Pregnancy

Stretch marks on breasts: Causes, prevention and treatment

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During pregnancy, a woman’s body goes through a lot of changes (you are growing a whole human after all), and one of those changes often includes stretch marks.

Stretch marks are incredibly common (and a very normal part of life, despite what social media may tell us), occurring in eight in 10 women during pregnancy, most often on the stomach, upper thighs, and breasts.

We’re going to be focusing on stretch marks on the breasts specifically, looking at exactly what they are, what causes them, how to prevent them, and how to treat them (if that’s something you want to do). Plus, we'll throw in one of the biggest myths surrounding stretch marks.

What are stretch marks?

Stretch marks are streak-like lines that occur when the middle layer of the skin (the dermis) stretches beyond its limit of elasticity or shrinks in a short period of time.

As the skin heals from this abrupt change in collagen and elastin fibres, stretch marks may appear. 

Not all stretch marks are the same and the type you develop depends on many factors, including what caused them.

To get technical for a second, stretch marks are divided into seven types:

  • Striae atrophicans (thinned skin)
  • Striae gravidarum (following pregnancy)
  • Striae distensae (stretched skin)
  • Striae rubrae (red stretch marks)
  • Striae caerulea (dark blue stretch marks)
  • Striae albae (white stretch marks)
  • Striae nigra (black stretch mark) 

What causes stretch marks on breasts?

As we touched on earlier, stretch marks are caused by stretching in the skin. When it comes to breast stretch marks specifically, it's incredibly common in this area as the skin is a lot thinner and more prone to scars and marks.

There are a number of things that cause stretch marks on breasts during various stages in life: 

Puberty

The increased hormones during puberty can cause rapid changes and growth, which can result in breast stretch marks. 

Pregnancy

Dramatic hormone changes during pregnancy can trigger rapid growth in breasts, which causes stretch marks in eight of our 10 women. These are medically known as striae gravidarum.

Significant weight loss or gain

During a period of weight loss or gain, many women will also notice changes in their breast size as the fat tissue increases or decreases. These changes can lead to stretch marks.  

Breast augmentation surgery

Another thing that can cause stretch marks is breast implants. Adding an implant to increase the size of a person's breasts causes changes in the skin and breast tissue, potentially leading to stretch marks. 

Health conditions

There are a few health conditions that can make stretch marks more common, including Cushing’s syndrome, also known as CS (a condition caused by the body creating too much cortisol). One of the main signs of CS is weight gain, the ability to brusie easily and the appearance of purple stretch marks.

Another health condition that may result in stretch marks is a connective tissue disorder called Marfan syndrome. 

For the purposes of this article, we’re going to be focusing on pregnancy-related stretch marks on the breasts. So, why does this happen exactly?

As the body gears up for the arrival of the baby, oestrogen levels in the body increase and breasts also increase in size preparing for milk production. These fairly abrupt changes can cause tenderness and in many cases, result in stretch marks.

Who is most likely to get stretch marks on breasts?

It's difficult to pin down exactly who is most likely to develop stretch marks on their breasts.

For the most part, it's down to collagen and elastin production as some people's skin stretches (has more elasticity) than others. It also depends on medical history.

Pregnant women often notice stretch marks most, due to fluctuations in hormones, skin stretches, and weight gain.

A study from 2021 found that 43 to 88 per cent of people report stretch marks during pregnancy, but there's little further information on experiencing stretch marks on breasts specifically.

How to prevent stretch marks from appearing on your breasts?

Whilst stretch marks are not harmful — they can be incredibly itchy though — some people wish to reduce the appearance of them (if you aren’t bothered by them, then that’s great, too). 

If you’re looking to keep breast stretch marks to a minimum, it’s much easier to treat early signs than mature stretch marks.

However, it’s impossible to control how your skin naturally responds to these bodily changes.

Although it’s been widely debated, research shows that topical hydration is a key component in reducing signs and symptoms of scars and stretch marks during pregnancy.

Of course, everyone is different so this isn’t to say you categorically won’t experience stretch marks if you moisturise.

However, science shows that it can help in reducing signs if you start early.

Kin's Nourishing Cream is one way to prevent stretch marks on your breasts thanks to the combination of shea butter, gotu kola (a medicinal herb), witch hazel, and niacinamide.

These ingredients promote skin elasticity and recovery while also helping to keep your breasts soft and supple as they stretch and reduce any dreaded itch related to stretch marks.

Our Nourishing Cream also works to prevent the appearance of stretch marks, with shea butter keeping the skin elastic and gotu kola strengthening the skin and promoting collagen production.

