Stretch marks can appear at any time for both men and women, but most often occur during growth or natural changes to your body. The most common times for stretch marks to appear are during adolescence, pregnancy, or if you begin a new bodybuilding regimen.
If you are looking for ways to get rid of stretch marks, the first steps are to take care of your body from both the inside and the outside. By keeping your body and skin healthy, you could get rid of existing stretch marks and prevent new stretch marks from appearing.
To nourish your body from the inside, you should make sure to stay hydrated and eat a healthy diet. To take care of your body from the outside, consider using topical creams, natural oils, and gels to moisturize your skin and promote the healing of cells and production of collagen naturally.
Continue reading to learn more about what causes stretch marks, to get rid of stretch marks naturally, and other methods of treatment.
What Causes Stretch Marks?
Stretch marks (or the scientific name, “striae”) are indented linear streaks that often appear on the hips, abdomen, shoulders, back, buttocks, thighs, and breasts. Stretch marks begin as flat, thin red or purple lines (striae rubra), and they appear as slightly depressed white streaks over time (striae alba). Their appearance has been compared to the changes seen in the surface of an overinflated balloon. Fortunately, stretch marks are not painful or harmful in any way.
Stretch marks are very common as some 40-90% of Americans have them. Stretch marks are caused when there’s a period of rapid growth in your body that stretches the skin, creating the collagen bundles to tear away from each other. Collagen, which is found in the skin and other connective tissues, is the most abundant protein in the human body. When the skin returns to its normal state after the body growth, it will look and lined and wrinkled because the same collagen structure does not support it.
Stretch marks are especially common in pregnant women. Because women typically gain at least 25 pounds during pregnancy, their body is not prepared for drastic change, so the skin, especially around the abdomen, stretches too much, causing the marks.
Also, during a woman’s pregnancy, hormones are produced that soften the ligaments in the pelvis so that they are more flexible during childbirth. This softens the fibers in the skin, making it more prone to developing stretch marks.
The severity of the stretch marks is believed to be affected by several key factors, including your family history, your level of stress on the skin, and the amount of cortisol in your body. Known as “the stress hormone,” cortisol is produced by the adrenal glands, located above the kidneys. Cortisol can weaken elastic fibers in the skin.
While anyone can get stretch marks, certain risk factors increase your likelihood of developing them, including:
- Being female
- Having a family history of stretch marks
- Being pregnant, particularly for younger women
- Being an adolescent
- Being obese or overweight
- Rapidly gaining or losing weight
- Using corticosteroid medication
- Undergoing breast augmentation surgery
- Having an organ transplant procedure
- Having Cushing’s disease, Marfan syndrome, Ehlers-Danlos syndrome, or certain other genetic disorders
- Having an eating disorder, such as anorexia or bulimia, that causes dramatic weight loss
- Having chronic liver disease
- Taking contraceptive pills
- Undergoing chemotherapy
What is the Best Way to Get Rid of Stretch Marks?
If you’re one of the countless people who have them, you are likely wondering “what are the best ways to get rid of my stretch marks”? Fortunately, there are a wide variety of treatments and remedies for stretch marks, ranging from laser treatments, microdermabrasion, and other professional services, to home remedies that you can apply on your own.
To help you better understand how you can get rid of those unwanted stretch marks, we’ll go into detail on the different procedures and methods that you can consider.
The most effective treatment for stretch marks, laser therapy, uses light energy to repair and regenerate skin cells. During the procedure, infrared and visible red light is beamed on to the stretch marks. In a “heat and heal” method, the concentrated light beams remove the skin’s outer layer to help it restructure its surface by spurring the growth of new, healthy skin.
Types of Laser Treatments
There are two main types of laser treatments: ablative and non-ablative. Ablative is a wounding laser that destroys the top layer of skin to make room for a new healthy layer to emerge – one that is smoother in appearance and texture. Non-ablative is a non-wounding laser that does not destroy the top layer of skin, but rather, stimulates the underlying layers of skin to start producing more collagen. While non-ablative is less invasive and requires less recovery time than ablative, it is generally less effective in lessening the appearance of stretch marks.
