Recently, the body positivity corner of the internet has started to embrace stretch marks.
In addition to other previously perceived “flaws,” stretch marks tell a story, one about welcoming a new baby into the family or a person’s weight loss or gain journey.
Still, some women are embarrassed by their stretch marks and will try almost anything to get rid of them, including trying stretch mark removal products.
So are these products a worthwhile investment? Or are you just throwing money away?
- Over-the-counter products don’t work
- Some prescription products may help
- Your doctor can recommend procedures to diminish the appearance of stretch marks
- Risk factors of treatments
- Ways to prevent stretch marks
Do Stretch Mark Removal Products Really Work?
According to recent studies, stretch mark removal products generally do not work. Researchers found that Tretinoin cream provided some improvement in the appearance of stretch marks over the placebo group. However, it took six months to see those results and some of the participants reported:
- Skin peeling
Tretinoin cream is a prescription-strength retinol product. Over-the-counter products contain a lower dose of retinol, as well as:
- Vitamin E
- Vitamin C
- Ferulic acid (an antioxidant used to protect and preserve the skin)
- Hyaluronic acid (An acid that can reduce wrinkles. It is made in the body and found in high concentrations in the fluids of the eyes and joints.)
For the most part, these stretch mark removal products are ineffective. However, many women feel that some product use is better than nothing, even if the results are slight.
What Causes Stretch Marks?
Stretch marks – or striae – are indented streaks in the skin. They are most likely to affect the:
- Axillae (where the shoulder meets the arm)
There are various types of striae, too, including:
- Striae atrophicans (thin skin)
- Striae distensae (stretched skin)
- Striae gravidarum (stretching caused by pregnancy)
Stretch marks can also come in a variety of colors:
Over time, bright streaks can fade to white or almost the same color as the natural skin. Some may disappear over time or with treatment, while others stay on the skin for life.
Risk Factors for Developing Stretch Marks
Striae in the skin are caused by the skin being stretched. Two factors that contribute to stretch marks and the severity with which you can develop them include:
- The degree of stress that is placed on the skin while it is stretched
- Your cortisol levels (a stress hormone produced by your adrenal glands, which can progressively weaken the skin’s elastic fibers)
Other risk factors to consider:
- Having a family history of stretch marks
- Developing stretch marks in the past
- Being female
- Rapid growth (during adolescence)
- The use of corticosteroids
- Anabolic steroid use
- Breast enlargement surgery
- Rapid weight loss
- Weight gain
- Certain genetic disorders (Marfan and Cushing’s syndromes)
Ultimately, anyone can develop stretch marks. The above risk factors listed potentially increase the likelihood of developing them.
Should You See a Doctor for Stretch Marks?
Typically, the only reasons to visit your physician is if:
- You are concerned about your skin’s appearance
- The stretch marks cover large areas
- The stretch marks develop rapidly
Your doctor can help you discover the cause of the stretch marks. Certain risk factors – like weight gain/loss or genetic disorders – can have a major impact on your overall health and should be addressed.
Treatment Options for Stretch Marks
Since stretch mark removal products are not that useful, what options do you have to get rid of them? Besides the prescription Tretinoin cream, your doctor may recommend the following alternatives.
Light or Laser Therapy
Light and laser therapy might help to stimulate collagen growth. Additionally, they might promote skin elasticity.
Your doctor will explain the pros and cons of this type of treatment and inform you of the likelihood of getting the results that you want based on:
- The age of the stretch marks
- Your skin type
You will also want to consider the time and cost investments required. Some treatments require multiple visits to the doctor, while others are rather costly.
Microneedling is often the preferred choice for people of color since there is a reduced risk of pigmentation changes.
During your appointment, a hand-held device is used to stimulate the skin’s collagen growth. It uses tiny needles to prick the skin. When the skin is injured, it promotes the production of collagen. The new tissue is firmer, healthier, and has a more even tone and texture.
Can Stretch Marks be Prevented?
While not all stretch marks can be prevented, you can reduce the risk of developing them by improving your skin’s health.
Eating foods rich in Omega-3 fatty acids can keep the skin supple. You can find Omega-3s in:
- Chia seeds
- Brussels sprouts
- Algal oil
- Hemp seeds
- Perilla oil
Another way to improve your skin’s health is to make sure you are getting plenty of vitamin D. This vitamin is essential for skin cell repair, growth, and metabolism. Besides spending a safe amount of time in the sun, you can also get vitamin D from fortified foods (milk), oily fish, and egg yolks.
While researchers have not found a cream or oil that prevents stretch marks, using a daily moisturizer and/or oil can keep the skin hydrated and supple. Because of this, your skin might be able to withstand gentle stretching, thereby potentially reducing the risk of stretch marks.
Take Better Care of Your Skin: How to Know Your Skin Type
Snowperk’s skin iD test will help you understand your skin and its unique needs. When you know this, you learn how to get firmer skin, how to hydrate skin, and what type of skincare routine will benefit your skin from head to toe.
Embrace Every Facet of Your Natural Beauty
Every inch of you is beautiful, even your “flaws.”
When you embrace your natural beauty, you will start to notice a difference in how you care for your skin. You will focus on nourishing and pampering it instead of trying to alter it.
Caring for your skin this way will help improve your confidence, which will help you get a healthy, youthful glow from the inside out.
Learn how to take better care of your skin. Take our skin iD test today!