How to Get Rid of Stretch Marks
Pregnant women carefully coat their growing bellies in cream after cream, hoping to avoid those angry red marks left when the skin on their bellies stretches too fast. But pregnant women aren’t the only people struck by these marks. Regardless of gender or age, these unsightly marks can appear on anyone’s skin.
How Do You End up With Stretch Marks?
Stretch marks—the dreaded result of skin that has been stretched quickly and for an extended period of time—are an infuriating skin concern for anyone who has become pregnant, gained or lost a significant amount of weight, or experienced rapid growth during puberty. The stretch mark is the result of the collagen and elastin bands within the skin rupturing or being broken down by the rapid or intense stretching of the skin. The elastin and collagen fibers break, causing a scar that forms from the inside of the skin. These marks usually start out red, brown, black, or purplish in color, but will eventually fade to a silvery grey or white with a slight indentation and differing texture.
Stretch marks are extremely common—especially in pregnant women—and are exasperatingly difficult to prevent and treat. Your likelihood to develop stretch marks is genetic, and you cannot control what you do and do not inherit. Thankfully, there are things you can do to help treat stretch marks, even after they’ve reared their unpleasant heads.
Knowing What Works and What Doesn’t
First and foremost, be wary of any cream or ointment claiming to heal stretch marks. While keeping skin moisturized and supple may be helpful in preventing stretch marks, there is no definitive research showing a significant benefit. Additionally, a moisturizer is not able to reach below the surface of the skin to eliminate scarring and heal broken collagen and elastic fibers. Once the stretch marks have appeared, a topical treatment cannot reverse the damage. Even topical treatments containing collagen and elastin cannot repair the damaged bands that caused the stretch mark scar in the first place.
However, a treatment containing glycolic acid, like The Method: Body Nourish, can help minimize the appearance of the stretch mark scars. The 10% glycolic acid combined with Hylaplex®, a powerful moisturizing compound with lasting benefits, help keep the skin plump while exfoliating for smoother, softer skin. If your stretch marks are still red or purple, the glycolic acid may also help brighten any discoloration. When glycolic acid is used in combination with Vitamin C, the brightening effect on the discoloration is even more significant. Advanced C Radiance Treatment contains a powerful 10% stabilized Vitamin C to help fade darker stretch marks. The retinol in the formula also helps improve the appearance of stretch marks when applied once to twice daily to help minimize the appearance of your stretch marks and make them less noticeable over time.
Though it may sound like there’s little to be done, there are some medical options that may help improve your stretch marks. Before signing up for any of these treatments, you’ll need to seek the advice of an experienced dermatologist who will be able to tell you which treatment is right for you and your stretch marks.
The least invasive option is a topical retinoid called tretinoin, found in products like Retin-A, Renova, and Avita. These retinoids are derived Vitamin A and have been proven to help improve the appearance of stretch marks that are relatively new—less than a few months old. When it works effectively, tretinoin helps your stretch marks look more like the rest of your skin. Improvement is usually around 20%, which may be significant enough for many clients—especially those who want to avoid medical procedures.
Advanced Treatments for Stretch Marks
However, for those who are willing to pursue more aggressive treatments, chemical peels, microdermabrasion, and light or laser treatments have all been shown to improve the appearance of stretch marks. Again, your dermatologist can best determine which treatment is ideal for your skin.
A series of 20% trichloroacetic acid (TCA) chemical peels can help improve the appearance of stretch marks because these peels penetrate much deeper than Alpha Hydroxy Acid (AHA) or Beta Hydroxy Acid (BHA) peels. However, if you’re looking for dramatic results, a chemical peel isn’t likely to provide the improvement you’re looking for.
Dermabrasion is another option for treating the appearance of stretch marks. This procedure resurfaces the skin by removing the top layer of skin, encouraging the growth of new, smoother skin. Though dermabrasion will not treat the actual stretch marks themselves, it can make them less noticeable. Once again, however, this procedure won’t provide dramatic improvement.
For substantial improvement, your best option for treating stretch marks is a laser or light therapy like Intense Pulsed Light (IPL), Pulsed Dye Laser (PDL), or Fractional Photothermolysis (FP). These laser treatments repair the skin and regenerate skin cells, causing improved skin elasticity and reducing the appearance of the stretch marks. Some laser treatments also shrink dilated blood vessels, helping resolve the discoloration present in newer stretch marks. Studies have consistently shown that laser treatments are the most likely treatment to provide significant, lasting improvement to your stretch marks.
While there are multitudes of products out there that claim to prevent stretch marks, there’s really nothing you can do to keep stretch marks from forming on your skin when it stretches quickly or significantly. As frustrating as that is, once they appear, they can be treated. Regardless of what treatment you choose, begin an over-the-counter treatment as soon as you notice stretch marks on your body. Then, schedule an appointment with your dermatologist to ascertain what kind of additional treatment is likely to be most effective for your stretch marks. You may not be able to change your genetics and stop stretch marks from appearing, but you can improve their appearance with the right treatments.