Laser treatment causes a reduction in the visible scarring of stretch marks, flattening and softening their appearance. Ablative laser treatments may take up to 90 minutes, while non-ablative treatments are typically 30 minutes.
Because stretch marks represent a permanent change in the dermis, there is no amount of laser treatment that can completely erase stretch marks. However, studies suggest that laser treatments can lessen the depth of stretch marks in some patients. This is due to the laser’s stimulation of increased production of collagen and elastin in the dermis, where stretch marks are formed.
Is Laser Therapy Effective?
Lasers are most effective on immature stretch marks and are practically useless on more mature (white) stretch marks. Laser treatment is sometimes not recommended for those with darker skin because of the risk of it causing hyperpigmentation, a harmless condition where patches of skin become darker. As with any surgical therapy, there are risks associated with laser treatment, including pain, swelling, bleeding, discoloration, infection, crusting, and scarring.
The American Society for Dermatologic Surgery (ASDS) reports that patients who have up to 20 treatment sessions see a 20-60% improvement in the appearance of stretch marks. The amount of sessions needed varies by patient. Some patients may only need 3-5 laser treatments.
This procedure involves a hand-held device that blows aluminum oxide crystals onto the skin, which gently removing a fine layer of dead skin, promoting the growth of new, more-elastic skin. After a microdermabrasion procedure, it usually takes 24 hours for the skin to heal and for the redness to disappear.
Because microdermabrasion affects the epidermis, it will have a limited effect on improving how your stretch marks look. Microdermabrasion works on tiny patches of the skin, so it can stimulate the dermis, the thick layer of tissue below the epidermis, which tightens the collagen and elastic fibers. Repeated microdermabrasion procedures done over an extended period of time have been shown to improve the appearance of stretch marks but not make them disappear completely.
Plastic surgery procedures, such as thigh lift, tummy tuck, and other procedures that remove excess skin and tightening remaining skin, are not explicitly designed to remove stretch marks. However, because of the removal of the excess skin in these procedures, patients may see a decrease in stretch marks.
Microneedling, or collagen induction therapy, is a treatment that promotes skin rejuvenation. The minimally invasive therapy involves a device with fine needles that create tiny holes in the top layer of the skin, triggering the body to create collagen and elastin as it begins to naturally repair itself. The therapy has been shown to reduce the appearance of stretch marks, scars, and pore size, as well as improving the skin’s firmness and texture.
Microneedling causes minimal pain and can be performed without anesthesia or number solution. Specialists recommend a series of six treatments every two to four weeks, depending on the condition of your skin. After you’ve achieved the results you want, single treatments every four to six weeks is recommended for maintenance.
Nano Color Infusion
A technique developed by cosmetic tattoo artist Dominique Bossavy, Nano Color Infusion uses skin-colored tattooing to cover stretch marks. Bossavy’s technique has two primary steps. First, she fixes the indention of stretch marks by filling in the grooves. Bossavy uses micropuncture — an approach similar to micro-needling, which uses tiny needles to drill little holes into the skin – to support the skin’s natural repair process, stimulating new collagen, which gives the skin a smoother appearance.
Next, Bossavy, who works out of offices in Beverly Hills, New York City, and Paris, matches a mineral pigment to the client’s skin tone, camouflaging the stretch marks. For best results, most clients require three treatments. Results from the treatments generally last three to five years.
A chemical peel is where an acid solution is applied to the skin to burn off surface layers. The process removes dead skin cells to reveal the smoother layer underneath. The chemical peel – commonly used to reduce the appearance of age spots, freckles, age spots, acne scars, and stretch marks – stimulates collagen production and cell renewal.
Chemical peels use different types and concentrations of acid. There are three main types of peels. The most superficial peel uses an alpha-hydroxy acid to burn off only the outermost layer of skin. A more aggressive peel uses glycolic acid to affect the top and middle layers. The most aggressive treatment uses phenol. The deepest chemical peel available, this one requires only one treatment.
