Stretch marks are not unusual. They happen when your skin stretches or shrinks quickly. However, there are not a sign that something is wrong with your health. They simply are a type of scar.
The abrupt change will indeed cause the collagen and elastin to rupture. When the skin heals, stretch marks may appear. They usually take the look of narrow bands on the skin.
Not everyone get them. However, both men and women can develop them. When stretch marks first appear, they can look red, purple, pink or brown. This will depend on your skin color.
Early stretch marks may feel a bit itchy. With time, the color fades and the narrow bands sink beneath your skin. To the touch, it feels like a slight depression.
While they are a very natural consequences to skin trauma, a lot of people dislike the look of them. Some may want to reduce the appearance of stretch marks while other may want them gone forever.
Fortunately, there are many ways to get rid of stretch marks. Some methods includes home remedies that you can include in your skin care routine. Other methods are surgical and require an appointment at a spa.
Common causes of stretch marks
Stretch marks are a common occurrence. It affects both men and women. They happen when the skin stretches or shrinks suddenly. Your skin may not be able to stretch enough to keep up.
Or it may not contain enough collagen. Collagen is the protein that makes your skin elastic. If you do not have enough, marks will show as the skin stretches.
The most commonly affected areas include the abdomen, the breasts, the hips, the flank, the buttocks and the thighs. There are plenty of reasons why they may happen.
- Quick weight gain or loss: This affect both men and women. Putting on a lot of weight or losing a lot in a short frame of time can lead to stretch marks.
- Pregnancy: The most common cause behind such marks. Between 50 and 90% of women will experience stretch marks before, during or after pregnancy.
- Puberty: Rapid growth is typical in young people during puberty. This can lead to stretch marks.
- Medical conditions: Certain conditions can cause stretch marks. Such as the case of Cushing's syndrome and Marfan syndrome. The former leads to producing too much of an hormone that leads to rapid weight loss or gain. The latter decreases elasticity in skin tissue.
- Corticoid use: Prolonged use may lead to lower levels of collagen in the skin.
- Bodybuilding exercises: Intense workouts lead to higher muscle mass, which stretches the skin.
The causes of stretch marks are plenty. Fortunately, so are the remedies.
Some remedies for stretch marks can be found at home or at the pharmacy. They work well on all skin types, including sensitive skin and oily skin. However, they usually do not treat the deeper layer of skin.
Vitamin A, or retinoid, makes the skin appear smoother and more youthful. It is used in many topical cosmetic creams. Application on the skin or oral intake can contribute to improving your skin's health and appearance.
Indeed, topical vitamin A derivative stimulates new collagen production. Thus, the elasticity of the skin may increase. A 2014 study shows that daily use over 16 weeks can help reduce the appearance of new marks.
Retinoid is not recommended if you are pregnant. Vitamin A can also be found in certain foods. Such is the case of carrots and sweet potatoes. They naturally increase vitamin A levels.
Sunless tanning products
Stretch lines tend to form a slight depression on the skin and be paler than your natural complexion. Thus, they are noticeable, especially on darker skin. Stretch marks also do not tan and therefore may stand out even more in the summer.
Tanning products can be a good temporary solution to camouflage stretch marks. It will not get rid of them, but reduce their appearance for a time. It will always work better on old marks than on newer ones.
Indeed, new marks are not predictable and may not absorb the lotion at all. Marks that are 3 weeks old or more can be hidden with tanning. However, such products do not protect from the sun so you'd still have to apply sunscreen.
Creams and lotions
The science behind treating stretch marks can be quite vague. A lot of creams and lotions will claim to be the solution. Are they though?
Most creams and lotions will not be absorbed into the dermis layer of the skin. This is unfortunate as it is where the marks reside. Thus, they won't disappear after a couple of applications. The ingredients in the cream may make a difference however.
Research show that moisturizers with a high level of vitamin E and collagen may be effective in reducing stretch marks. Keeping your skin moisturized and healthy is always good. It will prevent future marks from developing in the first place.
One reason why stretch marks appear is because the skin cannot keep up and stretch. This may be caused by low collagen levels. Collagen is indeed the protein responsible for the skin's elasticity.
Thus, one way to reduce marks would be to boost collagen. This can be achieved with hyaluronic acid. In two large studies, applying it to early stretch marks made the stretch marks less noticeable.
Diet and exercise
Many things in life can be improved with a good diet and a healthy lifestyle. Stretch marks are no different. It is important that you drink plenty of water. Hydration reduces the risks of developing marks in the first place.
Indeed, good hydration increases the elasticity of your skin. Eating foods rich in certain vitamins and minerals can also help. Such is the case of foods which are high in vitamins A and C or in zinc and protein.
Remember that some vitamins, i.e. vitamin A, can be dangerous in high doses. Even more so if you are pregnant. No matter the health benefits, it is also good to consult your doctor before taking anything.
