How to Get Rid of or Lighten Stretch Marks
Stretch marks (striae distensae) are long narrow streaks that occur on your skin as a result of too much stretching. They can occur on various parts of the body especially the ones prone to fat accumulation like thighs, breasts, hips, stomach, upper arms, lower back, and buttocks.
While there is nothing to worry about health wise, stretch marks can cause concerns about your image especially when they noticeably sneak up on areas of your body you would rather not cover, it's even worse if you are a woman; 9 out of 10 women get stretch marks.
Can you get rid of stretch marks? Yes and No; depending on the treatment you use, you can either manage to get rid of them completely or significantly reduce their appearance. Both of these results are worth the effort.
Before we let you in on how to get rid of stretch marks, here are a few other things you should know:
How do Stretch marks look like?
They can be pink initially and later turn to red or purple. Over time, they may turn to skin colour, silver or white. Their colour can vary depending on your skin colour. What remains constant is their scar-like appearance.
What causes stretch marks and how are they formed?
Stretch marks are common results of weight gain, pregnancy, or fast growth experienced in puberty. You are also more likely to get them if you have a family history of stretch marks.
Stretch marks occur in the middle layer of the skin, also known as the dermis. The connective fibres in the layer are responsible for skin elasticity. They stretch to accommodate gradual change during growth.
When the skin is overstretched or pulled rapidly, connective tissues in the dermis break, causing scars that manifest as stretch marks.
How to Get Rid of or Lighten Stretch Marks?
Treatment of stretch marks is aimed at either getting rid of them or diminishing their appearance as mentioned above. This can be done using 3 different approaches; home remedies, topical treatments or skin procedures.
With all these, results can vary based on the age of the stretch marks, individual skin, approach used and consistency of the treatment. Here are more details on the options:
These are mainly aimed at reducing the visibility of the stretch marks. They utilize ingredients that you can find in your kitchen cabinet or easily buy at a convenient store. Due to their natural state, they require consistency and patience to get results. Here are a few that you can try:
Massaging your affected skin with oil smooths it and reduces the appearance of stretch marks. You can try the following oil treatments.
Olive oil helps in restoring your skin’s smoothness. It moisturizes your skin and enhances exfoliation due to its deep penetrative properties. Its ability to improve blood circulation also helps to promote healing.
Gently massage olive oil on the affected area using your palms and let it sit for 30 minutes before rinsing it off. Do it regularly for noticeable results. For even better results, you can mix olive oil, water and vinegar and apply on your skin at night.
Vitamin E Oil
Vitamin E oil supports skin cell growth and enhances skin rejuvenation. This helps to heal or fade stretch marks.
Choose a moisturizer that contains Vitamin E or just mix it with your favourite moisturizer and apply on your skin every day. This helps to fade your stretch marks.
Castor oil is a strong remedy against various skin conditions including stretch marks, acne, dry skin, athlete’s foot, ringworm and warts. Applying the oil stimulates collagen and elastin production in the skin. Elastin allows your skin to stretch and conform to your shape while collagen repairs skin imperfections.
Apply a thick layer of the oil on the stretched skin. Wrap the area with plastic and apply heat using a warm water bottle for about 15 minutes. Repeat daily for faster results.
Exfoliation makes stretch marks less noticeable. By constantly removing the outer dead and aged skin, the underlying layers are forced to replace the surface skin with new cells. That said, the effectiveness of this scrubs requires consistent treatments. Here is our pick of the best 3 natural scrubs.
Coffee is not just good for your morning energy-kick, its effective in getting rid of stretch marks and reducing cellulite.
The caffeine in the coffee is an antioxidant that fights free radicals off the skin. Coffee grounds are also exfoliants that help in getting rid of dead and old stretched skin. Adding coconut oil to the scrub will help in moisturizing the skin while adding sugar will increase the exfoliation.
For this scrub, use a half-cup of ground coffee with equal amount of coconut oil and sugar, and two tablespoons of ground cinnamon. Mix the ingredients to a fine paste and scrub the affected skin for about 8 minutes, before washing off with warm water.
Sugar contains glycolic acid which helps to stimulate skin growth for a younger and glowing skin. The acid is also effective in treating dry skin, acne spots and wrinkled skin. The small sugar particles are also exfoliating agents hence rubbing them on the skin will remove dead and damaged skin.
A tablespoon of sugar mixed with lemon and almond oil will do the trick. Mix the ingredients and rub on the stretch marks for about 10 minutes. Wash off with lukewarm water. Lemon contains vitamin C, a natural exfoliant while almond oil is a natural moisturizer.
Baking Soda Scrub
Baking soda is made up of fine particles that gently scrub off dead and damaged skin. To make the scrub more efficacious mix the powder with honey that hydrates the skin and also has antioxidant and microbial properties.
Use 3 tablespoons of baking soda, 1 teaspoon of honey and 3-4 teaspoons of milk. Mix the ingredients to a fine paste. Rub on the affected area for 10 to 15 minutes before washing off with water.
Milk helps in ensuring a consistent scrub. It also contains lactic acid which lightens skin, and vitamins A and C which promotes skin healing and anti aging respectively.
Other home remedies work by promoting healing, soothing the skin, enhancing skin rejuvenation or lightening the skin.
