Stretch marks are a fact of life and affect men and women equally. They are the result of quick changes in the body caused by rapid growth like during pregnancy, weight loss or gain, bodybuilding, stress, genetics and puberty. Women especially tend to get stretch marks in the second and third trimester of pregnancy when their abdomens grow to accommodate the babies. The changes in the body happen so quickly that the elastin fibers in the skin are unable to keep up and break, leading to the unsightly marks.
Genetics appear to play a large role in whether or not a person gets stretch marks. About 90 percent of women develop these scars on their breasts, stomach, thighs and hips and are more likely to get them if their mothers had them.
With the latest advancements in dermatological science now you don’t have to live with stretch marks for the rest of your life. There are several treatment options available that can help prevent and reduce the appearance of new and old marks. Here’s information about these treatments to help you decide which ones are best for you.
#1 Home Remedies
The evidence supporting the efficacy of home remedies is primarily anecdotal. There isn’t a lot of objective medical evidence proving these remedies fade or eliminate stretch marks. You may have to use multiple treatments to achieve the results you are looking for, and it’s best to use these remedies on relatively new stretch marks that still have their coloring.
- Increase Hydration with Moisturizer
Well moisturized skin is more resilient than dry skin. To minimize the risk of getting stretch marks, it’s important to keep skin well hydrated by using a daily moisturizer. According to one study on herbal moisturizers, people whose skin improved the most in appearance and elasticity during the trial used lotion on a daily basis.
Apply Vaseline or a creamy emollient to the skin every day, particularly after taking a bath or shower. If you prefer, you can also make your own moisturizer by combining aloe vera and olive oil. Another one to try is vitamin E oil, which has been shown to be very effective at promoting suppleness and elasticity. You can increase the effectiveness of vitamin E by adding it to other skin-friendly ingredients such as cocoa butter.
Massage the moisturizer directly into the problem areas at least twice per day. This technique works best on new stretch marks rather than older ones. Vitamin E in particular is more effective on pregnant women (and those previously pregnant) than people in the general population.
If you’re pregnant or nursing, it’s important to avoid products that contain retinoic acid as this can cause birth defects in babies.
- Egg Whites / Egg Oil
Eggs and egg oil may be good skin conditioners. Egg oil can be obtained over the Internet or from natural food stores. Based on anecdotal evidence, using egg oil twice a day from the moment you find out you’re pregnant until after you have given birth can prevent stretch marks from forming.
Egg whites contain protein and amino acids, which can help skin retain moisture. Beat together two egg whites and apply them to the affected areas using your fingers or a brush. Wait until completely dry, rinse with warm water, and apply olive oil or another moisturizer. Do this a few times per week.
- Cocoa Butter
It’s a common belief that cocoa butter can prevent or minimize the appearance of stretch marks since it provides moisture and vitamins to the skin. However, a double-blind study found that cocoa butter by itself was not very effective on stretch marks. Combining cocoa butter with wheat germ, beeswax, vitamin E oil, and apricot kernel and applying the concoction to the marks three times each day may produce good results.
- Topical and Oral Lemon Juice
Vitamin C promotes good skin tone and may improve its appearance. Increasing your intake of vitamin C to 500mg per day may help fade stretch marks. Another option is to apply glycolic acid and vitamin C directly to the scars, which may produce better results.
Lemon is a natural skin lightener, so applying lemon juice to your scars may bleach them to an acceptable color. Squeeze a lemon and rub the juice into the affected skin. Wait 10 minutes and then rinse with warm water. Do this three times a day. Lemon juice can make skin more sensitive to sunlight, so keep the area out of the sun or wear sunscreen lotion with a minimum SPF of 60.
- Aloe Vera
A long time friend of skin, Aloe Vera has been used to treat issues such as sunburn and dry skin. It moisturizes skin and promotes healing. Not only will Aloe Vera help fade existing marks, it will prevent new ones from forming. Purchase Aloe Vera gel at a beauty or health food store and apply it to the affected areas twice per day. To increase its effectiveness, mix in vitamin E and vitamin A oils.
