Finding stretch marks on your skin is never a happy discovery. But these long, thin, rippled streaks can be diminished using a variety of treatments and some cases may even be preventable.
A form of atrophic scarring that occurs when collagen under the skin abruptly stretches or shrinks, stretch marks typically show up on the belly, breasts, torso, hips, buttocks, arms or thighs. But although they don’t hurt, they can provoke emotional distress – especially when they’re highly noticeable or extensive.
Girls and women are especially prone to stretch marks for a variety of reasons, including fluctuating hormone levels and other circumstances that encourage their development include puberty-related growth spurts, pregnancy, rapid weight gain or loss, steroid use on the skin, and bodybuilding. Your genetics may also place you at higher risk of developing them.
Depending on skin color, these marks can appear as red, pink, purple or brown bands running down skin areas. If you run your finger over a stretch mark that’s been there awhile, you’ll also feel a slight depression in the skin.
You don’t have to treat your stretch marks – it’s purely up to you. Even if you do nothing, they will likely fade in time. But for those who wish to be more proactive about potentially banishing or fading them, several treatment options exist – including home remedies and in-office techniques. These treatment approaches include:
- Retinoid creams, which stimulate collagen and elastin may diminish early-stage stretch marks but cannot be used during pregnancy.
- Hyaluronic acid-based creams, hydrate the skin and can make stretch marks less noticeable if applied early in formation.
- Laser therapy is the most effective modality to treat stretch marks. Types of lasers include Pulsed Dye, Fractional CO2, or Erbium. Depending on the type, laser treatments can boost collagen and elastin, smooth out skin depressions, fix pigmentation differences or reduce redness and blood vessels under the skin that contribute to stretch marks.
- Chemical peels, which use alpha and beta hydroxy acids to remove the top layer of skin and boost new skin growth.
- Microdermabrasion, which sloughs off the upper layer of the skin using tiny crystals or needles to fade stretch marks. This is sometimes combined with chemical peels to boost results.
- Radiofrequency energy, which creates heat and triggers your skin to produce more collagen.
- Ultrasound, which sends sound waves deep into skin to create heat, tightening skin and boost collagen production.
- Microneedling, will create microscopic injury to the skin also boosting collagen.
No treatment guarantees results, but this array of choices offers encouraging improvements to many people with unsightly stretch marks.”
Tips for prevention
You might be wondering if you’re able to prevent stretch marks before they form. Frustratingly, the answer isn’t black and white. Scientific research has revealed that many products said to prevent stretch marks don’t actually do so. These non-performers include things like cocoa butter, almond or olive oil, and vitamin E.
However, that doesn’t’ mean all stretch mark prevention efforts are fruitless. Your best bets are lifestyle tweaks that benefit your overall health – including maintaining a healthy weight, even when pregnant.
Avoiding extreme ups and downs in your weight is the top tip for preventing stretch marks from developing in the first place. Using skin products containing retinoids, hyaluronic acid or Centella asiatica herb might help, but only to a limited extent.”
Suzanne J. Friedler, M.D. F.A.A.D., is a board-certified fellow of the American Academy of Dermatology, with expertise in many areas of medical and cosmetic dermatology. She has been with Advanced Dermatology PC since 2002. Advanced Dermatology P.C. and the Center for Laser and Cosmetic Surgery (New York & New Jersey) is one of the leading dermatology centers in the nation.