of life, the natural production of collagen reduces considerably. After the age of 30, there is an average reduction of 1% per year of protein in the body. The process occurs due to aging, which makes cell reproduction slower and more irregular.

For women, the greatest collagen loss occurs after menopause , in which up to 30% of the substance is reduced in the first year.

Types

There are mainly two types of stretch marks, the most reddish or purplish in color, and the most whitish. However, the factor that differentiates the two is the time in which the fibers broke.

Stretching of collagen fibers is initially active and may show redness around the region (in the tissue not affected by the stretch mark). Gradually, the color is softened and it is still possible that there are changes in the skin surface.

Therefore, it can be considered that the types of stretch marks are due to their evolution and skin recovery process.

But there are also characteristics of irregularity on the surface of the skin that can classify the marks.

Red streaks

They indicate that the lesion is in an initial state and, therefore, presents pink, red or purple hues, in addition to, in some cases, presenting a subtle elevation or irregularity of the skin.

The accentuated coloring is due to the blood supply still present in the region. Over time, stretch marks lighten, becoming closer to skin color or whitish.

In some cases, there may be the perception of itching in the region, which is alleviated in a few days.

White streaks

Gradually, the reddish hue of the stretch marks is attenuated. The coloring tends to migrate to whitish tones and, at that moment, the stria is classified as pearly .

This is due to the atrophy of melanocyte cells and reduced production of melanin, which is a substance responsible for skin pigmentation.

In general, there is no great differentiation of red streaks, with white ones being just older lesions and tend to respond less to treatments for removal.

Atrophic or hypertrophic

Stretch marks can be depressed or elevated in the skin layer. Changes in regularity tend to be more noticeable in large stretch marks, where there are large concentrations of injured fibers.

Stretch marks usually have misaligned concentrations of collagen fibers, with their structures modified, stretched or stretched.

Causes

Stretch marks in pregnancy are the result of skin stretching, caused by body weight gain and belly growth.

With rapid body changes, the layers of the skin are not able to keep up, and then end up distending due to pressure.

Various factors can favor the appearance of stretch marks during pregnancy, including age, skin dryness, diet and genetic factors.

The older you are, the lower the concentration of collagen in your body. Therefore, the tendency is for the skin to become more fragile, dry and less elastic every year.

Genetics is a difficult component to modify. Therefore, synthesis processes and collagen production cannot always be drastically improved, but care with food and the correct hydration of the skin can decrease dryness, increase elasticity and prevent stretch marks.

Skin care and health (adequate nutrition and hydration) help to minimize the appearance of marks.

Although they do not represent health risks or damages, in general, stretch marks are only a complaint of aesthetic discomfort.

Allied factors

Pregnancy initiated at older ages increases the likelihood of stretch marks. This is due to the natural reduction in collagen production resulting from aging.

Some of the factors that can promote the appearance of stretch marks are:

  • Adolescence : the body is still in a growth phase, which does not always occur in a relatively gradual and constant manner. Therefore, marked height changes can cause collagen fibers to stretch excessively;
  • Weight change : getting fat quickly can result in the appearance of stretch marks, especially in regions that concentrate fat cells, such as the thighs, belly and arms;
  • Constant weight change : even if the weight change is not sudden, causing the elastic fibers not to be damaged, constantly gaining weight and losing weight can weaken elastin and collagen, favoring the appearance of stretch marks, in addition to flaccidity;
  • Dry or fragile skin : dryness and low levels of hydration weaken the skin, making it more susceptible to fibrous lesions;
  • Hormonal changes : variation in hormone rates can cause changes in the skin, such as acne, oiliness or dryness. In addition, hormones can lead to weight gain, factors that, together, can accentuate the appearance of stretch marks;
  • Use of corticosteroids : some medications or substances can reduce the elasticity of the skin, including corticosteroids. They can also interfere with weight, accentuating the possibility of injury to the skin.
  • Hormonal changes due to pregnancy : there is an intense change in the production of hormones during pregnancy, including estrogen and cortisol, which can weaken the elastic layer of the skin;
  • First pregnancy : the appearance of stretch marks tends to be more frequent in the first pregnancy, due to the firmness of the collagen fibers. With pregnancy, the skin can become more flabby and minimize the exaggerated stretch of collagen;
  • Baby weight : the size of the baby or the gestation of twins (or triplets) impacts the high growth of the belly. In this case, the greater the space occupied by the baby, the greater the pressure under the skin.

