Getting rid of stretch marks may seem like a daunting, never-ending story. In some ways, it can be. As much as we hate to be the ones to break it to you, there’s no surefire way to erase them. But there’s no need to lose hope.
The good news is there are a number of real ways that you can potentially improve those unsightly marks so they become nearly invisible over time. Similarly, certain steps can be taken to help prevent stretch marks from occurring in the future. Let’s take a closer look.
What are stretch marks?
Stretch marks have nothing to do with stretching at the gym. They’re indented streaks in the skin caused by superficial scars that may develop any time the dermis layer of the skin is torn, dermatologist Dr. Macrene Alexiades-Armenakas said in an interview with Harper’s Bazaar. Many people equate stretch marks with pregnancy, and it turns out sporting a baby bump is one of the most common causes. The same story said approximately 90% of women will experience them during the last trimester when the skin is most prone to a high degree of stretching to accommodate the growing baby.
But stretch marks in the skin can occur in men and non-pregnant women. They can also crop up on breasts, hips, buttocks and thighs, according to the Mayo Clinic. While genetics plays a huge role in who will get stretch marks, other factors include rapid weight gain or loss as well as high hormonal levels during puberty.
How can stretch marks be treated?
While no magic potion currently exists to erase stretch marks, you can minimize the appearance with time, patience, and a few helpful products. “Many stretch marks improve a lot over many months without treatment,” Dr. Oscar Hevia, a cosmetic dermatologist, told StyleCaster. “But, since stretch marks are essentially a scar from the inside out, there is no treatment that makes them disappear completely.”
Retinoid cream may be one of the most promising DIY treatments. Derived from vitamin A, retinoids such as tretinoin (Retin-A, Renova, Avita) that you apply to your skin may improve the appearance of stretch marks that are less than a few months old, according to Mayo Clinic. Tretinoin can help to rebuild collagen, making the stretch marks look more like your normal skin. However, it’s important to note that tretinoin can irritate your skin. And if you’re pregnant or nursing, make sure to check with your doctor about other treatment options because possible side effects of retinoid cream may affect the baby.
If you’d rather avoid retinoids, The Organic Beauty Expert says castor oil can be a good substitute to reduce the appearance of stretch marks. Apply the oil to the affected area and massage gently in a circular motion, then use a clean cloth to wrap the affected skin. Next, use a heating pad on the spot for at least 30 minutes for the best results.
Light and laser therapies are a more intense option. In the Harper’s Bazaar story, Alexiades-Armenakas said that the best bet for treating red or active stretch marks is with in-office treatments using a pulsed dye laser. “It won’t work if the marks are old and no longer red,” she told the publication, “But if you catch stretch marks early, you can help reverse them and prevent scarring or permanence in one to three monthly treatments usually.”
The Mayo Clinic also highlighted microdermabrasion as a solid solution. A hand-held device blows crystals onto the skin, gently removing its topmost layers, which promotes the growth of new, more elastic skin. This makes stretch marks less noticeable.
The Derma Roller System is an at-home option you can try as well. According to the product, it can be used to improve the appearance of stretch marks, such as those developed during pregnancy, adolescent growth spurts, rapid muscle growth, and weight fluctuations. Again, this is according to the product, so it’s best to remain a bit skeptical.
How to help prevent stretch marks
While total prevention is never a guarantee when it comes to stretch marks, you can take matters into your own hands through a few at-home treatments, some of which can duly help lessen the appearance of existing stretch marks.
First of all, it’s imperative to keep the skin as healthy and hydrated as possible, according to Dr. Kishan Raichura, a skin health expert. He told The Huffington Post UK, “While it’s impossible to entirely prevent them, pregnant women can improve skin condition to hopefully reduce the chances by keeping the area well moisturized and nourished.” Coconut oil or olive oil are both great, all-natural products to use in combination with vitamin E oil or cream to help keep collagen fibers strong. And keep in mind, drinking enough water is the best way to stay hydrated from the inside out.
In the same story, Dr. Erich Schulte, founder of QMSMediCosmetics, also mentioned skin exfoliation as an important part of your daily regimen. “It is a key benefit as it continues to stimulate the cell turnover and works well in conjunction with body-firming creams,” he said in the story. You can exfoliate the skin through dry brushing or by using an exfoliating wash. Sugar is also an all-natural exfoliator; mix it with a few drops of lemon juice and almond oil to make a paste, then gently rub it over your skin.
Nutrition also plays a role. Top 10 Home Remedies suggests eating a balanced diet rich in vitamins C and E, zinc, silica, and other nutrients to help nourish the skin. The antioxidant vitamin E is especially crucial as it protects the collagen fibers in your skin from damage, which promotes skin elasticity. Almonds, olives, sunflower seeds, spinach, avocados, and pumpkins are all high in vitamin E.
The most important thing to remember is to be flexible in treating stretch marks. Find what best works for your body and your lifestyle.