Chances are, even before you became pregnant, you heard — and maybe worried — about stretch marks.
Whether it was your mom telling you (or guilting you) about the ones you “caused” or a celebrity proudly showing off theirs on Instagram, stretch marks have become nearly synonymous with pregnancy and childbirth, just like morning sickness and dirty diapers.
But as famous as they are, they’re also kind of a mystery to most of us. Why do some people get them more than others? If you got them, is it because you did something wrong? And is it true that you can fix them?
We’re here to answer all those questions.
Stretch marks, known as “striae gravidarum” in pregnancy, are basically a type of scar.
They look like indented streaks on your skin. They can be pink, red, black, blue, or purple. It all depends on:
- how they’re caused
- where they are on your body
- how old they are
Sometimes, when stretch marks first appear, they can feel slightly raised, but eventually they’ll just feel like slight depressions in your skin.
When they first show up, they might also be itchy.
Like their name implies, stretch marks develop as your skin stretches quickly. This stretching actually tears the supportive structures in the middle or bottom layer of tissues of your skin, creating the scar.
Stretch marks usually happen during growth spurts, rapid weight gain, or, of course, pregnancy. In fact, up to 90 percent of pregnant people will get stretch marks by their third trimester.
Usually, they they’ll appear on your:
Still, not everyone gets stretch marks, and not everyone gets them with the same level of severity.
A large but self-reported
Cortisone, which is a hormone made by your adrenal glands, can weaken the elasticity of your skin, making stretch marks more likely to form. This is why you may also get stretch marks more frequently if you use corticosteroids or have certain conditions, like Cushing’s syndrome or Marfan syndrome.
Research, including a
Well, this is the bad news: Like any scar, stretch marks are permanent. You’ll never be able to get rid of them completely.
We know this might be disappointing. It can be a hard thing to accept that your body has changed forever, even if the change occurred due to something as amazing as childbirth.
But here’s some good news: Most stretch marks will fade naturally on their own after your baby is born. Not only that, but you can make them even less noticeable with different treatments.
In general, it seems that treating early stretch marks is more effective than treating older ones, according to another
Don’t get discouraged if you didn’t know, though. It’s not too late to start.
Not every treatment will work the same for everyone. That’s why it’s a good idea to talk with your dermatologist or doctor. They can discuss the different options with you and help you figure out what might work best for you and your skin.
Here are a few options that you might look into:
Chemical peels are cosmetic procedures to exfoliate your skin. They can be performed by your doctor, dermatologist, or plastic surgeon.
Glycolic acid peels stimulate collagen production in your skin. Research, such as an
Laser therapies are medical treatments that use specific wavelengths of light to lessen:
Numerous studies have suggested that laser therapy can lessen the appearance of stretch marks by increasing your skin’s collagen production, restoring elastin fibers, and thickening the epidermal layer.
However, you should know before talking to your doctor or dermatologist that laser therapy can be expensive and will likely involve repeated treatments before you see results.
Microdermabrasion is a minimally invasive procedure that dermatologists use to improve skin tone and texture. It’s been used to treat:
- sun damage
- age spots
- acne scars
- other skin-related conditions
Microneedling is a skin care method that’s believed to help reduce wrinkles and scars.
It uses fine needles to puncture the skin. As these tiny injuries heal, it can rejuvenate skin. It’s usually done over a series of four to six sessions.
This finding was reinforced by a larger
Radiofrequency is a noninvasive procedure that uses radiofrequency waves to heat deeper skin layers in attempt to:
- activate your body’s natural wound healing process
- stimulate the production of collagen
- tighten your skin
However, since these studies were so small and involved so few people as research subjects, more investigation is needed before doctors can conclude that this technique will work for everyone.
If radiofrequency is something you’re interested in trying, talk with your dermatologist to see whether they recommend it for you.
Topical gels or creams with hyaluronic acid
Research suggests that applying hyaluronic acid to early stretch marks may make them less noticeable.
For example, a 2017 study found that using hyaluronic acid, Centella asiatica (a medical herb often used in traditional medicine), and daily massages helped reduce stretch marks.
Prescription creams with Tretinoin
Several studies, such as
Tretinoin is a retinoid, which helps speed up skin cell turnover and stimulates collagen growth.
Only your dermatologist can prescribe a cream with tretinoin. However, you can’t use retinoids at all if you’re still pregnant because they can lead to birth defects.
You should also avoid them if you’re breastfeeding because they can be absorbed into your breast milk.
Creams with cocoa butter or vitamin E
This is pretty popular advice. Almost all creams that you can buy over the counter or at the drugstore have one or both of these ingredients.
Unfortunately, no large-scale study has yet shown that these ingredients actually help lessen your chances of getting stretch marks or minimizing them once you already have them.
That said, it certainly won’t hurt if you want to try using creams with these kinds of ingredients. They’re safe to use during pregnancy and they can help keep your skin moisturized — which also helps with the itchiness!
Olive oil or almond oil
As with cocoa butter or vitamin E, there are no studies to show that these work. In fact, a
Still, if you want to try it, it won’t do any harm — and some people have said it made them feel better.
It depends! Everyone’s body heals differently, so it’s important to try to be patient.
Recovery will also depend on how severe your stretch marks were to begin with and what treatment option you decide to try.
Not every treatment option will work as well for you as it does for others. If you’re concerned, though, talk with your doctor.
Having a baby is a big deal. Remember: Your body just went through a lot, bringing your little one into the world. Those stretch marks are a testament to what you went through — and you have no reason to be ashamed of them.