Stretch marks are extremely common, affecting around 50% to 90% of women around the world.
What causes stretch marks?
A combination of things, such as the skin stretching due to weight fluctuation along with the loss of elasticity that comes with age. They usually occur on the stomach, breasts, thighs and buttocks, but can appear on other parts of the body too.
While some people naturally have thicker skin, meaning that they won’t experience stretch marks to the same extent, others have thinner skin, making them much more susceptible to stretch marks.
If you are dealing with stretch marks, there is probably only one question on your mind…
Is it possible to get rid of stretch marks?
In a way…
While you cannot get rid of 100% of your stretch marks, you can definitely take steps to dramatically fade them, making them near to invisible.
Stretch Mark Creams
Let’s begin by talking about stretch mark creams, because these are usually what women turn to first when they are looking for ways in which they can clear their stretch marks.
There are so many different stretch mark creams out there, but do they actually work?
It all depends on what they contain…
There are only a handful of ingredients out there that are able to help with stretch marks, such as:
- Retinoids – this derivative of vitamin A is one of the best ingredients for tackling stretch marks, thanks to the way in which it triggers your skin into producing more collagen and elastin. This gives it back its firmness and elasticity, but only really works with newer stretch marks that are still pink or red
- Hyaluronic Acid – this is another ingredient that increases collagen production in the skin. It also intensely hydrates the skin, plumping it up and making your stretch marks immediately less visible, although this effect will just be temporary
- Vitamin E – supports the growth of new skin cells while speeding up skin cell regeneration, promoting skin elasticity. Again, this will only really make a difference with more recent stretch marks, rather than older ones
- Peptides – these feature small enough molecules to penetrate deep into the skin, promoting collagen growth while increasing the thickness and elasticity of the skin
If a cream doesn’t contain these ingredients, but still promises to get rid of your stretch marks, then it is likely a product best avoided.
With so many celebrities recently turning to laser treatments to tackle their stretch marks, this is becoming an increasingly popular way to deal with the issue.
Laser treatment isn’t just for celebs either…
Thanks to the cost of laser treatment decreasing over the years, along with new methods doing away with the discomfort usually associated with laser treatment, this treatment method is now being utilized by the general public more and more.
So, how do laser treatments actually help with stretch marks?
This all depends on the type of laser you choose.
You have two main options…
These are known as ablative and non-ablative laser treatments.
What is the difference between them?
Simply put, ablative treatments work by removing the top layer of your skin, forcing your body into producing more collagen to heal this.
This is quite an invasive method, but it does mean that results can be seen after just one or two treatments.
Of course, being invasive, the recovery time is longer for ablative treatments, with most patients needing at least two weeks to heal.
On the other hand, non-ablative laser treatments stimulate the production of collagen and elastin within the skin, without causing any damage. A thick band of pulsed light is aimed at affected areas, so that collagen and elastin production beneath the skin in those parts can be amped up.
The recovery period is minimal for non-ablative treatments, but you will likely need several sessions in order for a difference to be noticed.
Wondering which type of laser treatment is best for stretch marks?
This all depends on the type of stretch marks you have…
If your stretch marks are older, and have turned white or silver in color, you would be best off going for an ablative treatment. These stretch marks can be harder to heal, meaning that a more invasive treatment is necessary.
However, if your stretch marks are quite new, and are still red or pink, then you may find that a non-ablative laser treatment is able to give you the results you are after.
For many, the difference in cost of these two treatment types also plays a role in determining which one to go for. Usually, ablative treatments are much more expensive than non-ablative, although more sessions will be needed for non-ablative.
How long does each session take?
Not long at all! An ablative laser treatment can be done in under two hours, while a non-ablative can be carried out in just half an hour.
Microdermabrasion is another method that can help to significantly reduce the visibility of your stretch marks.
What does it involve?
It makes use of a handheld device that either sprays a stream of tiny crystals on to the skin, or uses a diamond tip to buff the skin.
It is basically a more intense form of exfoliation, removing the top layer of skin, along with its dead skin cells.
You might be thinking…
Stretch marks affect the dermis, not just the epidermis, so how does removing the top layer of skin help?
Because you need your skin to increase its production of new skin cells, which will then work their way up from the deepest layer of your skin to the outermost layer, pushing out the older skin cells along their way.
Clinical studies carried out so far show that microdermabrasion is effective when it comes to resurfacing the skin and reducing the appearance of stretch marks.
Microdermabrasion, as well as other forms of exfoliation, also stimulate the skin to produce more collagen and elastin, helping your new skin cells to appear firmer and tighter.
