While stretch marks do not pose a risk to health, they can be dangerous for self-esteem. Many people feel that the marks left by the stretching of the skin are unsightly and make them feel uncomfortable about exposing the affected areas.

The tummy, breast, upper arm, thigh and buttock areas are often those that are likely to suffer from this type of skin damage, as they are the areas likely to store increased amounts of fat.

As the skin stretches over the larger fat stores, it becomes weakened and loses its elasticity. Connective fibres are damaged in the dermis, and the resulting marks can be red and very visible, although they can fade with time to a scar-like appearance.

Common causes of stretch marks include:

• Pregnancy
• Weight gain
• Medication
• Medical conditions
• Growth spurts during adolescence

Once the damage has occurred, treatments such as creams will have very little effect as they are unable to penetrate the layers of the skin to reach the affected dermis. Stretch mark removal is possible, however, with the use of microdermabrasion, laser therapy and ultrasound treatment.