Appearing as streaks of reddened, glossy skin, stretch marks are often slightly indented in the skin. Sometimes, they have a texture that is different than the rest of the skin. No matter where they occur, stretch marks are usually noticeable, detracting from the natural beauty of the skin. Formed in the middle layer of the skin (dermis), stretch marks are commonly found in the abdominal area, breasts, thighs, hips, upper arms, buttocks, and even the lower back. While the best way to avoid stretch marks is never to get them, this isn’t always possible.
What Are the Causes of Stretch Marks?
Also commonly referred to as striae, stretch marks usually occur as the result of the rapid growth of the body with which the skin cannot keep up. This rapid growth in body weight may occur due to pregnancy, breastfeeding (enlarged breasts), or excessive weight gain, such as that which occurs with growth spurts or medical issues.
The body grows, stretching the skin until it becomes damaged, weakened, and thinned out. The stretch marks appear as the result of the scarring that occurs as the skin is stretched and its connective tissues break down. Stretch marks can remain hidden in some cases until they appear during rapid weight loss, such as that which occurs during extreme dieting or medical issues.
Certain medications or chemicals can interfere with the production of collagen, resulting in stretch marks. This type of scarring has also been linked to the overuse of cortisone skin creams, diabetes, and Cushing Syndrome.
Treatments for Stretch Marks
Stretch mark reduction requires an ongoing process that involves continued use of specific products. Offering varied results and an assortment of ingredients, a number of home remedies, over-the-counter solutions, and clinical treatments are available to treat this condition.
While a number of home remedies have been suggested to reduce the appearance of stretch marks, their effectiveness is debatable. They include massaging the skin with olive oil, liquid vitamin E, or cocoa butter. Some home remedies suggest a blended mix of ingredients that includes some type of oil (avocado, olive, castor) combined with chamomile and lavender extracts. Other ingredients that have been used to reduce the appearance of stretch marks include shea butter, aloe vera, vitamin A, almond oil, tea tree oil, baby oil, bees wax, and even coffee grains.
Over-the-Counter Solutions for Stretch Mark Reduction
There are many at home treatment options for improving the appearance of stretch marks. Many over-the-counter solutions include hydroxy acid for exfoliating purposes and peptides to enhance collagen production. Other ingredients commonly used in stretch mark creams, gels, lotions, and sticks include shea butter, cocoa butter, vitamin E and vitamin C.
Dermatologists often prescribe creams for the treatment of stretch marks. Typically, these products include a variety of retinoids that are known for reducing the appearance of scars and other marks on the skin along with enzymes that are included for the purpose of dissolving these skin irregularities. They also include ingredients that stimulate collagen production and new cell growth.
Laser therapy has been used in an attempt to bring about stretch mark reduction. During this process, a series of microbeams are directed to the skin in order to stimulate the production of collagen and the growth of new tissue. Cosmetic surgery is another option that costs several thousands of dollars, depending on the extent of the problem.
Topical creams derived from vitamin A have been used to bring about stretch mark reduction. The generic name is tretinoin cream, and brand names include Retin-A Micro, Retin-A, Renova, Avita, Atralin, and Altinac. This type of cream leads to rapid turnover of skin cells, reducing the appearance of stretch marks after several months of use.