Skincare spa treatments
Home remedies are easy skincare tips to get on with. However, even if they are part of your skincare routine, they may not yield the results you are looking for. Especially if you are looking for a permanent solution that treats stretch marks deep within the skin layers.
Fractional CO2 Laser
If you wish to reduce the appearance of stretch marks permanently, a laser therapy is a good option. Laser stretch mark removal sends concentrated rays of light to the marks, stimulating new growth and smoothing the scars.
Such treatment is considering a skin resurfacing treatment. It helps the skin to heal and create a smoother texture. It is more efficient on new stretch marks.
Indeed, the red and pink color of new marks indicate that there are working bloods vessels in the skin. Thus, it can heal quicker and completely. after a laser treatment.
The laser penetrates the deep layer of the skin, re-texturizing and resurfacing it. The laser pokes microscopic holes in the skin, which reaches the dermis. This in turn boosts collagen growth and helps the skin to heal itself. Then, healthier skin replaces the stretch marks.
The older, white striae are harder to treat because of the lack of blood vessels, which means less collagen production.
There are two types of laser treatments: ablative and non ablative. CO2 Laser is ablative and removes the outer layer of the skin, leaving new, smoother skin. It also triggers a production of collagen in the skin, helping to smooth out stretch marks.
Fraxel laser is non ablative and does not remove the top layer of the skin. Indeed, it stimulates collagen and elastin production. This helps the scars to heal and fade. Fraxel works better on new marks.
Microdermabrasion usually is a skincare option for the face. However, it may prove efficient on stretch marks as well. It is an exfoliation process that gently removes the outer layer of the skin.
The treatment helps remove dull, dead skin cells. This helps clear out pores as well as boost blood circulation. The procedure uses tiny crystals the break up dead skin cells to reveal the smoother, softer skin underneath.
This solution is a gentle option, ideal for sensitive skin. It will not harm the fresh, healthy skin below the old layer. A study shoes that the treatment can help fade new, reddish stretch marks with combined with skin peels.
Microneedling with radio frequency
Microneedling is another procedure that is usually used as a facial treatment. It multiple tiny holes very fast in the skin with needles. This promote healing, which also helps shed abnormal scars and marks.
At the same time, using radio frequency laser will heat underneath the the skin. This builds up regular collagen and tighten stretch marks. Microneedling with radio frequency is a good option for dark-skinned people.
Indeed, there is no risk of triggering hyperpigmentation. CO2 lasers may on the other hand. Patients will need two to five treatments and can expect a reduction of up to 60% of their stretch marks.
Chemical peels or glycolic acid peels are a skin resurfacing technique. It removes the outer layer of dead skin cells to reveal the fresh, smooth layer underneath. In addition, the exfoliation effect of a skin peel will stimulate collagen and skin cell renewal.
Both will work to heal damage to the skin. The concentration of acid depends on the patient marks, skin sensitivity as well as expected results. A lower concentration leads to a much more gentle treatment.
However, a higher concentration leads to a more intense treatment. But the results will be much more noticeable as it treats deeper layers of the skin. This is very important when targeting a specific skincare concern. Stretch marks occur at the dermis layer of the skin.
Ultrasound works a lot like radio frequency treatments. The procedure sends sound waves deep into your skin to heat and tighten and jumpstart collagen production.
Can I prevent stretch marks?
Reducing the appearance of stretch marks and preventing them in the first place work similarly. There are a few things you can do, regardless of whether you are pregnant or not.
- Controlling your weight: Stretch marks can happen when your skin pulls apart quickly due to rapid weight gain. You may also notice stretch marks after rapid weight loss.
- Staying hydrated: Drinking enough water may help keep your skin hydrated and soft. Soft skin doesn’t tend to develop stretch marks as much as dry skin does.
- Eating a nutrient-rich diet: Stretch marks may also occur if you lack nutrition in certain areas. Eating foods that boost skin health may help.
- Including vitamin C in your diet: Collagen plays a role in keeping your skin strong and elastic. It helps prevent stretch marks. Vitamin C is an important nutrient for the development of collagen.
- Soaking up vitamin D: Maintaining healthy levels of vitamin D may reduce your risk of stretch marks. The easiest way to get vitamin D is through exposure to the sun.
- Treating fresh marks: You may not be able to totally prevent stretch marks on your skin. However, you can work to minimize their appearance so they aren’t as noticeable in the long run.
You may still develop stretch marks while following all the advice above. Especially if you are pregnant, working out a lot or going through puberty. They are not an indication of unhealthy skin, but a natural occurrence.
Do stretch marks really go away?
You can prevent stretch marks or reduce their appearance. However, stretch marks are like scars. They cannot be 100% removed. There will always be a trace left, although less noticeable.
Treatment such as laser therapy will help minimize their appearance. They will be less noticeable but they will still be there. It’s important to understand that no single treatment works for everyone. Many products don’t seem to work at all.
The in-office procedures have proven more effective than the creams, lotions, and gels. Experts can also tell you about any new product or procedure that may help.