Why Do Men Get Stretch Marks, and How Do They Get Rid of Them?

Puberty may cause your skin to expand quickly, but that’s not the only reason it causes stretch marks.

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While having elastic skin has its perks—like, for instance, being able to bend your elbows and knees comfortably—it also has one major drawback: Stretch marks. An estimated 80 percent of Americans have them, and we’re fairly certain 100 percent of them wish they didn’t. But while there’s no real way to avoid stretch marks unless you’re one of the lucky 20 percent, Dermatologist Lisa Chipps believes a little insider knowledge into what causes them, combined with a few dermatologist-approved treatments, can make them a whole lot less noticeable.

First, what they are: “When the skin stretches out too quickly, the collagen [that is, the protein that gives our skin its structure] can’t be produced fast enough to provide the support your skin needs, so it breaks down and scars,” Chipps explains. Those scars are what we call stretch marks.

The main culprits behind this skin stretching are growth spurts (and for women, pregnancy), although surprisingly, it has less to do with the speed the skin stretches, and more to do with the hormones that cause this rapid growth. “Stretch marks are more likely to occur when there are a lot of hormonal changes going on within the body,” Chipps explains. “We see stretch marks occur during pregnancy, puberty and steroid use—both for medical purposes and bodybuilding purposes—because the hormones thin out and weaken the skin, making it more prone to stretch marks.”

Unfortunately, there are no perfect treatments for stretch marks, according to Chipps, but there are a few things you can do to make them less visible. For starters, applying a topical growth factor serum can stimulate the fibroblast cells in your skin—which play a critical role in healing wounds—encouraging them to produce healthy collagen to take the place of their injured brethren. Applying prescription strength retinoid cream, which contains an acne-fighting ingredient called tretinoin, similarly encourages the production of healthy skin cells to keep the skin taut.

If you’re on the market for something a little more heavy-duty, Chipps recommends visiting your dermatologist for a procedure. “We use fractionated lasers [which are also used to decreases acne scarring] and radio frequency devices—both of which deliver energy into the collagen layer of the skin to stimulate collagen production,” she says. “When patients combine both the topical treatments and the dermatological procedures, we can actually get some decent improvement in the look of their stretch marks, which is pretty awesome.” Lasers: Is there anything they can’t do?