It is a normal natural part of puberty. You may be going through a growth spurt and they appear on your skin. Stretch marks are a common beauty complaint.
During the last trimester of pregnancy they’re especially seen. The lines don’t cause pain or harm. However, some people just don’t like their appearance.
They look like red streaks on your skin due to different factors. Causes may not be connected to underlying disease. You could be prone to these based on your risks.
Most importantly the bands don’t necessarily need treatment. They may fade over time, whether you had treatment or not. On the other hand they may never completely disappear.
Today we are going to look at stretch marks.
What are Stretch Marks Exactly?
A stretch mark (striae or striae distensae) is a kind of scar that develops in the dermis. It affects the dermis by preventing the fibroblasts from making collagen and elastin. Because of this lack of supportive material while the skin is being stretched this can lead to dermal and epidermal tearing. We see as stripes or these bands referred to as stretch marks.
These bands are indented streaks that usually occur on your:
As they first appear, stretch marks tend to look:
- Dark brown
Factors like how long you’ve had them, body area affected and your skin type make a difference with appearance. Over time they may fade in color along with the narrow bands sinking beneath your skin. You may have ran your finger on a mature streak and felt a little depression.
Stretch Mark Causes
Moreover your stripes are caused by stretching of your skin as in rapid weight gain or growing. These narrow bands won’t develop for everyone.
Factors affect their severity like your genetics. You may have a higher risk if stretch marks run in your family.
For example if, you have used corticosteroid on your skin for a long time this can also cause these lines.
Those who have Cushing’s disease or Marfan syndrome may see stretch marks.
If you are someone who does weight lifting, having a rapid increase in your muscles might also cause stretch marks.
Risk Factors for Stretch Marks
Anyone can have stretch marks occur, even guys. Certain factors increase your likelihood though:
- Being female
- Personal or family history of having stretch marks
- You’re pregnant, especially if young
- Adolescence with rapid growth
- Quickly gaining or losing weight
- Taking corticosteroids
- Having your breast surgically enlarged
- Exercising and taking anabolic steroids
- Cushing’s syndrome or Marfan syndrome (genetic disorders)
Now you see getting stretch marks is not necessarily due to overweight. Thin people can also experience these scars. They can appear especially if you have a quick growth spurt.
What can Remove Stretch Marks?
Baby marks are a type of scar. Treatment can help make them less noticeable along with reducing the itching.
Consult your doctor before treating stretch marks if you are pregnant or breast feeding. Certain ingredients in products (like retinol) can be harmful to your baby.
It is important to understand there is no single treatment to remove the bands for everyone. Many products don’t seem to work at all.
According to the American Academy of Dermatology Association (AAD) this is what research has found on treatments for stretch marks.
Creams, Lotions and Gels
There have been many studies on creams, lotions and gels. No certain product shows results all the time. Along with the chance it won’t work at all.
Researchers have found certain helpful hacks. Creams, lotions and gels can fade stretch marks.
If you want to try these keep this in mind:
- Apply product on early (key) stretch marks. On mature scars this treatment seems to have little improvement.
- The product needs to be massaged into your stretch marks. To make it more effective do this slowly while being gentle.
- Product takes weeks to show results so apply every day
Home Remedies for Stretch Marks
Studies showed that popular home remedies have not worked.
Researchers discovered that stretch marks didn’t fade when massaged with:
- Almond oil
- Cocoa butter
- Olive oil
- Vitamin E
Tanning won’t get rid of your stretch marks. Because they are scars and won’t tan they become more noticeable.
Studies have shown two ingredients that seem to work:
- Hyaluronic acid
There were two large studies; showing the use of hyaluronic acid on early scars faded the stretch marks. Tretinoin is a retinoid, this can also improve early baby stripes. One study showed those who used a prescription cream nightly through 24 weeks saw results. Women not using the cream had their early bands widened.
Seeing Your Dermatologist
Your dermatologist can help with any concerns. A bothersome appearance of your stretch marks or if they cover a large area consulting with your provider will help. Also your specialist can provide the cause of your bands along with treatment options.
You can consult your specialist about successful procedures and new products available. Treatments bought in store or online can be costly. If your treatment takes more of your time and money without results seeing your dermatologist could be your best choice.
Your dermatologist can perform a procedure to reduce your stretch marks. However these won’t get rid of them.
- Chemical peels
- Laser therapy
For the best results your dermatologist may suggest more than one kind of treatment. This could be radiofrequency along with a pulse dye laser.
Take into consideration the possibility of side effects. With a board certified dermatologist who is skilled any side effects tend to be minor and temporary.
Some redness and swelling are common symptoms after a procedure. These should disappear after a few hours or days.
Your dermatologist can advise you on which treatment could help you. Factors to take into account are your health, age and how long you’ve had your baby lines.
Can Stretch Marks be Prevented?
It is possible. Research has shown many home remedies for stretch marks don’t really work.
Studies found neither of these helps prevent them:
- Almond oil
- Cocoa butter
- Olive oil
- Vitamin E
Researchers did find other ingredients in products that can help. Look for centella or hyaluronic acid. Your skin naturally makes hyaluronic acid. Centella is an herb native to Asia that’s found in creams for stretch marks.
Home Remedies to Try
These weren’t included in the studies above. However, some have seen positive results. It’s your decision.
Actually retinoid gives your skin that smoother youthful look. You can apply this topically or take a supplement orally. Adding more carrots and sweet potatoes to your diet might also help.
Sugar can be used as a naturopathic form of microdermabrasion. This is because microdermabrasion has been shown to fade the scars. Using a sugar scrub to exfoliate the area may help.
You know how I feel about aloe vera. It’s a medicinal plant used by the Ancients for so many ailments. After you shower apply pure aloe vera (the gel) from a plant to your stretch mark. Just to be safe you may want to do a patch test first.
Coconut oil has been shown to contain healing properties. Daily apply a virgin coconut oil to your stripes. This might reduce some redness. That is if you are not allergic to coconuts the oil is considered safe.
Wrapping it up
Stretch marks actually a scar are a common beauty complaint. There are many risk factors and causes. Early stretch marks are easier to treat.
Studies have been done concerning treatments. Home remedies don’t usually work. Hyaluronic acid, centella, and tretinoin may help on early stretch marks.
If you have more mature stretch marks that you can’t stand your best bet is a procedure with your dermatologist. This can be expensive and may not be covered by insurance. But you would see better results if you are looking for fading or scar removal.
Most importantly they aren’t painful or serious. So, no major concerns beyond their look. On the other hand body positivity encourages us to embrace the skin we’re in!
Have you tried a stretch mark treatment with success?
Mary is the founder of All About Our Skin. Former esthetician and CPC. Enjoys researching skincare and has been studying our skin for the past fifteen years.