Let’s face it: most women develop stretch marks at some point in their lives. Rapid weight change, pregnancy, puberty, genetics, and intense weight training contribute to a permanent etching of these lines into your skin. Unfortunately, while some people decide to embrace their stretch marks, others disguise them, and they frantically search for different ways to remove them. If you happen to fall into the group of people who want to get rid of their stretch marks, rest assured that these striated scars will often fade with time. But if you don’t want to wait, there are several things you can do to reduce their appearance. Spoiler alert—Collagen is your new best friend! It will not only restore your skin elasticity and make it remarkably smooth and firm, but it will also have positive effects on your overall health too.
But first, what exactly are stretch marks?
Striae distensae, commonly known as stretch marks, are visible scars that most commonly occur on the abdomen, breasts, buttocks, hips, and thighs. According to the American Academy of Dermatology (1), stretch marks develop when our skin stretches or shrinks quickly, causing the collagen, elastin, and fibrillin support network to rupture. There are two forms of stretch marks, namely striae rubrae and striae albae. The striae rubrae stage is the acute stage characterized by stretched and slightly raised lesions that are red, purple, pink, or brown in color. Striae albae is the chronic stage characterized by stretch marks that are atrophic, wrinkled, and faded in color (2).
According to recent research, many home remedies that claim to prevent stretch marks don’t actually work. However, products containing Centella Asiatica may help prevent stretch marks. Centella Asiatica is a plant used in Asian herbal medicine that contains asiaticoside which stimulates fibroblasts and plays a critical role in wound healing (3).
So, what actually causes stretch marks?
Stretch marks develop when your connective tissue proteins are stretched so quickly that they can’t withhold the pressure anymore, and they snap. This most often occurs during pregnancy, puberty, rapid weight loss or weight gain, or intense weight training. Even though stretch marks are more common in puberty and pregnancy, anyone can develop them in any phase of life. Moreover, you are more susceptible to getting stretch marks if your skin is dry, so it is crucial to moisturize your skin regularly.
Hyaluronic acid is found to be effective in treating stretch marks as it increases collagen production through the stimulation of fibroblasts. Controlled trials have reported that after 12 weeks of applying an onion extract cream with centella asiatica and hyaluronic acid, all participants experienced a significant improvement in overall appearance, texture, and color of skin (4).
How to prevent stretch marks?
Like with many other things, the best solution is actually prevention. If you’re at increased risk of getting stretch marks, i.e., you’re pregnant or expecting rapid weight fluctuations, there are some things you can do to reduce the likelihood of developing stretch marks. Here are the best tips to prevent stretch marks:
- Regularly moisturize and massage the areas where stretch marks are most likely to develop. Moisturizing your skin helps maintain skin’s elasticity, making it less likely to tear when you rapidly lose or gain weight.
- Eat omega-3 fatty acids. They may help keep the skin supple. Some of the sources of omega-3 include chia seeds, walnuts, flaxseed, and cold-water fish such as salmon, herring, sardines, and mackerel. (5)
- Exercise regularly. This will help you avoid weight gain and consequently reduce the risk of excessive skin stretching.
- Eat healthy food. Eating plenty of fruits and vegetables will arm your body with a variety of nutrients that are crucial for your health. Moreover, it will help control your weight which is one of the most helpful things you can do to prevent stretch marks.
- Stay hydrated. By drinking enough water, you will keep your skin soft.
- Avoid smoking. Smoking reduces blood flow to the skin and releases damaging free radicals, which may break down the collagen and elastin fibers in the skin.
How to eliminate stretch marks?
Getting rid of stretch marks is quite difficult. Once you develop stretch marks, the hard truth is that your stretch marks will not disappear completely no matter what treatment you use. But don’t fret—you can always make them less noticeable. It turns out that to minimize your stretch marks, it all comes down to collagen production. Down to learn more?
Here are 5 effective routes you can take. Just keep in mind that there is no surefire solution that works for everyone, so you must keep an open mind and try different treatments before figuring out which one is the most effective for you.
1. Apply Tretinoin Cream
One way to minimize the appearance of stretch marks and stimulate collagen production is by topically applying tretinoin cream. Tretinoin is a vitamin-A derivative that is known for being able to treat a variety of skin conditions (6). In addition, the active ingredients present in this cream play a key role in stimulating the formation of fresh collagen within the body, thereby reducing stretch marks significantly after a couple of months of use.
Advantages: Tretinoin penetrates deeper skin layers where stretch marks occur, making it more effective than other over-the-counter creams. It is highly effective when used on new stretch marks.
Disadvantages: It often causes side effects such as redness and peeling. In some cases, it can take up to 6 months before you see the first results, so you must be patient. Moreover, it is not suitable for pregnant or breastfeeding women as it can potentially harm the baby.
2. Take Collagen Injections
When it comes to eliminating stretch marks by curing collagen deficiency, your best bet could be getting collagen injections. Collagen injections are a cosmetic procedure done by injecting collagen directly into the affected area (7). This eventually boosts the production of collagen and leaves the skin with a smoother appearance.