There is a high incidence of the appearance of stretch marks in women between 10 and 16 years old, and in men between 14 and 20 years old. In adulthood, data indicate an occurrence up to 3 times higher in females.

In addition, pregnant women, obese and bodybuilders are also recurrently affected.

First signs

Itching and burning are not always present, but sometimes they can precede or accompany the first days of the appearance of stretch marks.

This is because the irregular and sudden stretching of the skin fibers causes the collagen to modify its structure, causing tactile perceptions in the region.

The itching may begin before there is a visible lesion on the skin, acting as an indication that the fibers have been injured. That is, in a short time it will be possible to visibly perceive the streak.

Symptoms are not always noticed, as they vary in intensity. In cases where there is itching or burning, caused by the skin injury process, they tend to decrease in a few days.

Is there a cure?

There are still no treatments capable of completely removing stretch marks, whether reddish or whitish. The options involve cosmetic and aesthetic treatments that improve the appearance of the region.

Read more: Stretch marks: what causes and how to treat?

Treatment during pregnancy

There are numerous treatments for stretch marks, which may involve creams, oils, collagen supplementation and skin stimulation. However, when the marks appear during pregnancy, it is necessary to be attentive to the interventions and their impacts on the mother and baby’s body.

The pregnant woman should pay attention, even, to the creams and compounds that she uses to hydrate the skin.

Moisturizers improve dryness and are good options to make your skin more beautiful and healthy. However, several products, even natural oils, can have a major influence on the formation and development of the baby, for example, castor oil.

Although natural, the substance can harm pregnancy, cause further damage to the baby, and there is a high relationship with cases of abortion if used in large quantities.

Treatments that prevent stretch marks and prepare the skin have good results for the health and beauty of the skin as a whole, as they also act to control oiliness, preventing dryness, reducing the possibility of blemishes and even skin diseases.

During pregnancy, it is necessary to carry out dermatological consultations combined with obstetrics, so that the best cosmetic compositions are recommended for each woman.

In general, manipulations with vegetable oils and collagen may be recommended, but only with medical indication.

Postpartum treatment

Aesthetic treatments should not be performed during pregnancy, as they can affect the baby’s development.

However, after delivery, some interventions can be performed without impairing breastfeeding. All procedures need to be indicated and monitored by the doctor, in addition to being performed by specialized aesthetic professionals.

Creams for stretch marks

The use of creams must maintain the same care taken during pregnancy, as the substances present in the product can penetrate the skin and change the composition of breast milk.

Non-ablative fractional laser

Through laser application, the skin has its collagen fibers stimulated. The process tends to improve the appearance of the skin, making the stretch mark less noticeable.

Non-ablative methods refer to the application of pulsed and controlled lighting to the most superficial layers of the skin. In general, it can be used to treat acne , wrinkles, expression lines, skin blemishes and stretch marks, especially the most recent ones.

Dermatology centers indicate that treatment can be performed after delivery, including during breastfeeding.

But people with autoimmune diseases , with high sensitivity to light or tanned skin should not do it.

The average price is around 700 to 1000 reais per session, being recommended between 5 and 6 sessions.

Fraxel

In addition to stretch marks, the method can be indicated in cases of acne, skin blemishes caused or not by the sun, some scars and wrinkles. The procedure works in more depth, reaching the inner layers of the dermis.