Microneedling is a minimally-invasive technique that makes use of tiny needles.
These are applied to the skin to create micro-injuries, which then stimulate the skin into producing more collagen and elastin to repair itself.
Thanks to the increase in collagen and elastin, the structure of your skin firms back up, resulting in stretch marks becoming less visible.
The majority of patients say that there is no pain associated with microneedling, so long as the length of the needle is under 0.5 mm. Of course, this does depend on your individual pain tolerance, but the most that you will likely feel is a mild discomfort, rather than actual pain.
How often do you need to have microneedling done in order to notice results with your stretch marks?
It usually requires around six treatments, and these are carried out about once a month. Once you have achieved the results you were hoping for, you can then cut back on these treatments, opting for them every six weeks or so instead.
Yes, this does mean that the cost can add up to quite a bit for microneedling, but, fortunately, there is a way around this…
There are now many at-home microneedling devices available, and these allow you to carry out the same treatment from the comfort of your own home.
This gives you so much more flexibility over when and where you do your treatments, while also saving you a fair bit of money in the long run.
If you do decide to go down this route, make sure that you speak to a dermatologist before purchasing a device, so that you can get recommendations on the best needle length for your skin.
Do at-home microneedling devices work as well as professional versions?
This depends on the results you are seeking…
The needles used in at-home devices tend to be smaller, meaning that they don’t penetrate the skin as deeply. While they definitely do make a difference on the surface, they won’t be able to treat stretch marks at a deep enough level to bring about a permanent change.
On the other hand, professional treatments use longer needles, making this the option to go for if your stretch marks are particularly deep or severe.
Many people are quick to turn to expensive, invasive treatments when it comes to clearing stretch marks, but, sometimes, there is a much easier option…
While regular workouts may not actually get rid of your stretch marks, they can definitely make a significant difference to how visible they are.
It’s all thanks to the way in which exercise dramatically boosts your blood circulation.
In order to optimally produce collagen and elastin, your skin needs this extra blood, since this is where it obtains its oxygen and nutrients from.
Wondering what sort of exercises you need to do?
This all depends on where your stretch marks actually are…
If they are on your thighs and hips, you need exercises that will tone your leg muscles, whereas stretch marks on the stomach or chest are best dealt with using exercises that focus on the muscles in these areas.
Protect Your Collagen
Each of the stretch mark treatment options mentioned above have one thing in common…
They all work to increase the collagen and elastin that your skin produces, since this helps to give it a tighter and firmer appearance.
However, these methods won’t have much of an impact if your lifestyle is one that subjects your existing collagen and elastin levels to constant damage.
What damages collagen and elastin?
Everything from UV light and pollution to smoke and an unhealthy diet.
Here are a few tips on how you can protect and preserve the collagen and elastin already in your body:
- A Balanced Diet – make sure that your diet contains plenty of vitamins and antioxidants, along with omega fatty acids. All of these nutrients will help to neutralize the free radicals that destroy the collagen in your skin, while promoting the production of more collagen and elastin
- Regular Exercise – as mentioned above, this can go a long way in boosting your skin’s production of collagen and elastin
- Quality Sleep – your skin heals and regenerates itself while you are asleep, with the majority of new skin cells, along with structural proteins, being produced at this time. Not only should you ensure that you are getting enough sleep in terms of hours, but the quality of your sleep must be good too
- Sun Protection – the sun’s UV rays break down the collagen and elastin in your body, making sun protection vital when it comes to treating stretch marks
- Stop Smoking – tobacco smoke significantly degrades the structural proteins in your skin, while also suffocating it by preventing it from obtaining enough oxygen and nutrients, meaning that quitting this habit could quickly bring around quite a few positive skin changes
- Cut Back on Sugar – sugar molecules attach themselves to the collagen in your skin, weighing it down and making it inflexible, therefore preventing it from working in the way that it should
- Stay Hydrated – your skin needs moisture in order to produce and protect its structural proteins
How about taking some oral collagen supplements?
There haven’t been enough studies carried out on this yet, and keep in mind that most of these supplements will not be FDA-approved, making it difficult to guarantee quality.
However, the research that has been carried out is quite promising, especially when it comes to improving skin elasticity and density.
Stretch marks can definitely be frustrating to deal with, and, in severe cases, they can really take a toll on a person’s self-esteem. If you haven’t yet found a way to fade your stretch marks, give some of these methods a try, as combining topical treatments with lifestyle changes could really bring about a noticeable improvement.