Can you get stretch marks from building muscles? Yes, body builders do get stretch marks when they gain muscles too fast. Although not a health concern, bodybuilding stretch marks are a cosmetic concern for most people. Find out what causes bodybuilders stretch marks and how you can get rid of them at home and with professional treatments.
What Do Bodybuilding Stretch Marks Mean and What Causes Them?
Also referred to as striae or striae distensae, stretch marks are off-colored, narrow streaks or lines on the skin surface caused by stretching of the skin from body building, obesity, during pregnancy, and the rapid growth during teenage growth.
According to the WebMD, stretch marks are a form of scarring that occur when rapid and excessive stretching of the skin causes tears in the dermis layer of the skin; the middle layer of the skin that helps to retain its shape. This usually happens when weight or muscle is gained too quickly e.g. during pregnancy and in weight lifting. When this happens, the deeper layers begin to show though in the affected parts.
As the name suggests, bodybuilding stretch marks (or bodybuilders’ striae) occur as a result of stretching of the skin associated with weight lifting and building muscles.
Also referred to as bodybuilder stretch marks, they can occur on any part of the body, but tend to appear more commonly near areas where large fat reserves are stored and areas where muscle are likely to build up very fast including the chest (especially the chest-delt tie in region), stomach (most commonly near the belly button), upper arms (especially on biceps and triceps), underarms (on the armpits), thighs (inner and outer), buttocks, back, and hips.
Stretch marks typically show as reddish or purplish marks which later lose their pigmentation and change their color to anything between silver and white. The areas where they occur usually look empty and feels soft to the touch.
Most medical and fitness experts agree that bodybuilding stretch marks – and indeed all cases of stretch marks – are caused by rapid building of muscle and the associated stretching of the skin but a divergent view is provided by Dr. Bernstein, the Director of the Main Line Center for Laser Surgery who says that hormonal changes is the real cause of stretch marks and not the “stretching” per se.
Stretchmarks.org further explains this saying that “The true cause of stretch marks is hormones. During periods of growth — when women are pregnant, when people are lifting weights and gaining muscle mass, or when growth spurts happen during teen years, a serious change in hormones and a change in the metabolism in the skin occur. It’s true that your skin is expanding as your body is expanding, “but it’s the hormonal changes and not the ‘stretching’ that is the cause of stretch marks,” (quoting Dr. Bernstein).
In addition to mechanical tearing of the skin due to fast muscle building, the following factors may also cause or worsen existing bodybuilding stretch marks:
- Genetic: some people have a genetic propensity to stretch marks
- Dry skin: Dry skin has less elasticity and is more prone to the condition.
- Using certain medicationsg. corticosteroids.
- Increased levels of cortisol hormone in the body e.g. in people suffering from Cushing’s syndrome. Cortisol breaks down fibroblast in the skin – which then reduce the skin’s ability to form collagen and elastin fibers – and high levels of the hormone could be the factor underlying for bodybuilding stretch marks.
- Marijuana use: It is increasingly claimed that smoking marijuana can cause.
Are There Bodybuilders with Stretch Marks? – How Do Bid Bodybuilders Not Get Stretch Marks?
You know how it feels. You just started weight lifting, gained muscles quickly and along with it stretch marks, but every time you see bigwig bodybuilders the likes of Ronnie Coleman and Jay Cutler, their skin looks amazingly even.
Well, you will be delighted to know that even the big bodybuilders (men and women alike) get and more often than not actually do have stretch marks but they make use of sunless tanning lotions before posing for photos or participating in competitions. These lotions help to mask the stretch marks and make them less noticeable in photos.
Other tactics used to make stretch marks less visible include the use of special lighting, and air-brushing. There are many well-known bodybuilders with stretch marks out there and you would possibly recognize them if you were to meet them in person.
Here are some photos of bodybuilders with stretch marks:
Preventing Stretch Marks Bodybuilding
Here are some ways in which you can avoid bodybuilder stretch marks even as you achieve your muscle building goals.
- Avoid gaining muscles too fast. Take it slow with weight lifting to avoid very quick muscle gain.
- Apply a good moisturizing cream to stretch marks-prone areas e.g. the underarms daily. You will especially want to slather the moisturizing cream o before bedtime, right after a shower.