Initially, there is the application of anesthetic creams to ease possible discomfort during the session. Then the fraxel, which is a stimulating device, directs laser jets on the skin, promoting the collagen action of the region.

The application acts by injuring the skin and, consequently, promoting stimulation through healing.

The procedure is around 1000 reais per session and, generally, at least 4 applications are required.

Pulsed light

In the procedure, the collagen fibers are stimulated through a regulated incidence of light rays. The method, in general, does not cause pain and has better results in those with fair skin.

On average, 5 sessions are necessary for a significant improvement in the appearance of the skin, especially if the stretch marks are still reddish.

In general, 5 sessions are recommended, with costs between 400 and 700 reais per session.

Microagulhamento

The procedure is considered invasive and tends to be more painful. Through the incision of several microneedles in the region of the stretch mark, collagen is stimulated when the healing process of the region begins.

As there are microlesions of the skin, anesthesia is applied to avoid pain during the procedure.

It can be indicated to carry out up to 5 sessions, with values ​​of up to 1000 reais each.

Fractional radio frequency

The treatment is also invasive, as the collagen is stimulated through needles that make microperforations in the skin affected by the stretch mark. Small lesions cause the body to start a healing process, increasing collagen concentrations in the region.

Although similar to the microneedling process, radiofrequency also emits heat in the region, accelerating the results.

The procedure is more suitable for white stretch marks, which appeared longer.

On average, the method costs 800 reais per application, requiring up to 5 sessions to have good results.

Hyaluronic acid filling

Hyaluronic acid injections are applied to the region affected by the stretch mark. The substance fills the skin, giving more support to the tissue and resulting in the improvement of its appearance.

Aesthetics centers point out that the treatment is not able to change the color of the stretch marks, but it is possible to notice an improvement of up to 50% in the first application.

Hyaluronic acid is naturally produced by the body, so after treatment, the substance is gradually absorbed by the body and the skin tends to return to its striated appearance. Therefore, it is necessary to resort to the procedure again.

In this procedure, each application can cost between 1 and 2 thousand reais, but the effects are already seen in the first intervention. In general, it is recommended that other sessions be held between 6 months and 2 years.

Carboxytherapy

Through small incisions in the region of the stretch marks, small amounts of carbon dioxide are injected.

The application is on the superficial part of the skin, but it causes a stimulation of the blood circulation, inflates the layers (being indicated for the streaks that present atrophic) and gives more regularity to the surface of the skin.

On average, each session costs 130 reais and, for visible results, sometimes up to 10 sessions are necessary.

How to prevent stretch marks in pregnancy?

The ideal is that the prevention of the appearance of stretch marks occurs not only during pregnancy, but throughout life.

Some effective tips to avoid stretch marks during pregnancy are:

Hydration

The ingestion of the adequate amount of water, on average 2 liters daily, promotes improvements to the whole organism.

When the body is well hydrated, the signs of dryness and flaking of the skin tend to decrease. This provides more flexibility and resistance to the tissue, since the liquid favors the appropriate collagen action.

The result is that the skin, nails and hair are healthier, beautiful and resistant.

Healthy eating

Eating balanced and functional meals, ingesting nutrients properly, always with nutritional indication and monitoring, also results in skin responses.

In general, it is indicated to reduce the amount of sodium and industrialized products , which tend to accentuate the dryness of the skin and favor swelling. In addition, caffeine-rich foods, such as coffees, soft drinks and some types of tea, can also promote the appearance of stretch marks.

Choosing a more balanced and diverse diet does not mean abolishing sweets or fats, but consuming them in a healthy and moderate way.

Especially during pregnancy, women report feeling a desire for foods that are generally more caloric, sugary or fatty. However, it is during this period that investing in a nutrient-rich, natural and healthy food routine becomes more essential.

Because it is through the mother’s feeding that the baby will be nourished, helping in its development, formation and being able to avoid future problems.

So, in addition to providing healthier skin, adopting a balanced diet brings benefits for all pregnancy and postpartum.

