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How to get rid of stretch marks? [Dermatologist Approved]

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This article is medically reviewed on February 23, 2021 by:

Picture of Sarah Cannon M.D., F.A.A.D.

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How to treat stretch marks?

Stretch mark creams simply don’t work

If you are fighting with stretch marks and have used all kinds of creams, serums, and topical treatments, this article is for you!

Are there ways to really get rid of stretch marks? Do stretch mark creams actually work? This article will guide you through the answers to those two important questions!

Let’s dive in!

Even though stretch marks (also known as striae) are harmless types of skin scars, they affect the skin aesthetics of between 50 and 90% of people worldwide. [1]

Striae can vary in color, size, shape, and location on your body, and while some marks are lighter than your normal skin color, others can be red, purplish, or present with darker brown pigmentation. These more visible types of stretch marks motivate people to look for effective scar-fading treatment options.

There are numerous over-the-counter anti-stretch marks creams, lotions, and serums, that promise quick skin improvement on already developed stretch marks. Yet, the results of these cosmetic products are often disappointing.

How to treat stretch marks?

The American Academy of Dermatology provides some guidelines on how to make topical anti-stretch mark treatment more effective [2] :

  • Use on newly appeared or growing stretch marks
  • Massage the product into the skin, sometimes multiples times per day
  • Apply the product for weeks to months

Considering that, the source suggests that hyaluronic acid and tretinoin can have most visible effect on newly appeared and growing stretch marks. However, the effect of creams and gels based on other cosmetic ingredients is likely to be minimal.

Unfortunately, the solution for completely fading scratch marks is still unknown! Yet, according to an updated 2020 paper by StatPerls, there are various proven ways that can fade striae and improve their overall appearance [5] :

  • Light and laser therapies

Various types of laser therapies have shown significant positive effects on fading striae (e.g., pulse dye laser, and fractional lasers.) Yet, the number and duration of the laser sessions can vary between individuals and a consultation with a board-certified dermatologist is always recommended. The side effects of these treatments may include temporary swelling, inflammation, water retention, and post-inflammatory pigmentation. In that sense, people with darker skin types bear a higher risk of adverse effects.

striae buttocks

  • Radiofrequency

In theory, radiofrequency therapy can be beneficial for improving the appearance of stretch marks, as it stimulates collagen synthesis and supports tissue recovery. In addition, this therapy is generally well tolerated and with low rates of adverse effects.

  • Microdermabrasion, microneedling, and ultrasound devices

These can also fade stretch marks. However, the results of these treatments can vary across individuals depending on the number of sessions, technique during treatment, size of treated skin areas, and combination with other anti-stretch mark therapies.

  • Camouflage tattoo

These tattoos do not intend to reverse the stretch damage, but aim to hide the already visible imperfections.

Find out more: How to Heal Your Tattoo Faster? [ Quick Guide ]

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Stretch mark creams simply don’t work

The advice from Dr. Cannon (Board-Certified Dermatologist):

The treatment of stretch marks is extremely challenging and there is no gold standard for reduction or clearance of these areas.

Certain types of stretch marks can have more cosmetic improvement than others such as red stretch marks (striae rubra) as the treatments are aimed at the vasculature (blood vessels) rather than the deeper tissue damage. It is important to have stretch marks evaluated by a board-certified dermatologist or plastic surgeon and to set realistic expectations for improvement after consultation.

According to the American Academy of Dermatology, while some anti-stretch mark creams, lotions, gels and other topical treatments can have slight temporary fading effects (when used persistently for weeks), most of them have no effect at all (like olive oil, cocoa butter, almond oil, and vitamin E). [2]

The reason behind this hides in the nature of the stretch marks and how they appear. Striae occur mainly due to pregnancy, puberty, and significant weight gain, when the skin is quickly stretched (matter of days and weeks.) Such stretching requires quick expansion of the skin and connective tissue (located in the second skin layer – the dermis.) But when these tissues cannot bear the stretch fast enough, they get damaged [3] :

  1. The collagen and elastin in the dermis cannot keep up with the quick skin changes and this causes micro dermis “fractures”.
  2. The top skin layer becomes thinner and more translucent as it stretches over the areas of rupture.

striae legs

That being said, the most effective way to treat stretch marks is to PREVENT them by supporting the collagen and elastin synthesis in your dermis by frequently moisturizing the skin and using the correct cosmetic ingredients like retinol, tretinoin, peptides, and hyaluronic acid. [4]

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