- Potato Juice
Potatoes make great tasting French fries and chips, but they may also help improve the appearance of skin. These starchy vegetables contain beneficial vitamins and minerals that promote healthy skin. One way to use potatoes is to cut the vegetable into thin slices and rub them into the affected skin making sure the juice gets on the marks. Let dry and then rinse with lukewarm water. Another way is to juice a potato, carrot, and orange and drink every day to improve skin tone from the inside out.
- Cocoa Butter
A vegetable fat extracted from the cocoa bean, cocoa butter is used in numerous personal care products because of its emollient properties. In addition to preventing dry skin and treating burns, cocoa butter can reduce the appearance of striae and prevent more from forming. Apply the butter to the marks twice per day every day. It will take about two months to see results. To avoid getting the scars during pregnancy, start using cocoa butter in the first trimester.
- Vitamin C (Topical and Oral)
Vitamin C is an immune system booster, but it also contains properties that promote strong healthy skin. It’s an antioxidant that helps fight off environmental toxins that damage skin and slow the healing process. Topical creams containing vitamin C are capable of increasing skin renewal which can help fade the marks faster. To make good use of this remedy, increase your intake of foods containing the vitamin like oranges, broccoli, and strawberries. Apply a topical cream made using vitamin C to the affected areas twice per day.
Other Over The Counter Solutions
- Glycolic acid
Glycolic acid is another name for alpha-hydroxy acid (AHA), which is synthesized from a number of sources including sugar cane, cantaloupe, and unripe grapes. It contains properties conducive to sloughing off the epidermis to improve skin appearance and tone within a short period of time. It is often used in chemical peels performed by licensed dermatologists as well as at-home kits. It’s important to take care when using chemical peels because they can actually damage the skin. As an alternative, you can use topical products that contain this substance as a primary ingredient, but expect it will take longer to see results.
- Wheat Germ Oil
There is no scientific data that supports the efficacy of wheat germ oil, but anecdotal evidence suggests it can reduce the appearance of striae. Extracted from wheat kernel, this essential oil is thought to stimulate affected tissues into regenerating. It also has antioxidant properties that protect skin from environmental damage. Wheat germ oil must be diluted with additional oils, such as olive oil, because it is too strong to use alone. It also has a strong odor. Apply the oil directly to the marks at least once per day.
- Vitamin E Oil
This essential oil has been used for years to improve the look and health of skin. Found in a number of foods like avocados, almonds, and sweet potatoes, vitamin E is important to many of the body’s biological functions including gene expression. It helps protect cells from oxidative damage that can make skin look older before it’s time. In addition to eating a healthy diet consisting of foods containing vitamin E, you can apply this essential oil directly to striae.
The skin naturally renews itself every 28 or so days. However, you can speed up the stretch mark fading process by exfoliating the top layer of skin which typically consists of dead skin cells. Scrubs are good for this task. Mix sugar and vitamin E oil and use daily. You can also add a few drops of lemon juice a couple of times per week to make the marks fade faster. Be certain to follow up with a moisturizing lotion.
- Alpha Hydroxy Acids
This group of acids, including glycolic acid, is derived from natural fruit acids and sugar cane. Like retinoids, alpha hydroxyl acids stimulate the production of collagen. They also exfoliate the skin which can help stretch marks fade faster and become less noticeable sooner. Alpha hydroxyl acids are found in a number of topical products and works fastest when the stretch marks are first formed. If you are trying to eliminate stretch marks that form during pregnancy, be sure to find a product that is safe to use at that time.
- Peptide-Containing Products
Touted as an answer for lines and wrinkles, peptide-containing products have short snippets of amino acids that are designed to promote collagen production. In addition to firming skin, these products can potentially reduce the appearance of striae scars. Most of the products are sold over-the-counter at department and beauty stores.
Products that contain retinoids can help eliminate stretch marks. Retinoids are derived from vitamin A and improve the look of skin in a number of ways. These products increase collagen production and improve skin elasticity which can help fill in the empty spaces that characterizes stretch marks. Though many medications that contain retinoids require a prescription (Retin A, Renova), there are a few that can be purchased over the counter. It is important to note that retinoids can cause side effects and should not be used by pregnant or nursing women.