Aloe Vera is a rich source of vitamins A, B, C and E which are great for your skin. It helps in brightening dull skin and in collagen production. Besides this, it is packed with healing and soothing properties.
Apply fresh aloe Vera gel on your skin and leave it on for about 15 minutes. Rinse it off using lukewarm water. Do this daily until you see desired results. Another option would be mixing aloe Vera gel with vitamin A and E oils and using the mixture for as long as you need to.
Egg white is rich in proteins and amino acids. When applied on the skin, it helps to rejuvenate the skin and freshen it up.
Beat two egg whites and apply on the clean skin. Let it dry and then rinse off using cold water. Moisturize with olive oil and repeat the procedure every day for about 2 weeks.
Lemon juice helps to exfoliate your skin. It contains acid that can also help to lighten skin darkened by the stretch marks. You can use it on its own or in combination with other ingredients.
Squeeze fresh lemon juice and apply it on the affected skin. Leave it on for about 10 and then rinse it off with warm water. Apply every day for better results. You can also combine equal parts of lemon juice and cucumber juice and use it the same way.
These are topical creams and gels that aid in fading the marks. They are formulated with skin care compounds that exfoliate, heal, rejuvenate and lighten the skin. Common ingredients in these treatments include retinoid (vitamin A), glycolic acid, and hyaluronic acid which are essential in maintaining a blemish free skin.
While these ingredients are considered safe (since they are also produced by the body), it is advisable to consult a doctor for prescription; some ingredients are contraindicated especially for pregnant and breastfeeding women.
These are topical creams whose active ingredient is retinoid. They reduce the appearance of stretch marks by inducing and increasing collagen production in the skin. Increased collagen leads to faster renewal of skin tissue.
Clinical trials have shown that tretinoin creams are efficacious and safe especially for early and active stretch marks. They are however best used as prescription medication due to contraindication.
This is an alpha hydroxy acid which has exfoliating properties. The peeling effect stimulates the skin to produce more collagen, which increases skin elasticity and renewal.
The treatment is supported by clinical trials which have found that application of topical creams with 20% glycolic acid reduces the appearance of stretch marks. Higher concentrations are also available but are sold with prescription; depending on the severity of the marks.
Vitamin C Creams
Creams formulated with vitamin C are also effective in treating stretch marks; they work similarly to retinoid in improving skin appearance.
When serums with up to 20% vitamin C are applied on the skin, the vitamin is absorbed causing collagen stimulation and reduced transdermal water loss. It’s also an antioxidant that protects cell damage from free radicals as well as harmful UV rays.
These are surgical or spa-grade procedures meant to reduce or permanently get rid of stretch marks. They can be invasive or non-invasive depending on the specific method. Most of these treatments require qualified practitioners. Substandard treatments can lead to severe side effects. Among the many procedures, here are the highlights of the most common and effective ones.
This is a non-invasive advanced exfoliation procedure that treats the upper skin layer (epidermis). To this effect, it targets white stretch marks by stimulating epidermis renewal through increased collagen and elastin production.
Exfoliating crystals or diamond tipped wands are used to buff the skin. The exfoliation is done using a mechanical device with an inbuilt suction pump that cleans off the debris. The procedure is repeated as per your dermatologist’s recommendation and depending on the severity of the condition.
The procedure involves the application of chemical solutions on the skin with the aim of blistering it. The chemicals that are commonly used include Glycolic, Lactic, Trichloroacetic, Salicylic and Carbolic acids. The blistered skin layer peels off to give way for a lighter skin layer.
This procedure should be done by your dermatologist as it comes with risks of skin discolouration, skin colour change, and reactivation of cold sores among others.
Laser treatments use concentrated beams of light to pulverise unwanted and damaged skin tissue. The treatment stimulates the growth of new skin, which is younger and less damaged.
For stretch mark treatment, lasers target the epidermis, hence they reduce appearance of white stretch marks. The activated skin produces more melanin which causes the affected area to gradually blend with the other skin.
Laser treatments require several sessions with frequency being determined by your doctor. There are also different laser therapies, each with its advantages and disadvantages; underscoring the need for a specialist to advice you on which one to go for.
This is an invasive procedure done under general anaesthesia for 2 to 4 hours. The procedure is costly, permanent and mostly advocated for after all other treatments have failed. It however carries the same risks as any other surgery and can result in fresh scarring.
The surgery is known in medical terms as abdominoplasty (when done on the abdomen) and involves the removal of excess fat and skin on the affected area. This results in what is called a ‘tummy tuck’ which gives you a firmer, cosmetically appealing and stretch marks-free skin.
Stretch marks are common skin imperfections especially in a vast majority of women. There are many treatments that can reduce the appearance of the affected skin. Most of these treatments target the upper skin layers. These include home remedies such as exfoliating scrubs, essential oils and plant extracts. There are also commercial topical creams formulated with skin rejuvenating ingredients such as glycolic acid.
For more advanced and less frequent treatments, there are skin procedures like microdermabrasion, chemical peels and laser treatments. If none of these works or you are in need of a radical change, you can always go for a tummy tuck, which is permanent and more effective. Whichever way you choose to go, do it with a clear goal in mind and follow it up with patience and consistency.
Sonia Knight is the founder of be:skinformed.Apart from having her own experience with hyperpigmentation, Sonia has gained vast knowledge in the dermatology field. For more info on this, check out our about us page.