Collagen-rich foods

Investing in a menu rich in animal proteins and omega 3 is the best way to increase collagen sources.

White and red meats, in addition to gelatin – which is also of animal origin – and seeds, such as flaxseed and chia, are essential to maintain collagen production by the body properly.

But, in addition, it is necessary to ingest sources of vitamin C, vitamin E , copper, selenium, zinc and silicon, as the substances interact with proteins and promote the best collagen synthesis, which can increase absorption up to 8 times.

Foods like pineapple, orange, acerola are rich in vitamin C and can be combined with a protein meal.

Moisturizing creams

There are different types of skin, which require specific products. While some are more oily, others tend to dry out.

The commercialized cosmetic products cover all dermatological specificities and can be found in cream, gel, oil and spray forms, for example. When the product is handled, the dermatologist will prescribe the most suitable substances and quantities for each purpose and skin type.

More than just moisturizing, there are cosmetics that are developed to act directly on stretch marks, softening the marks and improving the appearance of the skin.

Before you start using any moisturizing cream or oil, you need to talk to a healthcare professional and evaluate the chemical composition of the product.

Even if the moisturizer is used only on the skin, it has the ability to penetrate the body and may interfere with the gestational process.

Massage and skin stimuli

Especially the regions of the belly and breasts deserve special attention. Performing massage activates local circulation and can assist in elasticity.

If done with creams and moisturizers, massages can help penetrate the product, accentuating its effects.

Appropriate clothing

In addition to taking care of the fabric, which must be comfortable and malleable, it is necessary to be attentive to the firmness of the clothes, including the intimate ones. Tops, panties and bras should help support the belly and breasts, reducing the pressure suffered by the skin.

Collagen supplementation

The use of any food or nutritional supplement, especially during pregnancy, should be indicated by a doctor or nutritionist .

In general, hydrolyzed collagen is well tolerated, even during pregnancy and breastfeeding. The component complements the intake when there are difficulties or problems that prevent you from obtaining it in an adequate amount just by feeding.

In these cases, the supplement assists in maintaining skin hydration and resistance, acting to prevent stretch marks. In addition, flaccidity can be reduced in the postpartum period due to the action of the substance.

Studies indicate that an intake between 8g and 10g of hydrolyzed collagen is enough to give more health to the skin, in cases where there is a lack of the substance. But it is not only on the skin that the product can act, as the supplement strengthens bones, cartilage, arteries and tendons.

However, it is important to note that the substance ingested does not effectively become the collagen in the body. When the hydrolyzed component is consumed, the body transforms it into other substances, such as amino acids.

In summary, it is the body itself that defines the destination of the supplement. Therefore, the supplement is just as effective in producing collagen as other protein-rich foods.

What is the best cream for stretch marks in pregnancy?

There are products enriched with coenzyme Q10, vitamin E and collagen, for example, with deep penetration or that moisturize the skin more superficially. They can be part of the pregnant woman’s self-care routine and help prevent stretch marks.

In general, oils do not penetrate the skin, so they do not increase tissue hydration. But they form a layer that prevents or decreases water loss, retaining natural moisture. The product, because it is not able to penetrate the skin, generally offers less risk to the baby’s health.

Currently there are cosmetic and aesthetic lines aimed at motherhood. They are creams, oils and make-up designed for the health of the mother and baby, which meet the needs of the gestational period and are generally easy to find.

Some products that help moisturize the pregnant woman’s skin and are even indicated for stretch marks are:

  • Bepantol Baby : indicated for the hydration of the baby’s skin, preventing and treating diaper rash, dermatitis and injuries. Based on dexpanthenol, the product intensively protects the skin;
  • Almond oil: natural oil with properties that help maintain skin hydration and prevent dryness;
  • Weleda Stretch Mark Prevention Oil : it has only vegetable ingredients, such as sweet almonds, jojoba, germ oil and arnica extract, capable of helping to tone the skin and make it more elastic and firm;
  • Materskin Body Lotion : developed for the skin of women in the gestational stage, it contains macadamia, calendula and almond oils;
  • Payot Maternité Body Cream : has a formula enriched with milk proteins and amino acids, helps in preventing stretch marks and combats sagging skin.

