Over half of all women get stretch marks during pregnancy. Fortunately, they don’t cause any health-related problems, but most women want to get rid of them for cosmetic reasons. After all, who wants to put on a bathing suit with a belly full of stretch marks? The abdominal region is one of the most common places women get stretch marks as a result of pregnancy, although they can get them on other areas of the body too. Needless to say, they can be a source of frustration, especially among women who have lots of them.
What Causes Them?
Stretch marks aren’t just a pregnancy-related problem. People who gain or lose weight quickly are more susceptible to them too. These ugly marks can show up any time the skin is stretched too far or damaged. When the layer of the skin called the dermis is torn, a scar develops. A stretch mark is actually a scar that forms to help seal the damaged area of skin. In pregnancy, stretch marks are common in the abdominal area because the skin is stretched as the baby grows.
Women who are pregnant also have hormonal changes that contribute to stretch marks. Pregnancy hormones loosen the bonds between collagen fibers in the dermis that give skin its support. This makes these fibers more susceptible to tearing when the skin is stretched. Some people may also be more prone to stretch marks because of genetics.
When a stretch mark first appears, it’s usually light pink in color. As it enlarges, it becomes darker in color. Once it matures, the color fades to a white or silver color. Stretch marks are more difficult to treat once they’ve lost their color.
Some women reach for a jar of cocoa butter to rub on their stretch marks, but there’s no evidence that cocoa butter prevents stretch marks. There is some evidence that vitamin E can help, although it has limited benefits for marks that have already formed. Gotu kola is an herbaceous plant that also shows promise for preventing and treating pregnancy stretch marks. It contains natural chemicals that reduce inflammation and increase production of new collagen fibers. Studies show it prevents the formation of new stretch marks. Belli Elasticity Belly Oil contains a blend of gotu kola and vitamin E combined with lavender and sweet almond oil to nourish and protect skin against damage due to stretching. You can use this soothing oil twice a day on any area where you’re worried about stretch marks forming.
What about treatment for marks that have already formed? Two ingredients called regestril and darutoside are clinically proven in small trials to improve the appearance of stretch marks. These ingredients stimulate collagen production and fortify proteins lying in the dermis of the skin, so they’re stronger and more resistant to tearing. This means they’re also good for preventing stretch marks. Belli Stretchmark Minimizing Cream contains both of these key ingredients for battling stretch marks. It can be used twice a day, morning and evening for 4 weeks and then nightly until the mark has faded.
There are other treatments that may help. Mederma is onion extract, and it contains ingredients that help to fight inflammation due to skin damage. In one study, it improved the appearance of stretch marks in women who used it twice a day for 3 months. It’s also effective for treating scars.
Other treatments that may help include retinoids in prescription –strength products such as Retina-A. Most dermatologists don’t recommend using retinoids during pregnancy. A dermatologist can do a series of peels using glycolic acid to help stimulate collagen production and fade stretch marks. Laser surgery is another option, but it may not completely remove the mark. It also requires multiple treatments, which can be expensive.
The Bottom Line?
Stretch marks aren’t pretty to look at, but there are treatments that help to prevent them and ones that can improve their appearance once they’ve formed.