If you’ve recently lost weight or had a baby, then you would think that these times in your life are supposed to be wonderful. For those who lost weight, maybe you worked really, really hard to shed those pounds with months of diet changes and exercise. If you just had a baby, then your body created a whole human being! That’s amazing! What’s not amazing is what weight loss and/or pregnancy left behind: stretch marks.
In this article, we will give you the ultimate guide to getting rid of stretch marks, because a stretch mark can be a buzzkill that is hard to get rid of! Not only will you get an in-depth guide about what stretch marks are, but you will also receive information about how we get stretch marks and how to remove them. Above all, we will also list 13 ways to get rid of stretch marks so that you can start improving the look of your skin today. If your goal is to get rid of stretch marks fast, then this may be the most important article you read today.
What are stretch marks?
According to the American Academy of Dermatology, stretch marks (also known as “striae”) are stripe-like marks that appear on the skin when it is stretched due to rapid weight gain or loss. They are a form of scarring caused by the tearing of the middle layer of skin (known as the dermis), which regulates the skin’s elasticity. When the dermis is stretched too taut, it breaks, developing tiny rips in the fibers and causing the blood vessels located under the skin to show through.
This is why stretch marks appear red, purple, or even pink or brown at first. You can even have itchy stretch marks, which is super annoying! Eventually, the blood vessels contract, leaving only the underlying fat visible, and the stretch marks fade to streaks of glossy silver or white over time. Also, they may become slightly indented. Both men and women can get stretch marks on various locations of their bodies, typically areas where there are larger growths of skin or fat stores, such as the abdominal area, thighs, hips, breasts, upper arms, and lower back.
What causes stretch marks?
Stretch marks commonly occur during the rapid growth spurts that accompany pregnancy and adolescence. If you get stretch marks during weight gain, then it just makes the unintentional weight gain even worse! A large number of pregnant women, 70% of teenage girls, and 40% of adolescent boys develop stretch marks. They are more frequent in women and occur equally in all races, although women with light skin are more susceptible.
However, not everyone gets stretch marks, even those people who gain or lose large amounts of weight. According to Britain’s National Health Service, people who have larger amounts of cortisol (a stress hormone produced by the adrenal glands) may be more prone to developing stretch marks. This is because cortisol decreases the skin’s levels of collagen, a protein that helps keep skin stretchy. It is converted into cortisone, which weakens elastic fibers in the skin.
Stretch Marks and Weight Loss
Aside from pregnancy, there are other (and perhaps more common) stretch mark causes. Weight loss! If you’ve recently lost weight, then you may be discouraged about the wrinkled, lose skin all over your body (not to mention the tiger-like pattern from stretch marks). What a bummer! While you may be all excited to show off your body at the beach, your insecurities arise again. Therefore, you may find yourself hiding your body in a large T-shirt or cover-up on the beach. Don’t worry! You’re not alone!
Stretch marks can happen during periods of rapid or extreme weight loss, worsening the appearance of them. A loss of more than two pounds per week can cause the body to produce cortisol, disrupting the skin’s collagen production. Less collagen combined with overstretched skin from the former weight increases the chances of getting stretch marks.
As the skin begins to recover after weight loss, the loose skin becomes less taut, making stretch marks appear more noticeable and numerous. Yo-yo dieting can particularly cause stretch marks to form as weight quickly goes up and down. It is best to lose weight in a slow and steady manner so skin is not put under stress. If you are in need of a sustainable weight loss program, then be sure to check out our ultimate weight loss guide.
Stretch Marks and Body Building
On the opposite end of the spectrum, you can also get stretch marks from muscle growth related to weight training (1). So, if you have been making mega gains at the gym, then you may be frowning when you see the stretch marks on your arms. For those who want to continue your muscle building trend and don’t want to be riddled with unsightly stretch marks, try some of our tips below for stretch mark removal.
Do stretch marks go away?
If you feel like throwing your hands up in surrender, then you’re not alone! Stretch marks on your legs, arms, back, and/or belly can be extremely frustrating. Even though you feel like stretch marks only perpetuate a bad situation, rest assured that there are various things you can do to get rid of stretch marks.
So, can you get rid of stretch marks? Keep reading to see our list of 13 ways to get rid of stretch marks.
13 Ways on How to Get Rid of Stretch Marks
As promised, here is our list of tips on how to remove stretch marks. While you may want to jump in and do all of these at once, consider starting with one or two tips to see what works and what does not. What’s the point of doing all of these tips if you don’t know which one is the most effective? After reading our list of tips, be sure to keep reading for more information about how to prevent stretch marks in the future.
