Treatment for Stretch Marks
Stretch marks! Most of us think they are unattractive and would do almost anything to prevent them or get rid of them. But usually, once you’ve got them, you’re stuck with them.
Or maybe not…
What are Stretch Marks?
Stretch marks are very common. They’re scars caused by extreme stretching of the skin. Underneath the top layer, they are basically tears in the collagen fabric. They’re usually caused by rapid growth and hormonal changes during puberty, weight gain or loss, and especially pregnancy. They’re also thought to have a genetic component, so if your parents have stretch marks, there’s a good chance you will too.
Stretch marks are harmless and don’t need to be treated. But some people are very self conscious and want to see if there is anything that might fade them or get rid of them. Over time, they go from red to a silvery color, almost like a scar. They have a smoother texture than the rest of the skin as well. Treatment is likely to work depending on:
How old the stretch marks are
Your skin type
The size of the marks- larger, deeper ones are hard to repair
Time. Not all treatments are a one time thing and can sometimes require multiple trips to a specialist
But if you’re willing to try things to see if it will help, here are some ideas.
For years people have recommended certain moisturizing ingredients for repairing or preventing stretch marks. Those include:
Vitamin E cream
Cream containing glycolic acid
None of these are harmful and might be great for your skin! But, there isn’t much evidence that proves that moisturizing works.
Retinoic acid is a derivative of vitamin A can be applied to the skin as a potential way to heal stretch marks. The most common retinoid is tretinoin and is available only with a prescription. It is a well known acne and anti-aging treatment. It works by sloughing off the top layer of skin while stimulating the lower layers to produce new skin cells.
For stretch marks, the same theory can be applied but it seems to only work best on newer stretch marks. Tretinoin can be extremely irritating and should be avoided if you are pregnant or breastfeeding.
One study showed that applying topical 0.1% tretinoin daily may help improve the appearance of stretch marks in patients with newer stretch marks. After just two months, the subjects using the cream showed a significant improvement when compared to the control group using a placebo. After six months, there was even a more stark difference. More studies would need to be done, but so far, the results are promising.
There is some weak evidence that light therapy can trigger the body to produce collagen. This is the protein that is needed to help repair stretch marks. This type of treatment usually includes multiple sessions of 15 to 30 minutes. Three treatments a month apart is what many practitioners recommend. Some people find the laser feels like warm snaps of tiny rubber bands on the skin, which can be uncomfortable. Side effects include redness and some sensitivity, so the treatment is often supported by the use of moisturizers and creams.
Microneedling is something that used a hand held device with tiny needles to poke the skin and stimulate collagen production. The theory behind this is that the skin is slightly damaged by the needed and will heal itself. It’s sort of the non-chemical version of retinoids, though not quite as effective. Several sessions are needed to get good results. Microneedling is the method preferred by people with darker skin because there is no lightening of pigment like there can be with laser or light therapy.
Living with Stretch Marks
Since stretch marks are extremely common, most people eventually give up trying to get rid of them. Some even consider them a badge of honor because they carried a child or lost a large amount of weight! After all, they’re scars and scars tell a story.
You may have your reasons for wanting to get rid of stretch marks and it’s okay to embrace body positivity while giving treatment a try.