Although stretch marks are commonly associated with puberty, weight gain, and pregnancy, many athletes — especially bodybuilders — notice stretch marks on their biceps, shoulders, and thighs.
According to the Journal of Investigative Dermatology, if you have stretch marks, you’re not alone: up to 80 percent of people get them. If you’re concerned about your stretch marks, talk with your doctor about the topical and other treatments discussed in this article.
When your skin is stretched faster than it can grow, the middle layer of your skin (dermis) can tear, causing lines called striae (stretch marks). For many people, these marks begin as pinkish or purplish striations and eventually lighten and develop a scar-like appearance.
After your doctor diagnoses the cause of the stretch marks on your biceps, they might recommend using a topical cream or gel to reduce their appearance. These treatments may include:
Trofolastin cream and Alphastria cream
According to a 2016 article in the Journal of the European Academy of Dermatology, both creams have demonstrated positive results from at least one well-designed randomized controlled trial.
Trofolastin cream contains extract of Centella asiatica a medicinal herb believed to increase the production of collagen.
Alphastria cream combines fatty acids and vitamins with hyaluronic acid, which is believed to stimulate collagen production.
Check with your doctor if you are pregnant or breastfeeding before using these creams.
Often used to treat hypertrophic scars, silicone gel — based on a 2013 study — increased collagen levels and lowered melanin levels in stretch marks. Silicone gel also lessens itching that might be associated with stretch marks.
If your goal is to eliminate the stretch marks on your biceps, there are various treatment options that have proven to be effective. However, you should understand that no treatments are guaranteed to completely eliminate stretch marks. Options include:
- Laser therapy. Laser therapy is used to repair and regenerate skin cells. It can soften and flatten the appearance of some stretch marks. It does not promise to entirely eradicate stretch marks, but for some people, it can fade them and make them less noticeable. Full treatment can include 20 sessions over several weeks.
- Platelet-rich plasma. A 2018 study in Dermatological Surgery offered that platelet-rich plasma (PRP) injections can help rebuild collagen, resulting in less visible stretch marks. The same study indicated that injections of PRP are more effective than tretinoin.
- Microneedling. Microneedling triggers elastin and collagen creation by puncturing the top layer of skin with tiny needles. Full treatment can include up to six treatments over about six months.
- Microdermabrasion. Microdermabrasion uses an abrasive instrument to sand the outer skin layer of your skin. A 2014 study concluded that microdermabrasion had the same level of impact on stretch marks as tretinoin cream.
Often, stretch marks will turn lighter and practically disappear after the cause of the stretching is eliminated. Steps you can take to help that process include:
Corticosteroid creams, lotions, and pills should be avoided as they can reduce your skin’s ability to stretch, creating conditions that could develop stretch marks.
The food you eat can affect your skin’s overall health and thus affect stretch marks. To prevent stretch marks — according to the NHS UK — make sure your diet is healthy, balanced, and rich in vitamins and minerals, particularly:
Drink enough water. You should drink about eight glasses of water a day. Among other benefits, proper hydration can help your skin stay pliable and flexible.
A 2015 article in the Journal of the European Academy of Dermatology and Venereology pointed to olive oil and cocoa butter as not demonstrating either a positive or a negative effect. However, a 2012 study indicated that the combination of almond oil with massage yielded positive results in reducing development of stretch marks in pregnant women.
Researchers are unsure whether the positive effects of massaging with oil are due to the oil or the massage.
The stretch marks on your biceps could be caused by:
- rapid growth during puberty
- rapid muscle growth from athletic training and bodybuilding
- rapid weight gain or obesity
Other causes of stretch marks include pregnancy and disorders of the adrenal glands such as:
If you’re startled to see stretch marks on your bicep without having experienced physical changes like rapid weight gain or muscle growth, see your primary care doctor.
Also, some people are embarrassed or self-conscious about the stretch marks on their biceps. If feelings of depression about your stretch marks are affecting your daily life, talk to your doctor about those feelings.
While some people have reported success in hiding stretch marks with a sunless self-tanner, regular tanning and tanning beds are typically not effective avenues for concealing them. Because stretch marks are less likely to tan, spending time in the sun or on a tanning bed can make them stand out even more.
Stretch marks on biceps are not uncommon. However, if they make you uncomfortable or self-conscious, you have a variety of different treatment options. As you think about which option is best for you, understand that it’s unlikely that your stretch marks will fully disappear.
Before making a decision, talk with your doctor to get a good understanding of the expectations and possible side effects of the various choices you have for treating your stretch marks.