In general, treatment methods for stretch marks are varied and fall into two main categories: topical and surgical. However, there is little medical evidence to support the effectiveness of such treatments. When it comes to stretch mark removal, trial and error is the name of the game. Also, what works for one person may not work for someone else.
- Stay hydrated.
Drinking plenty of water is essential for healthy skin! Aside from helping your inner organs work, good hydration keeps your skin supple and soft. Also, good hydration is a great tool for weight loss. Check out our article about how to lose 20 pounds.
- Use self-tanner.
Contrary to popular belief, tanning in the sun or in a tanning bed can actually make stretch marks and wrinkles look worse! Above all, stretch marks typically do not tan like the rest of your skin. Instead, use topical self-tanner that can dye your skin to give it an even, tanned tint.
- Ask your doctor about prescription topical treatments.
Some popular prescription topical products are Retin-A (tretinoin) or Tazorac gel. Unfortunately, these are not available over the counter, so you must go to the doctor’s office to inquire. Above all, these products are designed to stimulate collagen in order to improve the appearance of stretch marks over time.
However, only pink or purple-tinted marks will fade, since these are immature stretch marks. For those with gray or white striations, it is important to note that these are mature stretch marks and are more likely to not respond to treatment. In one study cited in Medical News Today, after six months of treatment, tretinoin reduced the length of stretch marks by 14% and the width by 8%.
In another study, a 12-week course decreased the length of stretch marks by 20%. However, it is very important not to use these treatments while pregnant or breastfeeding, as they are teratogenic, and can cause congenital defects.
- Consume healthy fats.
- Nuts and seeds
- Nut butter
- Oils (i.e. olive oil, canola oil, grapeseed oil)
- Fatty fish (i.e. salmon, tuna)
- Consider microdermabrasion.
Surgical procedures may have the most success in treating stretch marks. Dermatologist and health and beauty expert Dr. Susan Evans, M.D. recommends dermabrasion, laser treatments and fractional laser resurfacing, all which utilize the body’s natural healing process of generating new skin to heal over the removed scar tissue.
Microdermabrasion uses a device that blows crystals onto the skin, “polishing” the skin’s surface. A vacuum tube then sucks up both the crystals and skin cells, gently removing the skin’s top layer, thus stimulating growth of new skin. It has been shown to improve skin contour irregularities, such as early stretch marks. Side effects are less common than topical tretinoin and patients are more likely to adhere to the treatment schedule.
- Ask your doctor about laser therapy.
Laser therapies can provide safe and effective reduction in the appearance of both immature red stretch marks and mature white stretch marks. Lasers use wavelengths of light to stimulate growth of collagen, elastin or melanin production in the skin. According to the Cleveland Clinic, the heat from the laser light triggers new elastin production in the deeper layers where the stretch marks are formed, giving skin a tighter and smoother appearance.
Pulsed dye lasers have been shown to be effective for early stretch marks, and fractional laser treatment has been found to work best for older stretch marks. Newer stretch marks that are reddish in color may be successfully removed with a single treatment, but people with older and deeper stretch marks may require several treatments.
- If you have saggy skin, then consider a tummy tuck.
Rapid or excessive weight loss often results in saggy skin, causing people to seek a tummy tuck procedure. However, a tummy tuck can also be helpful for stretch marks.
Tummy tucks cannot correct stretch marks, but they may eliminate or improve their appearance if the marks are located on the area of excess skin to be removed. One thing to keep in mind, however, is that tummy tucks can leave surgical scars. So, it is important to weigh the risks of having surgical scars versus stretch marks.
- Inquire about using radio waves for stretch marks.
Radiofrequency devices use radio waves to heat tissue under the skin, which triggers collagen production, leading to fading stretch marks. “As new collagen grows, it plumps up skin so it’s smoother while also increasing elastin, the fibers that keep skin firm,” says M. Christine Lee, M.D., an assistant clinical professor of dermatology at the University of California, San Francisco, and director of the East Bay Laser and Skin Care Center in Walnut Creek, CA.
The “Fotona4D” is a procedure that combines several lasers and typically provides the best results, even on older stretch marks. But radiofrequency is not permanent. Once treatments are discontinued, so is the production of collagen. “So, you have to redo them every couple of years to maintain the best results,” says Lee.
- Find products that contain key stretch mark removal ingredients.
