Are Stretch Marks Genetic?
Your skin is the largest organ in your body and serves as the barrier between your organs and the environment. Skin is very resistant, and serves as a “shield” to protect the tissues underneath.
Despite its tough and protective nature, your skin is still prone to issues like those frustrating stretch marks which many of us are all too familiar with. They are not dangerous, but can really bring down our self confidence.
There are numerous reasons why stretch marks can appear on our skin including rapid weight gain and pregnancy.
The question a lot of you may be wondering is if they are genetic. This article is dedicated on presenting more information on the topic and aims to answer this question.
What Causes Stretch Marks?
Stretch marks are caused by the physical stretching of the skin, along with an increased release of the stress hormone “cortisone” from your adrenal glands.
Excessive amounts of cortisone levels can lead to loss of elasticity (stretchability) in the skin. There are, however, multiple factors that contribute to the formation of these marks on your body. Some of these include:
- Gender (women are more likely to develop them than men)
- Overweight or obesity
- Pregnancy (particularly for young women)
- Rapid weight loss/weight gain
- Sudden growth spurt in teenagers
- Taking corticosteroid medications
- Breast enlargement surgery
What Are The Different Types Of Stretch Marks (Striae)?
Before moving on to the genetics behind stretch marks, it is important to understand learn how they can vary. There are in fact multiple different types of striae:
This type occurs from the wasting away of special components found in the skin. Your skin is designed to be flexible. It creates a chemical known as elastin that can stretch and flex in order to accomplish this.
When elastin fibers degrade the skin is incapable of bouncing back after it stretches which can then cause it to tear.
These tears are the striae which appear red at first and fade out gradually to the white color that remains. Striae atrophica mainly develop from rapid weight gain or weight loss and corticosteroid therapies
This type of striae develop during puberty after the sudden growth spurts and weight changes in adolescents. In most cases, they develop on the thighs, buttocks, abdomen and back. Pregnant women can develop this type of stretch marks as well.
Striae gravidarum can appear during pregnancy. They are the same as other types, but instead of medications, rapid weight gain or weight loss, their sole cause is pregnancy.
The word gravidarum is actually a latin word that refers to pregnancy. These marks can appear on the buttocks, abdomen, thighs, and breasts in about 90% of pregnant women, usually in the third trimester.
Vergetures are the same as striae but have a specific pattern. They appear in long lines resembling the lashings of a whip.
Heredity And Stretch Marks: Is There Any Connection?
As mentioned above, there are a multitude of causes that can contribute to the formation of striae. Genetic factors are often mentioned, but the question remains as to whether this connection is actually real or not.
The link between striae and genetics is real, and recently there have been numerous research articles to confirm this.
For example, the Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology published results of their research which analyzed the factors associated with striae gravidarum (SG).
Scientists evaluated a sample of 161 women who had given birth and had them complete anonymous questionnaires to retrieve the results.
The findings showed that 48.3% of women with this type of stretch marks reported their mothers had these striae as well. Only 19.4% of women without SG reported their mothers had them too.
That is not all; 47% of women with SG reported their relatives also experienced this issue.
Scientists concluded the study by explaining that a history of striae, family history, and even race contribute to the formation of SG. Are stretch marks genetic? This study suggests that they are.
Other studies further confirm the link between genetics and the formation of stretch marks.
Research published in the Journal of the European Academy of Dermatology and Venereology showed that hereditary risk factors have a major impact on the development of stretch marks in primigravid study participants.
According to a review of studies, striae distensae (SD) have also been connected with heredity.
Individuals suffering from the genetic disease Marfan syndrome as well as the genetic disorder resulting in monozygotic twins, have also shown an increased incidence of SD.
The Journal of Pediatric Dermatology published a paper where scientists observed six-year-old monozygotic female twins who developed striae on thighs. The results suggested that genetic predisposition does play a role in the condition.
Furthermore, the Journal of Clinical and Experimental Dermatology featured results of the study which confirmed that expression of collagens, elastin, and fibronectin genes are decreased in people with SD. Researchers from Korea who worked on the study also found a marked alteration of fibroblast metabolism in striae distensae.
Researchers Identify Stretch Mark-associated Gene
Scientists from the personal genetics company 23andMe carried out a study to answer the question “are stretch marks genetic?” They also sought to identify the gene leading to their development.
The research involved genome-wide association analysis of 33,930 customers of the company. All participants were of European descent. 13,930 people had striae while 20,862 did not.
For the purpose of the study, researchers evaluated gene variants in 4967 women who reported the severity of these marks during pregnancy.
Their analysis, published in the form of a letter to the editor of the Journal of Investigative Dermatology, revealed that four genetic regions are associated with striae.
They discovered that one specific DNA sequence variation related to the pregnancy-associated marks was located near the elastin ELN gene.
The research also showed the missense variant in the SRPX gene and although little is known about the function of this gene, scientists revealed it is associated with striae as well, thus further confirming that stretch marks are genetic nature.
Due to the fact that loose skin is a symptom of syndromes caused by deletion or loss-of-function mutations in ELN, these findings support the hypothesis that alterations in the elastic fiber component of the skin lead to the formation of striae.
According to the research team behind this study, the gene variations they identified could explain why many treatments for striae do not work.
It is because products available on the market, including some of the highly expensive treatments that are popular today are not designed to address these specific gene variations.
Is It Possible To Remove Stretch Marks?
These red or white marks on your skin are harmless and do not jeopardize your health. Nevertheless, most people find them frustrating and feel insecure about their appearance.
If you have not yet developed striae and would like to prevent or prolong their development, it is practical to ask your mother or other family member about the first time they noticed these marks on their body.
Since science has answered the “are stretch marks genetic” question by confirming their relationship, the age of onset matters a lot. If your mother (or some other relative) developed striae in their 30s or during pregnancy, chances are you will too.
When it comes to treatments for this issue, most of them are partially effective and you should bear in mind that they may not remove those little lines on your thighs or abdomen entirely.
Dermatologists usually recommend the following:
These creams improve the appearance of striae that are less than a few months old.
Light and laser therapies
This treatment uses special lights and lasers to stimulate the growth of collagen or elastin in your skin
Microdermabrasion gently removes a thin layer of your skin. This promotes the growth of new skin that is more elastic and resistant to striae.
Dieting and exercise
Women who are not pregnant should maintain their weight within a healthy range since weight fluctuations tear elastin fibers and lead to the formation of striae.
Moreover, it is recommended to avoid yo-yo dieting. The reason for this is simple. While this form of dieting can help you lose weight, you are likely to put on even more pounds once you are done with the program.
Scientists recommend adhering to well-balanced diet abundant in fruits and vegetables that deliver a variety of vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants to your skin. This will help to keep it healthy and more resilient.
Pregnant women should pay special attention to the weight gain and ensure they do not gain more weight than recommended; not only for striae, but for overall health and wellbeing.
Weight gain, sudden weight loss, and many other factors that involve stretching of the skin can cause tiny tears that appear in the form of striae.