What are stretch marks?
A stretch mark is a type of scar that develops when our skin stretches or shrinks quickly. The abrupt change causes the collagen and elastin, which support our skin, to rupture. As the skin heals, stretch marks may appear.
Not everyone develops these narrow bands on their skin. Fluctuating hormone levels seem to play a role. You may also have a higher risk if people in your family get stretch marks.
If you develop stretch marks, you’re most likely to do so during these times:
- Growth spurts that happen in puberty
- Rapid weight loss or gain
- Weight training when you have rapid muscle growth
What can get rid of stretch marks?
Like any scar, stretch marks are permanent, but treatment may make them less noticeable. Treatment can also help alleviate the itch.
If you’re pregnant or breastfeeding, check with your medical provider before treating stretch marks. Some products contain ingredients, such as retinol, that can potentially harm your baby.
It’s important to understand that no single treatment works for everyone — and many products don’t seem to work at all. Here’s what researchers have discovered about the many treatments for stretch marks.
Stretch mark creams, lotions, and gels: Researchers have studied many of the creams, lotions, and gels sold to treat stretch marks. While no one product seems to help all of the time — and some don’t seem to help at all — researchers have discovered some helpful hacks.
If you want to try one of these creams, lotions, or gels to fade stretch marks, be sure to:
-Use the product on early stretch marks. Treatment seems to have little effect on mature stretch marks.
-Massage the product into your stretch marks. Taking time to massage the product gently into your skin may make it more effective.
-Apply the product every day for weeks. If you see results, they take weeks to appear.
Home remedies: In studies, popular home remedies have not worked. Researchers found that none of the stretch marks faded when people massaged almond oil, cocoa butter, olive oil, or vitamin E into their stretch marks.
Tanning cannot get rid of stretch marks. When you tan, stretch marks become more noticeable because they don’t tan.
Self-tanner: While tanning can make stretch marks more noticeable, a self-tanner can camouflage stretch marks — both early and mature ones. A self-tanner cannot get of rid of stretch marks.
Prescription medicine you apply to your skin: In studies, two ingredients seem to offer some relief:
- Hyaluronic acid
In two large studies, applying hyaluronic acid to early stretch marks made the stretch marks less noticeable.
Tretinoin is a retinoid, which may also make early stretch marks less noticeable. In one study, people who applied this prescription cream every night for 24 weeks had less noticeable stretch marks. Those who didn’t apply the cream saw their early stretch marks grow. Other studies have found similar results.
Retinol, another type of retinoid, may also help fade early stretch marks.
Procedures that dermatologists perform: Dermatology providers use the following procedures to make stretch marks less noticeable, but none of these can get rid of stretch marks:
- Chemical peel
- Laser therapy
Can anything prevent stretch marks?
Short answer: Maybe.
Researchers have discovered that many remedies said to prevent stretch marks don’t actually work. In studies, neither almond oil, cocoa butter, olive oil, nor vitamin E prevented stretch marks.
Other ingredients may work. Researchers have found that products containing centella or hyaluronic acid may help prevent stretch marks. Centella is an herb, and our skin naturally contains hyaluronic acid.
When to seek a dermatology provider’s expertise
Stretch mark treatments that you can buy at a store or online can be expensive. If you find yourself spending a lot of time and money without getting any results, seeing a dermatology provider can be helpful.
The in-office procedures have proven more effective than the creams, lotions, and gels. Dermatologists can also tell you about any new product or procedure that may help.
If you have any dermatology needs, the providers at Advanced Dermatology & Skin Cancer Center would be pleased to be a part of your health care.
Fayetteville: 1444 E Stearns St. Fayetteville, AR 72703 (479-718-7546)
Bentonville: 701 NW McNelly Rd. Bentonville, AR 72712 (479-268-3555)
Ryan Crowder MPAS, PA-C
Article adapted from an original article by the AAD.