What not to use during pregnancy

Anvisa published a list of restrictions indicated for pregnant women. Products containing camphor, urea (over 3%) or lead are relatively common in cosmetics and moisturizers, but they can pose risks to pregnant women.

Camphor is a natural substance, but its action can be quite toxic, affecting the baby’s formation or even leading to miscarriage.

Urea, on the other hand, can cause malformation of the baby, causing chemical substances to also penetrate the nutrition pathways.

Lead is a very common component in cosmetics, especially in makeup. However, high concentrations can be harmful to the body, especially during pregnancy.

Staying in frequent contact, even in small concentrations, can cause metabolic dysregulation, increase the risk of blood pressure and cause elevations of lead in the body, which can cause dysfunctions in the renal, cardiovascular and nervous systems.

Products based on or containing acids can also present risks for pregnant women or those who still intend to become pregnant. The interference in the organism is such that, for those who are planning to be a mother, it is indicated to suspend the use 3 months before trying to get pregnant.

Acids are widely used for treatments that lighten the skin, remove acne and reduce aging. The best known are retinoic, glycolic and salicylic acid.

Some dermatologists indicate care with hydroquinone substances, generally used in products that lighten the skin, or tretinoin, adapalene and isotretinoin, derivatives of vitamin A, can be dangerous during pregnancy.

Although there are no conclusive data on the toxicity or dangers of these substances, many professionals suggest avoiding it.

Common questions

How to take stretch marks from pregnancy?

As with any other source, stretch marks caused by pregnancy can only be soothed with aesthetic and cosmetic treatments.

When the marks on the skin are small or more subtle, the tendency is that the procedures almost make them imperceptible. But the treatment for stretch marks is only intended to decrease or soften the condition.

What is the best way to prevent stretch marks in pregnancy?

The most effective measure is through constant skin hydration, not only during pregnancy.

The use of creams with urea protein, natural oils and silicone-based are very effective and have been shown to reduce the incidence of stretch marks in pregnant women.

However, during pregnancy, creams and moisturizers must be recommended by the doctor.

When to start preventing?

Ideally, prevention should be done throughout life. But if the woman leaves to take care of the skin only during pregnancy, care must begin from the first months. The use of creams, the regulation of food and care with hydration are essential.

Does drinking water prevent stretch marks?

Water, by itself, does not prevent the appearance. But adequate and daily intake of the liquid helps in hydration and, therefore, favors the proper functioning of the entire organism. The result is a skin that is more hydrated, resistant and less susceptible to stretch marks.

Does scratching the skin cause stretch marks?

No, just as not scratching the skin does not prevent it from appearing. What happens is that, sometimes, the lesion in the collagen fiber has already occurred, but it has not yet manifested itself visually. This causes the skin to itch for no apparent reason.

Ideally, when itching, apply moisturizers to avoid hurting your skin with your nails. But this does not favor or prevent the appearance of stretch marks.

Can the cold make stretch marks worse?

No, climatic conditions do not impact the appearance of stretch marks. However, low temperatures can favor the dryness of the skin and weaken collagen fibers, worsening the appearance of existing stretch marks.


Pregnancy is a period of major changes in the body, including internal and external changes.

Weight gain, hormonal changes, new eating habits can result in signs on the skin that are not always welcome.

Stretch marks are quite common occurrences during pregnancy. Even if they do not harm health, they can be an aesthetic nuisance and, therefore, treatments to alleviate them are highly sought after.

To prevent them during pregnancy, it is necessary to take care of your health as a whole, maintaining adequate nutrition and hydration.

Want more tips on how to take care of yourself during and after pregnancy? You can find lots of information on our blog!

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