Let’s just be clear – stretch marks are totally normal. Over 50 per cent of women have stretch marks, and you should never feel ashamed of them. And thanks to celebrities like Chrissy Teigen, Kayla Itsines and Kourtney Kardashian, we’re finally learning to love them.
But while we all know that it’s important to love our body, sometimes stretch marks can really bother us and get in the way of our self-confidence. While you can’t necessarily avoid them, there are some things you can do to help minimise the damage. So, if you’re thinking of getting rid of your stretch marks, here’s everything you need to know.
What are stretch marks?
Stretch marks are basically the result of skin being pulled by rapid growth or stretching. "Stretch marks are a very common concern that is a breakdown of collagen fibres or scar tissue resulting from stretching of the skin. This generally occurs during puberty, weight fluctuations or growth spurts,” says Dr Sean Arendse, cosmetic physician and Medical Director of Flawless Rejuvenation Skin Clinics.
Stretch marks (also known as striae distensae or striae gravidarum) are usually white in appearance, but can also be pink, red or purple in the early stages of formation (which is basically your blood vessels being seen through your skin). They can appear on multiple areas of the body; “The breasts, hips, thighs and stomach are generally affected, however stretch marks can be seen on the arms, stomach and calves,” says Dr Arendse.
What causes stretch marks?
Pretty much everyone is susceptible to stretch marks, but there are several different factors that can contribute to their formation. Some of the most common causes include rapidly gaining or losing weight, sudden growth spurts and pregnancy. Dr Arendse says there is also a genetic link to stretch marks – so if your mother or sister has them, you are more likely to get them to.
How do you get rid of stretch marks?
The amount of home remedies and myriad of lotions and potions on the market for stretch marks is *literally* mind-boggling – often it can be hard to know what’s a gimmick and what’s the real deal.
Before spending your hard-earned pennies on stretch mark treatments, know that it is possible for some stretch marks to fade over time, and Dr Arendse says that keeping a stable and consistent, healthy weight will help reduce their appearance.
Here are four non-surgical treatments that may help reduce the appearance of stretch marks:
#1 / Topical cosmeceuticals
If you’re looking for the best kind of skin care treatment to use, Dr Arendse suggests applying vitamin A (retinoids such as tretinoin) to the affected area. For best results, you should apply vitamin A to stretch marks that are less than a few months old. “Vitamin A is an effective topical product to aid in regenerating collagen and reducing the appearance of stretch marks,” he says. However, pregnant women or women who are breastfeeding need to check with their doctor about other treatment options, as retinol cannot be used during pregnancy.
#2 / Laser skin resurfacing
For the right candidate, laser therapy can help improve the appearance of stretch marks. Two types of lasers can be used for this treatment: ablative and non-ablative lasers. Ablative lasers basically work by removing the upper layer of the skin to help generate new, smooth skin underneath. Non-ablative lasers (such as Fraxel) don’t destroy the upper layers, but instead target the underlying skin to promote collagen growth from the inside out. While these procedures won’t necessarily get rid of stretch marks completely, they can help minimise their appearance.
#3 / Radio frequency
“Venus VivaTM skin resurfacing treatments utilise Nano Fractional Radio Frequency technology to aid in skin rejuvenation, reversing the signs of skin ageing and damage,” says Dr Arendse. Want to know how it works? “Tiny electrode pins precisely deliver heat through to the skin’s surface via the dermis. These tiny micro-dermal wounds activate the body’s natural healing response, repairing the signs of skin damage, scarring, enlarged pores, texture, lines and wrinkles visible on the surface of the skin.”
#4 / Skin needling
Professional in-clinic skin needling treatments can also help address the appearance of stretch marks, as well as target textural changes (it can help produce new collagen and elastin in skin cells), and minor scarring. Dr Arendse recommends DermaPen as it “encourages skin rejuvenation and collagen production”. If you want to know what’s involved in a skin needling treatment, check out what Beauty Crew’s Editor Carli thought of the treatment.
As always, before undergoing any type of treatment, we’d suggest teeing up an appointment with a dermatologist or skin specialist first. “A consultation with a dermal clinician or doctor is recommended prior to deciding the best treatment. We recommend coming in sooner when the stretch marks are still pink. The longer the tissue is left, the harder it can be to reduce the appearance,” says Dr Arendse.
If you’re looking for more advice on common skin conditions, here’s how to treat adult acne, and the best treatment options for psoriasis.
Do you have a stretch mark treatment you swear by? Let us know in the comment section below.
Main image credit: @josephineskriver
Erin Docherty is a Beauty Writer for BEAUTYcrew, Beauty Editor for Women's Health magazine and a Grooming Writer for Men's Health magazine. She has a keen interest in cosmeceutical skin care and is currently working on minimising her 9-step skin care routine – because ain’t nobody got time for that. When she’s not writing about the latest beauty news, or applying copious amounts of serum, you can find her spending all her money in Sephora.