Lather this on your breasts while pregnant to keep your skin soft and to give it a helping hand when so much change is happening.

Our luxurious belly butter blend keeps your belly and boobies soft and supple as you stretch.

Do breast stretch marks go away?

Breast stretch marks are unlikely to go away altogether, but they can evolve and become less prominent over time and with effective treatment methods.

Developing stretch marks is a normal occurrence for many women, especially during pregnancy.

And whilst they may not go away, treating stretch marks through topical management, medical treatment, and at-home remedies can help.

What are the best stretch mark treatment options for the breasts?

Now we've talked about what you can do to help prevent stretch marks, let's move on to treatments. If you wish to minimise your stretch marks (remember: you may never be able to get rid of them completely), there are multiple treatments you can try: 

Moisturise

As we previously mentioned, there have been studies conducted that suggest topical treatments like moisturising affected areas can greatly reduce stretch marks from getting more prominent over time; making it a great place to start.

Grab a tub of our Nourishing Cream and smooth it all over your breasts to keep this area moisturised.

If you have advanced stress marks, moisturising sadly won’t dramatically reduce them. However, we’d argue that using lotions on our bodies is a great habit to get into in general to prevent dryness, so there’s no harm in adding it into your regimen to keep skin hydrated.

Retinoids

Prescription retinoids are another great place to start. The first thing to note about retinoids is that they cannot be used when pregnant or breastfeeding, so you should always speak to your doctor before introducing one into your routine.

Once you’re in the clear from your medical provider, retinoids can be an excellent way to help reduce stretch marks on your breasts.

Research has shown that retinoids can significantly improve early stretch marks by speeding up cell renewal, which stimulates collagen and elastin in the skin.

Software offers prescription treatments based on your skin concerns, like stretch marks. Software's local doctors can create a personalised formula that includes retinoids in order to target stretch marks on breasts and help fade these.

Simply fill in the online quiz with your skin concerns and goals and a local doctor will review your answers and create a prescription just for you.

Laser therapy

For those with stretch marks that are more mature, you may want to try laser therapy to help reduce their appearance.

A 2017 study found that laser treatment demonstrated a 50 to 75 per cent improvement in stretch marks. But how does it work, we hear you ask?

Laser therapy works by penetrating energy beams deep into the skin to stimulate cell turnover. 

It's important to note that laser therapy isn't an overly cheap treatment as you have to commit to a number of sessions to make a difference.

This treatment can start at around $200 per session and go up in price depending on how many scars you have.

Chemical peels

Research on clinic-based chemical peels to treat stretch marks is limited, but they can help in some cases (it’s always best to get individual advice from a professional).

Chemical peels work by speeding up the renewal process by sloughing off the top layer of dead skin. Aiding the body’s natural exfoliation process means it gets to work healing the skin quicker and more effectively. 

Another thing to note is that stretch marks often fade over time naturally. So, as with all beauty or medical treatments, it can take time to notice a visible difference. 

Common myths about stretch marks on breasts

One of the biggest myths is that tanning can help treat stretch marks on the breasts. You might have heard that tanning in the sun or on solarium beds helps reduce stretch marks. This categorically isn’t true. 

Of course, sun beds are banned here in Australia but for those who live in countries where they are still available, the risk of UV damage isn’t worth taking.

Plus, there is no evidence to prove that it helps. In fact, in a lot of cases, tanning (whether that be in the sun or via a sun bed) can make scars and stretch marks more visible. A safe alternative is to use self-tan at home.

Stretch marks on breasts: an overview

While evidence of treatments and prevention is still fairly limited, there are a few things you can do to reduce breast stretch marks if you wish to do so.

Getting into the habit of moisturising affected areas is a key component for prevention, as well as using other treatment options like retinoids, laser, and chemical peels for more mature stretch marks and scars. Getting professional medical advice for your specific needs is super important.

Studies have shown time and time again that tanning does not help breast stretch marks and can actually make them worse, so sticking to sunless tanning using self-tan at home is the safest and most effective option if you like a glow.  

Many breast stretch marks fade over time and are harmless so aren’t anything to worry about. However, if you do have concerns, speak to your medical professional and they’ll be able to guide you. 

During pregnancy, women’s bodies go through an incredible amount of changes so being kind to your ever-evolving body is one of the best things you can try and do.

References

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK436005/ 

https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/22994859/ 

https://www.nhs.uk/pregnancy/related-conditions/common-symptoms/stretch-marks/ 

https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/8624148/

https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S2352647516300272 

https://www.aad.org/public/cosmetic/scars-stretch-marks/stretch-marks-why-appear