Everything You Need to Know About Stretch Mark Removal
While magazine covers and perfectly photo-shopped Instagram photos make it easy to believe perfect skin is the norm, that’s not the reality. In truth, the vast majority of us will experience some type of skin "imperfection" in our lifetime. One very common example is stretch marks, which can appear as a result of weight gain, or when our bodies change shape for one of many reasons.
While no one’s skin is perfect, there are some steps you can take that may help reduce the appearance of these bothersome marks. Before we discuss stretch mark removal, let's look at what exactly stretch marks are.
What Exactly are Stretch Marks?
You’ve probably seen one yourself, or on someone you know. These common stripes or ridges can appear anywhere on the body. The long, often rippled-looking lines are simply the physical mark of your skin being stretched and expanded a little more than comfortable.
They can show up on the stomach, thighs, chest, buttocks, or anywhere on your body where you’ve rapidly gained weight or changed in size. These marks are oftentimes a different color from your skin, ranging from light red to even a darkish purple hue, and can also be raised up or sunken in texture.
Causes of Stretch Marks
As previously mentioned, stretch marks are caused when your body goes through rapid changes. For example, they often appear on pregnant women. Aside from during pregnancy, stretch marks can show up as a result of weight change during a rapid growth spurt for a child or teenager, if a bodybuilder gains muscle or loses fat, after breast augmentation, or as a result of certain conditions and disorders.
Using certain creams or medications such as corticosteroid creams, or taking high amounts of steroids, can also affect the health of the skin and make stretch marks more likely to pop up.
Other underlying reasons can cause or make us more susceptible to stretch marks. Our skin naturally contains collagen but when our collagen stores are low, stretch marks can show up more dramatically. Even having dry skin can increase their occurrence, as can too much cortisol in the body, which happens when we’re stressed.
Red vs. White Stretch Marks
Stretch marks can show up in a variety of colors. As the skin first stretches, the marks will likely be red or even purple. Over time, they’ll usually fade to silver or white, and appear less striking.
All phases and colors are normal, but treatment and removal options differ depending on whether your marks are white or red.
Now, let’s go over a few possible treatment routes.
Options for Stretch Mark Removal
As with any skin imperfections, there is no guaranteed cure to prevent or remove existing stretch marks. Your genetics also play a large role in how prone your skin is to developing stretch marks. However, some measures can be taken to lessen their appearance or even remove them altogether.
One of the more aggressive approaches, laser therapy can be an effective option in reducing the appearance of bothersome stretch marks. There are various types of laser treatment such as Fractionary CO2 laser therapy, which can fade older, existing marks, or pulsed dye laser therapy, which is specifically helpful on new, red marks.
These retinol-heavy topical creams (commonly used to treat or prevent wrinkles) exfoliate the skin and increase collagen levels, which is responsible for keeping the skin elastic. This topical option isn’t for pregnant women and has a better chance of working on newer, fresh marks
A more intense and costly option for potentially treating stretch marks is cosmetic surgery, such as a tummy tuck, which can remove stretch marks at the same time as removing excess skin. However, this option is expensive and requires healing. It’s also only for the stomach area and there are no surgical options to remove stretch marks elsewhere.
Microneedling and Microdermabrasion
In this process, which you should only get from a licensed provider, tiny needles are applied to the skin to polish and exfoliate away old, dead skin, revealing fresh skin underneath. These methods generally help to reveal more glowing skin, which may make stretch marks temporarily seem less severe.
It’s debatable how well it will remove your stretch marks though, since these occur below the top level of the skin on a level that won’t be affected by these treatments.
Prevention is often called the best medicine, so make sure to adopt overall healthy habits like staying well hydrated, maintaining a healthy weight, and keeping skin extra hydrated with things like vitamin E, cocoa, shea butter, or salves made specifically for stretch marks.
And remember, no one has perfect skin, so do what you can to reduce stretch marks while still embracing your unique imperfections.