Stretch Marks in Men

Why the occur and how they can be reduced

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Although skin is incredibly flexible, it does reach a point where it can no longer stretch—or stretch fast enough—without causing tears and scarring, causing lines or streaks better known as stretch marks (striae distensae).

Stretch marks can occur in men, just as they do women. Men commonly notice them with rapid growth during puberty, substantial weight gain, and bodybuilding. Stretch marks can also be associated with chronic conditions like diabetes and scleroderma.

This article looks at why men get stretch marks, what they look like, and what can be done to reduce them.

Male Stretch Marks Causes
Verywell / JR Bee

Stretch Mark Signs and Symptoms in Men

Stretch marks develop in men in the same way they develop in women. They appear when the underlying tissues grow faster than the skin can stretch. These changes take place in the middle layer of skin, called the dermis, which is responsible for retaining the overall shape of the skin.

The rapid stretching tears and visibly thins the dermis, which is what causes linear striations on the upper layer of skin (epidermis).

The tear also causes tiny blood vessels in the skin to break, giving the stretch mark its characteristic pinkish or purplish hue.

When they first develop, stretch marks may cause a burning or itching sensation. Over time, the normal pigmentation of the skin may return, although the tissues themselves may appear slightly shiny.

While stretch marks aren't harmful, they may be unpleasing and cause emotional distress.

Tanning tends to enhance rather than diminish the appearance of stretch marks.

What Causes Stretch Marks in Men?

While the causes of stretch marks in men are not all that different than in women, they're primarily associated with three physiological conditions:

  • Rapid growth during puberty, which primarily leaves horizontal stretch marks on the upper arms, thighs, buttocks, and back
  • Rapid weight gain and obesity, in which the accumulation of subcutaneous fat causes vertical stretch marks on the abdomen
  • Bodybuilding, in which the rapid growth of muscle triggers stretch marks along the perimeter of a muscle (such as the outer edge of the chest muscle or in tandem with the striations of the shoulder muscle)

Anabolic steroids used by some bodybuilders can also contribute to stretch marks.

Related Conditions

Some men may be more predisposed to stretch marks than others. This is especially true in men with health conditions that cause the overproduction of hormones known as corticosteroids.

Among their many functions, corticosteroids regulate the production of certain skin cells: keratinocytes in the epidermis and fibroblasts in the dermis.

Fibroblasts are especially important, as they produce collagen that the body uses to keep the skin supple. If there's an overproduction of corticosteroid, less collagen is produced and the skin is less able to flex.

Corticosteroid overproduction is often associated with disorders of the adrenal glands, including:

Corticorticosteroid drugs are used to treat a wide range of inflammatory and autoimmune disorders. They can lead to a loss of collagen and an increased risk of stretch marks. Even topical corticosteroids, if overused, can cause a thinning of the skin.


Stretch marks can have a profound effect on a person's self-confidence, particularly if they are extensive or severe.

To get rid of them, many people resort to products that claim to prevent and/or reduce the appearance of stretch marks. To date, though, there's little clinical evidence to support these claims.

Even so, some over-the-counter and natural products that are believed to work better than no treatment at all.

Topical Tretinoin Cream

Tretinoin cream is probably best known by the brand name Retin-A. It's also sold as Avita and Renova, both available by prescription only.

A small randomized study conducted in 2014 suggested that a 0.05% tretinoin cream may lessen the appearance of new stretch marks but not long-established scars.

This medication is also widely used to treat acne.

Centella Asiatica

Also known as Gotu Kola, Centella asiatica is a perennial herb that's used topically to prevent stretch marks.

Some older studies suggested it was more effective than a placebo (56% versus 34%). However, these studies are considered poorly designed and didn't explore other possible explanations for the results.

Microdermabrasion and Laser Treatments

Microdermabrasion and laser treatments may help stretch marks by improving the overall appearance of the skin, especially if your stretch marks are deep.

A small study conducted in 2016 suggested that these procedures worked better than topical tretinoin creams.

If you have stretch marks, you may be able to prevent the further spread by losing weight. You can also reduce their appearance by using sunscreen outside and avoiding tanning and tanning beds.


Stretch marks happen when the tissue under the skin grows faster than the skin itself. This can cause thinning and tears of the skin, which is what gives stretch marks their characteristic appearance.

In men, stretch marks most often happen because of rapid growth during puberty, weight gain, or increased muscle mass. Certain medical conditions can also predispose you to getting stretch marks.

There isn't much evidence that commercially available products will help improve the appearance of stretch marks. However, some treatments like topical tretinoin and laser treatments may help.

6 Sources
Verywell Health uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
  1. American Academy of Dermatology. Stretch marks: why they appear and how to get rid of them.

  2. Farahnik B, Park K, Kroumpouzos G, Murase J. Striae gravidarum: Risk factors, prevention, and management. Int J Womens Dermatol. 2017;3(2):77-85. doi:10.1016/j.ijwd.2016.11.001

  3. Wollina U, Goldman A. Management of stretch marks (with a focus on striae rubrae). J Cutan Aesthet Surg. 2017;10(3):124-129. doi:10.4103/JCAS.JCAS_118_17

  4. Hexsel D, Soirefmann M, Porto MD, Schilling-souza J, Siega C, Dal'forno T. Superficial dermabrasion versus topical tretinoin on early striae distensae: a randomized, pilot study. Dermatol Surg. 2014;40(5):537-44. doi:10.1111/dsu.12460

  5. Ud-din S, Mcgeorge D, Bayat A. Topical management of striae distensae (stretch marks): prevention and therapy of striae rubrae and albae. J Eur Acad Dermatol Venereol. 2016;30(2):211-22. doi:10.1111/jdv.13223

  6. Karia UK, Padhiar BB, Shah BJ. Evaluation of various therapeutic measures in striae rubra. J Cutan Aesthet Surg. 2016;9(2):101-5. doi:10.4103/0974-2077.184056

By Jerry Kennard
 Jerry Kennard, PhD, is a psychologist and associate fellow of the British Psychological Society.