#2 Stretch Mark Removal Creams
Although almost every over-the-counter product claims to eradicate stretch marks, but user data to support these claims is limited to only few products. Here are two topical creams that have proven to reduce the appearance of stretch marks.
stretch mark cream is one of the most popular creams on the market, offering a very high rate of patient satisfaction. One of the refreshing things about is that it is all natural and does not induce allergies, unlike other over the counter products. It is, therefore, safe for pregnant women and women with sensitive skin.
The proven and patented blend of natural ingredients speeds up cell turnover and stimulates new collagen formation, leading to plumper, healthier skin that dramatically improves the appearance of stretch marks. The first step involves the gentle peeling of the outer layer of the skin without any sort of irritation. The peeling process makes the scars less visible. The second part speeds up the scar repair process, thereby healing and restoring scarred skin fast. It keeps skin hydrated and reduces itchiness, which prevents further scarring.
In one study, people using the cream for stretch marks caused by pregnancy and weight gain said their marks faded after 12 weeks of daily use. Although you can see marks fading away in few weeks, it takes few months to make them fully disappear with stretch mark cream.
stretch mark therapy is another powerful cream backed by clinically proven results. The formula includes a proprietary blend of very effective ingredients that restores smooth, normal skin tone by getting rid of stretch marks permanently.
Comprising of natural skin regeneration ingredients, this cream enhances natural collagen production while increasing skin elasticity
One of the greatest advantages of stretch mark therapy is that it’s effective on marks caused by pregnancy, weight loss, weight gain, growth spurts and surgery. Daily use of this product has been shown to prevent the appearance of new marks while correcting the discolored skin around them.
Although it delivers fast and effective results, it has drawbacks. It works best for newly formed stretch marks while they are still red, purple or pink.
#3 Laser Procedures
- Pulsed Dye Laser
This extremely effective laser treatment involves using the energy from a laser to collapse the blood vessels located under the stretch marks. This causes the color to either drain out of the scars or turns them white. It also stimulates pigment production in faded scars to help them blend in with the skin better. This treatment works best on new marks that still retain their red, purple, or pink coloring. Unfortunately, it doesn’t work well on people with dark skin. However, pulsed dye laser has been shown to be effective on post-partum Korean women in clinical settings.
It usually takes several treatments to achieve results. How many treatments are needed will depend on your skin type and color. Each one costs about $400 or more.
- Laser Resurfacing
Laser resurfacing involves using a fractional laser (a focused beam of light) to stimulate collagen and new skin production by removing surface layers of skin from the edges of the stretch marks. This treatment helps restore elasticity and works best on older scars that are no longer discolored. However, the treatment can cause hyperpigmentation and unwanted scarring. It costs up to $1,000 per treatment, and it may require up to 4 treatments to achieve the results.
#4 Surgical Options / Cosmetic Surgery
- Abdominoplasty (Also called Tummy Tuck)
Abdominoplasty is a type of cosmetic surgery that aims to beautify the lower abdomen by tightening the stomach muscles and removing excess skin and fat. It is the one of the fastest ways to permanently get rid of stretch marks because the scarred skin physically removed and discarded. This is a good option for people who can’t stand the sight of the scars and want to be rid of them forever.
However, the surgery is only done on the stomach, so you’ll still have stretch marks on your breasts, thighs, hips, arms and other areas. Additionally, not everyone is a good candidate for this surgery. Only people with significant amounts of fat or loose skin around the midsection may benefit. The surgery is also very expensive, costing anywhere between $5,000 and $20,000, and it can take about 3 to 6 months of recovery time before you’re 100 percent healed.
- Chemical Peels
Chemical peels are also an effective way to minimize the appearance of stretch marks. This procedure involves swabbing the area with a chemical solution that burns away the top layer of skin. This causes the surface layers to slough off which, in turn, triggers new cells, collagen and elastin to grow.
Because of the risk of burns, chemical peels should only be applied by a medical professional such as a dermatologist or cosmetic surgeon. The length of time it takes the skin to recover from the treatment depends on a number of factors including the type and strength of chemicals used and how deeply indented stretch marks are.
Multiple treatments may be required, and there may be side effects. Chemical peels only smooth out the skin and minimize discoloration. The marks will still be presents, just less noticeable.
Health insurance plans typically do not cover cosmetic procedures. If you choose to get surgery, chemical peels or similar treatments, you’ll likely have to pay for them yourself.