- Take plenty of water. This may not see like a significant factor for prevention of stretch marks, but keep in mind that dry skin cells are more susceptible to the problem.
How to Get Rid Of Stretch Marks Due To Bodybuilding
Stretch marks due to bodybuilding or any other factor are neither painful nor injurious to your health, but you may feel concerned about the imperfect look they impart on your skin.
Stretch marks are a permanent form of scarring and as such they won’t go away completely, but they will become less noticeable given time (sometimes years). Also no treatment currently available can completely remove stretch marks, the Mayo Clinic says.
On a good note though, there are effective treatments that can make the stretch marks light enough that they are only visible when looked closely and keenly. The WebMD however notes that the effectiveness of these treatment vary from one person to another depending on factors such as age, skin tone, extent of sun damage, diet etc.
Possible treatments for bodybuilding stretch marks include:
Vitamin E Lotions
Applying a lotion that is rich in vitamin E may also help in removal of bodybuilder stretch marks by speeding up the healing process. Such lotions are especially effective if applied on newly appeared red or purple stretch marks. For best results, work in the lotion on the affected areas of the skin frequently.
Cocoa and Shea Butter
Cocoa butter is also touted to help reduce the appearance of these marks and so is Shea butter.
Topical Treatment Creams, Lotions, or Gels
If suffering from unsightly or excessively large bodybuilders’ stretch marks, your dermatologist may prescribe a tretinoin cream. Commonly known as Retin-A, tretinoin retinoid cream (a vitamin A derivative) that works by stimulating the formation of collagen in the treatment area and thus facilitate healing of the skin.
Tretinoin cream products can be used alone or in combination with other treatments that your dermatologist deems appropriate. Studies have shown 0.1 percent tretinoin cream to be effective for removal of stretch marks but the WebMD notes that it is only effective for treatment of pink and purple colored stretch marks and will not have much effect on aged, silvery or grey-white stretch marks.
There are ass well many lotions that can help to get rid of bodybuilding stretch marks. One good example is Lac-Hydrin lotion. These lotions work by hydrating the skin. This helps to promote overall skin health and thus aid in healing and fading of the stretch marks.
Laser therapy may also help in bodybuilding stretch marks removal. Depending on the color of the stretch marks, the surgeon will decide what varieties of lasers to use, says the American Society for Dermatologic Surgery.
These range from those that reduce the discoloration in dark stretch marks to those that stimulate cell formation in stretch marks that have already fading off. There are also newer laser treatment modality called fractional laser resurfacing which helps to stimulate collagen formation and thus aid in restoration of skin elasticity in dented stretch marks.
Cosmetic Medical Procedures and Surgery
In addition to laser treatment of bodybuilding stretch marks you may also benefit from the following procedures:
- Microdermabrasion: Mechanical procedure that use abrasive tools to remove the epidermal layer of the skin and promote skin regeneration.
- Chemical peels.
- Cosmetic surgery: For example, a procedure known as tummy tuck can be used to get rid of bodybuilding stretch marks on the stomach (abdomen) area, below the navel.
Dietary Control for Stretch Marks Removal
Medical and surgical stretch marks aside, your diet can also go a long way in preventing and getting rid of stretch marks due to bodybuilding. Here are some dietary considerations:
- Eat a balanced diet that is rich in not only protein (as some bodybuilders do) but also vitamins and nutrients to enhance skin elasticity and health. You will especially want to ensure that your diet is rich in vitamins A, C, and E, omega-3 fatty acids, and zinc. Some good food choices are walnuts, pumpkin seeds, milk, citrus fruits, carrots, salmon, and sweet potatoes.
- Take multivitamin and mineral supplements. Complex 24 by eclipse 2000 is especially popular among bodybuilders. Follow the instructions provided to the letter.
Use a Tanning Lotion
Rather than get rid of the bodybuilding stretch marks, what about hiding them as they heal naturally. And what a better way to do that than a dark tan? There are many products out there that will impart on your skin a fake, dark tan and thus make the marks less noticeable.
Among the best and most popular tanning creams are Sunless Tanning Lotion and Golden Sunless Tan.
Get a Tattoo
An easy but effective way to get rid of bodybuilding stretch marks is to tattoo over it. This options is however not recommended for new stretch marks; use it for those that has been around for over one year. Even then, look for a tattooing artist with experience working on such tissues.