NHS website

Stretch marks

Find out about stretch marks, including where, when and how they occur, what causes them, and how they can be treated and prevented.

8 February 2019

Introduction

Stretch marks are very common. They're harmless and often get less visible over time.

Check if you have stretch marks

Stretch marks look like lines or streaks across the skin.

Common causes of stretch marks

Stretch marks are often caused by sudden growth or weight gain.

You may be more likely to get them if you:

What to do about stretch marks

It's not always possible to prevent stretch marks.

The best way to reduce your chance of getting them is by maintaining a healthy weight.

Read more about eating a balanced diet ↗ and losing weight safely ↗.

Many creams and lotions claim to prevent, reduce or remove stretch marks. But there's very little evidence these work.

There are some treatments that may help make stretch marks look better, but they will not get rid of them.

They include:

  • retinoid (often called tretinoin) creams or hyaluronic acid – these may help if used on new stretch marks, but you should not use retinoid creams if you're pregnant
  • light or laser treatments
  • microdermabrasion ↗, which removes a thin layer of skin

You would need to pay for these treatments as they're not available on the NHS.

See a GP if you have large, often dark, stretch marks and:

  • have more fat on your chest and tummy, but slim arms and legs
  • a build-up of fat on the back of your neck and shoulders
  • a red, puffy, rounded face

These could be symptoms of Cushing's syndrome ↗.