Teen-ager andStretch marks (or striae distensae) are atrophic skin depressions appearing as lines, often numerous, parallel to each other, and typically oriented perpendicularly to skin stretching lines.
Stretch marks can depend either on pathologies (obesity, Cushing's disease, cortisone intake), or physiologic conditions (adolescence and pregnancy).
The onset of stretch marks in a large segment of population during adolescence is nowadays heavily underestimated. Despite the shortage of recent epidemiological studies, it can be said with a good approximation that the incidence of stretch marks is 70% in adolescent females and 40% in adolescent boys.
The most affected site on adolescents are the hips and buttocks, where they appear respectively in vertical and oblique array, the breasts in the female subjects (radially around the areola), and the lumbosacral region in male subjects (with horizontal array).
The cause of the appearance of stretch marks during adolescence should be ascribed to several factors:
• constitutional factor: the structural characteristics of the dermis are genetically determined; this means that there is a "family" predisposition to develop stretch marks and it also explains why stretch marks do not appear on all teenagers.
• mechanical factor: during the pubertal growth spurt, where a rapid increment of height occurs, the skin undergoes an accretion of stretching forces.
• hormonal factor: during puberty a physiological increase in the secretion of corticosteroids occurs (due to the stimulation of the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal axis). These hormones activate mechanisms that compromise the integrity of collagen and elastin, which normally constitute the robust supporting structure of the skin. This leads to atrophy of the epidermis and dermis.
The clinical evolution of a stretch mark goes through two phases on teenagers, as well. In the first stage, that can last from 18 to 24 months, stretch marks look smooth and red, sometimes even very deep red. In the second stage, the hue of stretch marks fades, turning to a pearly white, and the surface looks depressed, with cross indentations.
Although the stretch marks are mainly an aesthetic problem for adolescents, it is important to consider that their onset may have a significant impact on the bodily image of the growing subjects, leading sometimes to severe repercussions in their self-esteem.
Crucial in this case are prevention and the timely treatment of stretch marks, starting at the very appearance of red marks, with products rich in amino-acids, vitamins and gamma oryzanol.
Dr. Antonio Ferrara