Stretch marks are caused by a sudden or excessive stretching of the skin due to pregnancy, rapid weight gain or loss, and puberty. Almost half of all pregnant women will acquire stretch marks. Any area on the body from the knee upwards that grows can be prone to stretch marks such as the stomach, waist, buttocks, lower back, hips, breasts and legs.

Stretch marks are tears in the lower layer of your skin. This lower layer consists of elastic supportive tissue which helps the skin to stretch. When the skin is stretched to its limit, it tears slightly allowing blood vessels to show through. These stretch marks most often occur on the abdomen.

Depending on your skin color, stretch marks start out as pink, reddish brown or dark brown streaks. The reddish brown pigmentation in the marks gradually fades, and the stretch marks or "striae gravidarum" (which is the medical term) begins to look like glistening silvery lines of scar tissue.

Apart from stretch marks occurring during a sudden weight gain or loss, women are very likely to develop stretch marks when they are pregnant. This will depend on several factors such as:

-- Age - younger women tend to have a more elastic and supple skin than older women so the younger you are the less likely you are to get stretch marks.

-- Genetic - if your mother or an older sister got strech marks then you are more likely to as well.

-- Growth of baby in the womb - if your baby is growing so quickly or if you are carrying an extra big baby then the weight is sometimes more than the skin can handle. Carrying more than one baby or having excess amniotic fluid makes stretch marks even more likely.

Stretch marks will usually fade within 6 to 12 months of giving birth although their texture will remain the same. They will not be so noticeable. Stretch marks on the breasts should fade to a light white color. Stretch marks are not painful.

Surprisingly, men are just as likely to get stretch marks as women but as their stretch marks are usually covered by hair, they are less obvious. Males are prone to getting stretch marks:

- As adolescents when undergoing periods of fast growth.
- As athletes in training when "bulking up" muscle
- When there is rapid weight loss or weight gain.

Some men are more likely to get stretch marks than others. Those who are likely to avoid stretch marks probably overproduce a hormone known as corticosteroid. Stretch marks in men can also result from nutritional deficiency.

Amoils offers all natural treatments for common conditions and ailments using essential oils. Visit our Stretch Marks page for more information.