You started an intensive weightlifting program to pack pounds of muscle in a month. Halfway through though, you notice red, sometimes purple, lines streaking across your pecs and at the apex of your armpit and biceps. It’s not an allergy to the gym or a rash—it’s stretch marks. A stretch mark is an absence—basically a hole in your dermis. Stretch marks are weaknesses in your skin because too much tension has been placed on it for too long. It’s not a scar, though. A scar is a healing response, that’s your body providing extra collagen to bolster a weak spot or wound.
Why do they appear?
You can get stretch marks as a child just with growth. “If you’re not factoring in weightlifting or bodybuilding, puberty is the big time for guys to get stretch marks because that’s when the most growth is happening,” Swann explains. Stretch marks tend to appear when there’s a testosterone surge because that’s when guys typically grow taller, bigger, and wider.
The reason you don’t hear older guys over 40 complaining about stretch marks is that they can’t grow that fast or put on the kind of mass that would stretch their skin. “They can’t turn their arms into tree trunks in two months,” Swann says. “The hormone levels aren’t the same even if they’re supplementing, eating right, and training the same as younger guys.”
Doctors haven’t pinpointed one cause for stretch marks. Instead, they think stretch marks are a combination of several factors that cause changes to occur in the skin. Doctors do know there are life events that are more likely to cause stretch marks. These include puberty and weight gain. Both factors may be influenced by hormones, as well as stretching of the skin.
Stretch marks also have a genetic component, so if someone in your family has stretch marks, you’re more likely to get them.
Some of the potential causes of stretch marks in men can include:
1. Adrenal diseases, such as Cushing syndrome, Ehlers-Danlos syndrome, or Marfan’s syndrome
2. Growth spurt in puberty
3. Rapid weight loss or gain
4. Weight training with rapid muscle growth
If you use corticosteroid creams for an extended period, such as prescription-strength hydrocortisone, to treat eczema, you may be more likely to see stretch marks.
Stretch marks can occur anywhere on the skin. In men, they’re more likely to occur in areas of weight gain or where the muscle is put on quickly. This is usually in the buttocks, calves, back, or thighs for adolescent men. For adult males, this is usually the buttocks, according to a 2014 review.
Stretch marks don't all look alike. They vary depending on how long you've had them, what caused them, where they are on your body, and the type of skin you have. Common variations include:
· Streaks or lines on the abdomen, breasts, hips, buttocks, or other places on the body
· Pink, red, black, blue, or purple streaks
· Bright streaks that fade to a lighter color
· Streaks covering large areas of the body
Can you prevent stretch Marks?
Since genetics and hormones play a role in stretch mark development, it isn’t always possible to prevent stretch marks. One way you could reduce the likelihood of developing stretch marks is to maintain a healthy weight without rapid fluctuations. This reduces skin stretching which can increase your risk for stretch marks.
1. Eat Right: As you probably know, your diet is an important part of burning fat and building muscle. It also plays an important role in preventing stretch marks. Try munching on a healthy diet of fruits, lean meats, veggies, whole grains, and low-fat dairy to keep your skin pristine. Foods that are especially good for your skin include grapefruit, plums, salmon, walnuts, turkey, tuna, and green tea. It’s also extremely important to stay hydrated before, during, and after your daily workout. Set a goal to drink at least 8 glasses of water a day. This should help to keep your skin flawless.
2. Cut Down on the Weight: We don’t mean your body weight. We mean the weight you’re lifting in the gym. While it’s great to bulk up, you don’t want to gain too much muscle too quickly. This can lead to unsightly stretch marks. Instead of doing only a few reps with extremely heavy weights, cut your weight and shoot for 10 to 15 reps per set.
3. Don’t Skip Cardio: Cardio keeps your muscles in check. Set aside at least 30 minutes for running, swimming, biking, or speed walking 3 to 4 days per week. Cardio will not only help you burn calories, but it will also keep your muscle gains controlled so that you don’t develop stretch marks. This way, you get the best of both worlds!
4. Take Care of Your Skin: When it comes to preventing stretch marks, taking care of your skin with high-quality products seems obvious. Yet, many people don’t do it. You should always moisturize to keep your skin strong and elastic. Tretinoin Retin-A cream can boost collagen production, one of the best ways to stop stretch marks from forming. Finally, Vitamin C and E will help keep your skin in top form.
Many anecdotal home remedies promise to reduce or prevent stretch marks in men and women. Many are highly moisturizing topical applications. Some home remedies include:
· almond oil
· cocoa butter
· olive oil
· vitamin E
Even if lotions and creams haven’t been scientifically proven to reduce stretch marks, you’ll still hear and read about lots of people who swear by them. If you do give them a try, the American Academy of Dermatology recommends a few tips for effective use:
· Use the product when you see stretch marks or notice the signs of itching. Topical products don’t usually work well on old stretch marks.
· Massage the products in. Massage seems to help the products work more effectively.
· Apply the product consistently over the course of several weeks to months.
While lotions and creams may not treat stretch marks, they can reduce some of the itchings that occurs when they develop. You can also conceal them using a self-tanner. However, actual tanning may make stretch marks appear more prominent.
Dermatologists also may prescribe treatments, such as hyaluronic acid or vitamin A, to reduce the appearance of stretch marks.
According to the American Academy of Dermatology, two large-scale studies showed applying hyaluronic acid to new stretch marks helped make them less noticeable.
The same was true for retinoid creams, which are forms of vitamin A that encourage skin cell turnover. However, a person had to apply the creams frequently and over the course of 24 weeks to reduce or fade their stretch marks.
Medical treatments that may help to reduce stretch marks include:
· Chemical peel
· Laser therapy
What to do?
Consult with our expert's certified dermatologists.