While the deepest phenol-based chemical peel can penetrate the dermis, where stretch mark scars are formed, it cannot penetrate enough layers of the skin to completely burn away stretch marks. Chemical peels may provide some improvement in the appearance of your stretch marks, but they will not reduce their visibility to the extent that the scars are unnoticeable.
Home Remedies For Stretch Mark Removal
While it is difficult to get rid of stretch marks, there are natural ways to make the skin healthier and reduce their appearance. There are many home remedies that may help speed up tissue recovery and minimize the look of stretch marks, including:
Vitamin A – This vitamin is a retinoid, which has been used extensively for decades to treat acne, wrinkles, dry skin, and other skin conditions. Retinoids, which are found in many over-the-counter topical cosmetic creams, can make the skin appear smoother and more youthful. Taking a Vitamin A orally or through an ointment can help the appearance of stretch marks. Certain foods – such as carrots, eggs, spinach, and sweet potatoes – may increase your vitamin A levels.
Vitamin C – This vitamin is an essential nutrient for the development of collagen, a protein which plays a keeping your skin healthy and elastic. Found in many vegetables and fruits, especially citrus fruits, like oranges and lemons, Vitamin C may reduce the appearance of wrinkles and also help to prevent stretch marks.
Coconut Oil – A lab rat study showed that coconut oil was found to decrease the time it takes for wounds to heal. Because stretch marks are a form of scarring from damaged skin, coconut oil’s anti-inflammatory properties could help reduce the appearance of stretch marks. Applying virgin coconut oil directly onto your stretch marks daily may take away some of the red appearances.
Bitter Almond Oil – Rich in Vitamin E, monosaturated fats, proteins, zinc, and potassium, almond oil has been shown to help heal damaged skin fiber, improving skin tone and therefore helping fade stretch marks.
A 2012 study published in the Journal of Clinical Nursing found that women who used bitter almond oil found a significant reduction in stretch marks caused by pregnancy. For the study 141 women participated, and, researchers divided the pregnant women into three groups:
- Group #1 – Used bitter almond oil with massage
- Group #2- Applied the bitter almond oil to their skin without massage
- Group #3 – Control group, did not use bitter almond oil
The researchers identified 20% of women in the group that used the oil with a massage as developing stretch marks, 38.8% developed stretch marks in oil-but-no-massage group, and 41% in the group that did not apply any oil at all.
Hyaluronic Acid – Often used topically to treat burns, wounds, and skin ulcers, hyaluronic acid stimulates the production of collagen. Some studies suggest that hyaluronic acid, which occurs naturally in the skin, makes early stretch marks less noticeable.
Egg Whites – Rich in proteins and amino acids, egg whites, when applied on stretch marks, can help lighten them while also tightening the skin. To perform this home remedy, separate the egg whites of two eggs from their yolks. Lightly whip up the egg whites with a fork then apply a thick layer of egg whites directly over your stretch marks. A makeup or pastry brush will help spread the egg whites on your skin.
Let the egg whites dry completely, then rinse with cold water. Dry the area with a soft cloth and then rub in a thin layer of olive oil. To see results, repeat the process at least three times daily. The stretch marks should begin to fade some in the following weeks.
Lemon Juice – Lemon juice can be used as a natural bleach that can break down dirt and dead skin cells and lightens the area with stretch marks. Lemon juice is an excellent source of vitamin C, which has antioxidants, and they are also natural exfoliants and bleaching agents, making them particularly effective on stretch marks that have a red color.
The lemon juice remedy consists of mixing ½ teaspoon of fresh lemon juice with 1 tablespoon of baking powder to make a paste. Apply the paste on the stretch marks and allow it to dry naturally. Use a soft cloth to then scrub off the paste.
Some have found success in mixing lemon juice with cucumbers, Vitamin E, and olive oil. The lemon juice method is typically a slow process; it may take nearly a month before you see results.