When looking for topical stretch mark creams, make sure the product contains at least one of these ingredients: hyaluronic acid, retinol and/or tretinoin. One thing to keep in mind, however, is that some of these ingredients can be harmful to an unborn baby, so always consult your doctor about stretch mark products, especially if you are pregnant.
- Alpha Hydroxy Acids – Cosmetic creams, with ingredients such as alpha hydroxy (acids) are used to lessen the appearance of their stretch marks. They are sold both via prescription and over the counter. These creams may be able to temporarily plump up the skin’s surface, but have not been scientifically proven to permanently remove stretch marks.
- Glycolic Acid – Glycolic acid is a sugar cane derivative and a member of the alpha hydroxy acid (AHA) family. It most likely works on stretch marks by increasing collagen production, says Leslie Baumann, MD, director of the University of Miami Cosmetic Group and author of The Skin Type Solution. Glycolic acid can also be administered in higher doses by a dermatologist.
- Glycolic Acid and Retinoids – Above all, using a combination of glycolic acid and retinoids may provide even better results. According to Mohamed L. Elsaie, MD, MBA, a trial comparing glycolic acid and tretinoin with glycolic acid and vitamin C both showed equal improvement and increased elastic in stretch marks after 12 weeks of daily application. Prescription-strength retinoids are often applied prior to a glycolic acid peel in order to prepare the skin.
- Trial silicone gel.
In a study of 20 volunteers who applied silicone gel and placebo gels into separate sides of the abdomen daily for 6 weeks, the application of silicone gel was shown to increase collagen levels and reduce pigmentation compared with a placebo. These findings could provide preliminary evidence of the use of topical gels in the clinical management of stretch marks. Ask your doctor about the following stretch mark products. These are available in over-the-counter and prescription strengths.
- Stratamark gel, produced by Stratpharma AG (a Switzerland-based company)
- Kelo-cote andDermatix, made by Obagi Medical Products, Inc. (a division of Valeant Pharmaceuticals)
- Experiment with topical over-the-counter stretch mark cream.
Over-the-counter products like Lac-Hydrin lotion hydrate the skin to help to reduce the appearance of stretch marks, according to WebMD. Charles E. Crutchfield III, M.D., clinical adjunct associate professor of dermatology at the University of Minnesota Medical School, recommends AmLactin, produced by Upsher-Smith Laboratories, Inc. and Merz Pharma’s Mederma (a gel based on an onion extract).
- Get your vitamin C.
Certain preparations of vitamin C, which have become increasingly popular as over-the-counter products, may increase collagen production and help early-stage stretch marks, says Dr. Baumann. She recommends combining them with glycolic acid for optimum effect. She also says vitamin C supplements may be effective, suggesting 500 milligrams three times a day.
In a report detailing the effect of vitamin C on skin, the authors indicate that vitamin C topical creams can be used to protect the skin and decrease the rate of cellular aging. Cellular aging can make those stretch marks look worse! Food sources of vitamin C include the following:
- Fruits (i.e. strawberries, oranges)
- Vegetables (i.e. spinach, cauliflower)
- Starchy vegetables (i.e. potatoes)
- Fresh herbs
- Get your vitamin A.
Vitamin A is actually a wide selection of several important compounds that we get from the diet. Retinol, in particular, is used by the body for skin maintenance and optimization. Consuming foods that are rich in vitamin A will help improve your skin. Food sources of vitamin A include the following:
- Animal liver
- Cod liver oil
- Fatty fish (i.e. salmon, tuna)
- Vegetables (i.e. kale, carrots)
- Starchy vegetables (i.e. potatoes)
Choosing the Best Stretch Mark Removal Methods
Whether you have stretch marks on your legs or stretch marks on your back (or in many places), try one or two of these tips at a time before moving on to another. As you can see, some of these stretch mark removal methods range from non-invasive home treatments to extensive cosmetic surgery. Above all, not every method will work for everyone. However, a little trial and error never hurt anyone!
Keep reading to discover the facts on stretch mark removal myths as well as tips for preventing stretch marks in the future.
Myths to Getting Rid of Stretch Marks
Before you jump in to exploring all of the stretch mark treatments available to you, make sure you know some of the ineffective and unfounded methods to remove stretch marks. If someone is telling you to do these things to get rid of stretch marks, don’t waste your time or money:
Myth #1: Peptide-containing products are effective in removing stretch marks.
