Stretch Mark Treatments
Whenever the skin becomes overstretched, the collagen fibers in the middle layer of the skin can become damaged. They pull apart from one another, leaving a groove or stretch mark on the skin. Stretch marks are vertical lines running under the surface of the skin and are often bright pink or purplish in color when they first appear. Over time, they may become white and deeply grooved. They are most commonly seen on the stomach, breasts, upper arms, legs and buttocks.
Unfortunately, there is no easy solution for these unsightly marks. You can try to avoid getting them in the first place by using vitamin enriched skin moisturizers to improve your skin’s elasticity. However, the effectiveness of such creams is often limited by the skin’s ability to absorb them deeply. If the nutrients never reach the middle layer of skin, they will be ineffective. It may be better to focus on a healthy diet of antioxidant rich foods high in vitamins A, E & C. Staying hydrated can also help to improve your skin’s elasticity and reduce the likelihood of stretch marks appearing.
The good news is that stretch marks will fade over time. After a year or two, the tone will more closely match the surrounding skin and the marks will be less noticeable. Tanning can also help even out the skin tone, but be cautious of too much sun. Stretch marks are highly preferred over skin cancer. Sunless tanning is better because it carries no cancer risk, but be careful to choose a shade that is right for your skin tone.
Lemon juice is one of the most versatile skin treatments available. Not only is it good for reducing stretch marks, it is also recommended for freckles and acne. The citric acid in lemon juice provides a gently and safe exfoliation, helping to rejuvenate the skin. It is best to apply lemon juice at the first signs of stretch marks when it will be most effective. Once the marks turn white and deepen, they become much harder to get rid of.
The vitamin C in lemon juice is also good for increasing collagen production, which may help to repair the torn fibers. Taking vitamin C as a supplement may also be helpful. Better yet, eat healthy citrus fruits to benefit from the fiber content as well.
Over the Counter
If you do not have the patience to wait for your skin to heal, you can try some home remedies. Vitamin E gel is commonly used to treat stretch marks. Cocoa butter and aloe lotions also come highly recommended.
Another treatment that might surprise you is wrinkle cream. Collagen-based wrinkle creams using newer technologies to penetrate deeply into the skin can help repair the damaged collagen in your skin. This works for wrinkles and stretch marks alike. It is important to choose a cream that can actually penetrate the deeper layers of your skin and provide additional vital nutrients. The combination of collagen and nutrients gives your skin all it needs to repair itself.
Exfoliating can help to resurface the skin, reducing the appearance of stretch marks. Be careful to always wear sunscreen when you have been using any exfoliating product since they will make you more susceptible to sun burn. Common exfoliating ingredients are Alpha Hydroxy Acids, Glicolic Acid, Retinoids and Slicylic acid. By breaking down the proteins that bond dead skin cells, these acids help you produce newer, more resilient skin. Because these products often contain high doses of the antioxidant vitamin A, they should not be used during pregnancy. It is also not known if these are safe while you are nursing, so it may be best to avoid them if you are lactating.
From the Doctor
Your dermatologist has a whole bag of tricks ready to help you reduce the appearance of stretch marks. While to no treatment will remove stretch marks completely, there are many ways to minimize their appearance. While certainly more costly than home remedies or over-the-counter treatments, it may be worth the expense if the appearance of stretch marks really bothers you.
Retin-A, or Tretinoin 0.1% cream has been proven in studies to reduce the appearance of stretch marks. It can shorten stretch marks up to 20 percent and narrow them by 8 percent. This medication requires a prescription and should not be taken by breastfeeding mothers since it is not known if the medication can be passed to the baby in breast milk or if it would harm your baby. There have also been cases of pregnant women using this medication having children with birth defects, but it has not been proven if Tretinoin was the culprit. To be on the safe side, you should not use this medication if you are pregnant.
Several procedures can be performed by your dermatologist as well. Microdermabrasion is a popular treatment for removing the top layer of skin by chemical means. The new skin that forms is more uniform in appearance.
Laser Therapy can be used to treat stretch marks as well. Effective on many types of scars and the “mask of pregnancy” known as melasma, fractional lasers work like a pencil eraser. They effectively “smudge” the stretch marks and make them less noticeable. These lasers, also called fractional photothermolysis, target areas of the skin at a microscopic level. Some cells are left intact and others are treated. The treated areas create new, more youthful skin, making the stretch marks about 30% less noticeable. This can help reduce the deeply grooved stretch marks that some women have. While probably the most effective treatment for stretch marks, the treatment is not cheap. Approximately three sessions are needed to be effective and will cost around $3,000 in total.
A tummy tuck can be a very helpful procedure for those who can afford it. Because stretch marks typically rest on the lower abdomen, below the belly button, they are often removed as a side effect of a tummy tuck. No surgery can selectively remove the stretch marks, however.
While stretch marks are not pleasant to look at, they can be minimized by many means. The key is to treat them as soon as they appear to reduce their appearance in the future. Over time, they will be less noticeable and less frustrating for you.