Advantages: It can replace your skin’s natural collagen and cause the skin to heal itself and appear smoother.
Disadvantages: The effects of collagen injections are not permanent, and you need to repeat the treatment to maintain smooth skin.
3. Undergo Pulsed Dye Laser Treatment
Just like topicals, laser treatments also influence collagen production. During the pulsed dye laser treatment, special light waves are used to stimulate new and healthy collagen growth and improve your skin’s overall appearance. As a result, the appearance of both new and old stretch marks can be reduced significantly.
Advantages: The treatment can reduce even older stretch marks.
Disadvantages: Treatment can be quite costly. Pulsed dye laser treatments are not recommended for patients with dark skin tones as they may cause skin discoloration.
One study discovered that maintaining healthy levels of vitamin D may reduce your risk of stretch marks. The easiest way to get vitamin D is through exposure to the sun (8). However, if you want to hide your stretch marks, you can use self-tanners to camouflage stretch marks and make them less noticeable.
4. Opt for Microdermabrasion Therapy
Microdermabrasion is another effective treatment that can help reduce the appearance of stretch marks successfully. This is an abrasive method that involves the removal of the damaged outermost layer of the skin. Consequently, new skin cells generate and produce fresh new collagen, which eventually results in an improved skin surface.
Advantages: This treatment is quite painless, and you should not experience anything more than a minor burning sensation.
Disadvantages: Microdermabrasion therapy should be repeated for the most effective results. After the treatment, your skin may experience some redness and dryness, which should pass after 24 hours.
A study found microdermabrasion to be as effective as a daily application of topical 0.05% tretinoin cream in reducing early stretch marks over time. While both treatments had similar efficacy, microdermabrasion therapy had a lower frequency of side effects and better adherence of the patients (9).
5. Choose Fractional Photothermolysis Laser Treatment
Fractional Photothermolysis Laser treatment is probably the most effective collagen treatment for removing stretch marks. This is a non-ablative procedure in which laser beams target the affected skin cells and obliterate them without causing damage to the skin. This method accelerates the growth and development of new collagen in the body.
Advantages: It is suitable for all types of skin and can heal even very old stretch marks.
Disadvantages: You can expect side effects such as dry skin, swelling, bleeding, itching, and scabbing.
Stretch marks are lines that commonly appear during pregnancy, in puberty, or after a sudden change in your weight. They can appear just about anywhere, but most commonly on your stomach, breasts, thighs, and buttocks. When they first appear, they range from pink to brown, but over time they fade to white and become less noticeable. The best treatment for stretch marks is prevention, but if you already have them, you can make them less noticeable by supplementing with collagen. Collagen provides the skin with the flexibility needed to withstand stretching and it has the power to prevent and heal stretch marks. One way to consume more collagen is by drinking collagen drinks on a regular basis. Moreover, to increase collagen and minimize the appearance of stretch marks, you can topically apply tretinoin cream, take collagen injections, undergo laser treatments, or opt for microdermabrasion therapy.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
How can I prevent stretch marks?
To prevent stretch marks, few things you can do are staying hydrated, eating healthy food rich in vitamin C, vitamin D, vitamin E, and zinc, and maintaining a healthy diet by exercising regularly. Moreover, you should moisturize your skin regularly since stretch marks more commonly appear on dry skin.
How long does it take for stretch marks to fade?
This depends on the treatment you are using. But even if you don’t treat your stretch marks, most will fade over the years and become unnoticeable. For example, stretch marks that develop in pregnancy usually fade around 6 to 12 months after birth.
How long does it take tretinoin cream to fade stretch marks?
It may take up to 6 months to notice any improvement, so you should be persistent and not give up too early. However, to get the most benefit from it, you should use it regularly.
What are some side effects of microdermabrasion treatment?
Common side effects of this treatment include mild tenderness, redness, swelling, and bruising. However, these generally go away within a few hours after treatment. To prevent dry and flaky skin after the treatment, you should keep your skin hydrated and use a moisturizer. Moreover, it is crucial to protect your skin with sunscreen as your skin can become more sensitive to the sun in the few weeks after the treatment.
- “Stretch marks: Why they appear and how to get rid of them” – aad.org
- “Topical management of striae distensae (stretch marks): prevention and therapy of striae rubrae and albae” – onlinelibrary.wiley.com
- “Therapeutic targets in the management of striae distensae: A systematic review” – jaad.org
- “Evaluation of an onion extract, Centella asiatica, and hyaluronic acid cream in the appearance of striae rubra” – pubmed.gov
- “Ten tips to prevent stretch marks” – medicalnewstoday.com
- “Tretinoin for Stretch Marks” – Woodlandphillspharmacy.com
- “Benefits (and Side Effects) of Collagen Injections” – healthline.com
- “Relationship between Vitamin D Status and Striae Distensae: A Case-Referent Study” – hindawi.com
- “Superficial dermabrasion versus topical tretinoin on early striae distensae: a randomized, pilot study” – pubmed.gov