Peptide-containing products, widely marketed as effective “repair” creams, are a waste of time and money, Dr. Baumann says. Despite commercial claims, there is no convincing data that these work. The American Society for Dermatologic Surgery agrees, cautioning that there is no convincing evidence that creams and ointments containing peptides work to treat stretch marks.
Myth #2: Home remedies like wheat germ oil and olive oil are effective for stretch marks.
There is not much scientific data on whether home remedies for stretch marks, such as wheat germ oil, are effective. One recent study did find it helped improve stretch marks in their early phase. A different study testing the application of olive oil in the second trimester of pregnancy did not appear to reduce the likelihood of developing stretch marks.
Myth #3: Cocoa butter is an effective over-the-counter treatment for pregnancy stretch marks.
For years, women have often sworn by cocoa butter to help prevent stretch marks during pregnancy. However, in two different studies of 300 and 175 women, application of a cocoa butter containing lotion did not appear to reduce the likelihood of developing stretch marks during pregnancy. According to the American Academy of Dermatology, home remedies like almond oil, cocoa butter, and vitamin E are not effective in stretch mark removal (2).
How to Prevent Stretch Marks in the Future
We checked the research behind ways to prevent future stretch marks. If you’re planning another pregnancy, wanting to lose weight, or wanting to make muscle gains, then start doing these tips as soon as possible!
- Apply stretch mark cream early in the process.
According to the American Society for Dermatologic Surgery, treating stretch marks as early as possible is key. Research has shown that stretch marks best respond to treatment in the beginning stages when they are still purple or red. Once they become white or silver, they are more difficult to treat.
For example, as soon as you find out you are pregnant, start treating your belly. Likewise, if you have goals to build muscle, consider using a stretch mark cream as your daily moisturizer.
- Slow down and massage the stretch mark cream.
Instead of glossing over your stretch mark-prone areas with a thin layer of cream, make sure you massage the product into your skin. Not only does the product work on the stretch marks, but the massaging can increase blood flow to the area. Increased blood flow promotes bodily restoration.
In one study that tested whether bitter almond oil would prevent stretch marks during pregnancy found that a 15-minute massage applied with almond oil during pregnancy reduced the development of stretch marks. However, using bitter almond oil without massage did not reduce the development of stretch marks, leading the authors to conclude that pregnant women should be made aware of the positive effects of massaging early on in pregnancy.
- Give each product time to work.
In this day in age, we want products that work immediately and give us results we can see as soon as possible. However, above all, you must be patient and give a single product time to work. How do you do that?
Give yourself an 8-week trial period for each stretch mark product. Only use that one product for 8 weeks and then analyze the results after an 8-week period. If you see results, then continue using that product. On the other hand, if you do not see results, then try something else for 8 weeks. By not mixing products, you will be able to determine which exact product is effective in removing stretch marks.
- Continue to stay hydrated.
Above all, good hydration helps with everything! Make sure to continue staying hydrated for overall health and skin health. Good hydrated skin is supple, smooth and healthy! If you need more reasons or tips to stay hydrated, then try lemon water and/or cucumber water.
- Aim for gradual weight gain or weight loss.
For overall health, sustainability, and preventing stretch marks, strive for slow weight loss or weight gain. Having a slow weight change process allows the body to adjust gradually, giving your skin a better chance to accommodate.
If you’re trying to lose or gain weight (due to pregnancy or not), then try to keep weight change to no more than 2 pounds per week. For expecting mothers, make sure you are gaining weight in the correct manner and at the correct rate. Also, there are specific recommendations pertaining to how much weight you should gain during pregnancy based on your pre-pregnancy weight. For more information on recommended pregnancy weight gain, click here.
The Bottom Line to Getting Rid of Stretch Marks
If you still feel discouraged when you look in the mirror, then try to remember that millions of people deal with stretch marks, so you are not alone. Try to look at the positives of how those stretch marks got there. For example, if you had a baby, then remember the miracle you created. If your stretch marks are from muscle building, then way to go!
Regardless of how you got your stretch marks, the bottom line is that there are many ways to get rid of stretch marks and how to prevent stretch marks in the future. In general, taking the time to take care of your body is a great way to start getting rid of stretch marks.
When you are ready to work on yourself and remove your stretch marks, refer back to our article since it is the ultimate guide on how to remove stretch marks. Use our tips and suggestions for future stretch mark prevention and see what works for you!
Have you had success with stretch mark removal? Which area of your body do you find has the toughest stretch marks to get rid of? Let us know your experiences in the comments below!