Nobody likes stretch marks. They’re extremely common, and can affect both men and women alike, though women are most likely to notice them during and after pregnancy. However they appear, they’re never welcome.
Many Internet sites claim to know how to prevent and treat stretch marks, but unfortunately, most of them provide misleading information. Applying a lotion or cream won’t do the trick in most cases, but there are some steps you can take to help improve the appearance of your skin.
Below, we give you the real skinny on stretch marks and what really works to fade them away.
What are Stretch Marks?
Stretch marks are red lines or streaks that form during pregnancy, and then fade to leave pale lines on the skin after childbirth. Medically termed “striae distensae,” they vary in length and width, and can show up anywhere on the body where the skin is stretched, including the abdomen, breasts, buttocks, and thighs.
Studies indicate that these marks most commonly develop during the third trimester of pregnancy, though it’s not only pregnant women who get them. Women are most at risk, but men can get them, too. Other causes of stretch marks include:
- Weight gain
- Hormonal changes (such as during puberty)
- Sudden growth spurt
- Corticosteroid medications
- Cushing’s syndrome
- Marfan syndrome
Women who go through breast enlargement surgery are also at risk.
What Causes Stretch Marks?
Stretch marks are actually the signs of tearing in the underlying layers of the skin. As the skin is stretched and tightened during pregnancy (or because of other causes), tiny tears appear in the tissues underneath.
The body goes to work to repair those tears, replacing collagen and laying down new tissues, but unfortunately, as is the case with most injuries and scars, the replacement tissue doesn’t look exactly like the rest of the tissue, and so you get the stretch mark appearance.
The new skin created by the healing process is usually characterized by dense collagen bundles, which is why stretch marks can appear raised or depressed and feel harder than the surrounding skin. They also don’t have the hair follicles and sweat glands that the rest of the skin has, contributing to their different appearance.
Is it Possible to Prevent or Treat Stretch Marks?
If you Google stretch marks, you’ll find no end of recommended remedies for them. Unfortunately, a lot of these simply don’t work. Cocoa butter, for example, which is commonly touted as being able to fade stretch marks, is a great moisturizer, but is unlikely to make much difference. Massage doesn’t cause them to disappear, either.
Indeed, according to a 2012 study review involving 800 women, applying olive oil, cocoa butter, and other similar topical preparations to the skin didn’t prevent the development of stretch marks during pregnancy.
There are a few things, however, that have shown some promise as far as prevention and treatment are concerned. We share those with you below.
7 Ways to Prevent and/or Treat Stretch Marks
Most people don’t like the way stretch marks look, but it’s good to be reminded that they aren’t harmful. Sometimes we can get too caught up in focusing on our little flaws, so we encourage you even as you’re seeking ways to help your skin look it’s best that you love your body just as it is!
In addition, keeping up a regular regiment of good skin care may not completely prevent stretch marks, but it can definitely keep your skin in its best condition, which may increase resistance to tearing and damage. Some research has indicated that stretch marks are more common in skin that is already weakened, damaged, or aged, so regularly caring for your skin to keep it as youthful as possible may be beneficial. It can also help your skin to feel more comfortable, so it’s less likely to itch or to feel tight.
Regular skin brushing and skin moisturization are key to helping your skin cope with any changes you may be going through. Our CV Skinlabs Body Repair Lotion not only coats skin in healing ingredients, but leaves behind a soft, smooth radiance that helps you feel beautiful. Apply to the affected areas at least three times a day.
- Retinoid cream: According to the Mayo Clinic, retinoids developed from vitamin A may improve the appearance of new stretch marks. They can help rebuild collagen and make the marks look more like normal skin. They may negatively affect a baby, though, and doctors recommend you don’t use them while pregnant. Wait until after baby is born and you’ve stopped nursing. So far, we have the most research behind tretinoin, a type of retinoid that can help improve stretch marks.
- Microdermabrasion: This is a type of exfoliation treatment that involves blowing hard crystals onto the skin to slough off the top layer. This helps promote the growth of new skin, which can appear softer and smoother. Be sure to use a qualified dermatologist for the treatment, and to start gently. Then moisturize carefully after the treatment. We recommend using our Rescue + Relief Spray immediately for cool, soothing relief of redness, and then follow with our Body Repair Lotion. Once you’ve treated skin, always protect it from the sun.
- Combined laser treatments: A laser therapy combined with glycolic acid or a retinoid cream may be affective at improving the appearance of stretch marks. In one study, for instance, this type of treatment improved stretch marks immediately, and also provided gradual improvement over a period of six months. Usually a series of treatments provides optimal results. The good news about these treatments is that you can use them while you’re still pregnant. Pulsed laser treatment is one painless option that can be used in the early stages of stretch mark development. Use our Rescue + Relief Spray combined with our Body Repair Lotion after treatments to soothe skin and speed recovery.
- Skin peels: Chemical peels, like microdermabrasion, remove the upper layer of skin, allowing new skin to come to the surface. These may also help improve the appearance of stretch marks when applied by a skilled dermatologist or cosmetic surgeon. They can leave skin red and sensitive, so follow with our Rescue + Relief Spray, and treat skin very gently until it starts to recover. Always check with your dermatologist to be sure the treatment is tailored to your skin type and sensitivity.
- Control your weight gain: It’s not always possible to control your weight gain, particularly when you’re pregnant, but if you can gain more gradually, rather than suddenly, your risk of stretch marks goes down. The skin stretches and tears usually because of rapid weight gain that occurs over a short period of time. Allow your body to gradually adjust to pregnancy and your skin will be better able to adjust as well. The best way to control your weight gain is to eat a balanced diet with lots of fruits and vegetables and fiber-rich items.
- Eat a healthy diet: Stretch marks occur from the inside, out. That’s why it’s tough to treat them with topical applications. You can, however, make sure your skin has the nutrients it needs to stay healthy. Eat a diet rich in vitamin C, vitamin E, zinc, and silicon. And always drink plenty of water.
- Try some topical treatments: Though most topical treatments have not shown to be effective, there are some that have some positive research behind them. In 2013, for instance, a specific cream containing hydroxyprolisilane-C, rosehip oil, centella asiatica triterpenes and vitamin E helped prevent the appearance of stretch marks in pregnant women. Once you’ve given birth, you can also try skin massage with a fruit-acid serum, such as one that contains glycolic or salicylic acid, as there is some evidence that combining the two can help fade the appearance of stretch marks. Researchers are still working on finding the right combination of ingredients that will actually work on stretch marks, but for now, you can look for products that contain these ingredients.
How do you help prevent and treat stretch marks?
“Topical preparations for preventing stretch marks in pregnancy,” Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews, 2012; https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmedhealth/PMH0010450/.
Dang S, Kim K, Griffiths C. et al., “Topical tretinoin (retinoic acid) improves early stretch marks,” Arch Dermatol 1996; 132: 519-526.
Ash k, Lord J, Zukowski M, et al., “Comparison of topical therapy for striae alba (20% glycolic acid/0.05% tretinoin versus 20% glycolic acid/10% L-ascorbic acid),” Dermatol Surg 1998; 24: 849-856.
Hannah Nichols, “What are stretch marks? How can stretch marks be treated?” MedicalNewsToday, November 27, 2015, https://cvskinlabs.com/shop/body-repair-lotion/.
Garcia Hernandez JA, et al., “Use of a specific anti-stretch mark cream for preventing or reducing the severity of straie gravidarum. Randomized, double-blind, controlled trial,” Int J Cosmet Sci., June 2013; 35(3):233-7, https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/23237514.