Cocoa Butter – Cocoa butter is widely used by pregnant women and others in treating stretch marks. However, a large 2008 study found that cocoa butter was not effective in reducing the appearance of stretch marks. The study looked at 175 women in their first pregnancies, some applied cocoa butter lotion each day while others were assigned to use a placebo. Many months later, the researchers found no difference in the development or severity of stretch marks over the abdomen, thighs, or breasts.
Researchers have discovered that Vitamin E creams are more effective than cocoa butter in treating stretch marks, as this study indicates.
How Much Does Stretch Mark Removal Cost?
The cost of stretch mark removal surgery can vary widely, ranging from $500 to $8,900, according to the American Board of Cosmetic Surgery (ABCS). Ablative laser treatment for stretch mark removal costs an average of $2,681, while a non-ablative laser treatment for stretch mark removal costs $1,410 on average, according to the American Society for Aesthetic Plastic Surgery (ASAPS).
Microdermabrasion generally costs between $75 and $200. The cost of plastic surgery for stretch mark removal varies widely and depends on the particular procedure. Expect a range of $2,000-$10,000. Microneedling generally costs $100-$700 per session. Nana Color Infusion, which involves tattooing the stretch marks, treatments start at $3,500 and varies depending on the size and extent of the stretch marks. Chemical peels range from $150 to $6,000 or more, depending on how deep the peel is and whether anesthesia is used.
How to Prevent Stretch Marks
The most effective way to reduce your likelihood of getting stretch marks (or if you have them, to get rid of them) is to maintain a healthy weight and care for your skin. The following tips will help you prevent stretch marks:
Drink Plenty of Water
Water helps keep your skin hydrated and soft. Soft skin tends not to develop stretch marks as much as dry skin does. Experts recommend you drink at least six 8-ounce glasses of water daily. Staying hydrated is essential for your overall health and is something that you should carefully consider when taking care of your skin. If you have difficulty remembering to drink enough water daily, consider keeping track of it on paper or using popular smartphone apps that will help remind you to drink enough each day!
Limit the number of beverages you drink that contribute to dehydration, such as sugary sodas and caffeine. In fact, caffeine will increase your risk for stretch marks, according to The Cleveland Clinic.
Eat a Healthy Diet
Because collagen is in the connective tissue of animals, bone broth is among the best foods you can consume to reduce the likelihood of stretch marks. Both can be made by simmering the bones in water and herbs for several hours. Bones from organic, grass-fed animals are the best choice since they are free of hormones and antibiotics.
Eating a diet rich in Vitamins A, C, and E will also help prevent stretch marks. Foods rich in Vitamin A help protect skin health and spur the growth of new skin cells. Foods that are excellent sources of Vitamin A include carrots, sweet potatoes, apricots, mangoes, liver, spinach, and kale. Vitamins C and E both help to repair damaged skin. Citrus fruits, berries, kiwis, and bell peppers are rich in vitamin C. Nuts, seeds, and avocados are all high in Vitamin E.
Exercise promotes antioxidants and can improve your blood flow, which is essential in stimulating new collagen. Dermatologists advise pregnant women do gentle exercise such as walking, yoga, swimming to help prevent stretch marks. If pregnant women don’t exercise during the pregnancy, they will lose muscle tone, and the skin will look looser.
Wear Sunscreen and Avoid Direct Sun
The sun’s ultraviolet rays damage the skin’s collagen and elastin, which can make stretch marks more likely to form. Before going outside in the sun, you should wear UV-protective clothing, apply sunscreen, and seek shade when you available. Make sure you allow the sunscreen to absorb for 30 minutes before the sun exposure and reapply sunscreen at least every two hours.
Smoking cigarettes reduce blood flow to the skin, which deprives the skin of the oxygen it needs to repair itself. Smoking also depletes the body of nutrients necessary for healthy skin.
While stretch marks are completely normal and everyone has them, there are many different ways to keep your skin healthy, prevent new stretch marks from appearing, and reduce the appearance of existing marks. If you have stretch marks and want to know how to get rid of them, be sure to check out our full guide: How to Get Rid of Stretch Marks. In it, we provide more in-depth information on what stretch marks are, methods for getting rid of them, and how to keep your skin healthy and vibrant.