Stretch marks, which appear red or even purple-red at first and then gradually fade until they are silvery-grey or white, can show up anywhere that the skin has stretched: breasts, tummy, thighs, and even on the arms. And while they may be unwelcome visitors that we desperately try to cover up, there’s a perfectly legit explanation for their existence. “Stretch marks are dermal and epidermal ‘tearing’ as a result of the skin’s inability to accommodate rapid growth,” says Beverly Hills aesthetician Gina Mari. “Stretch marks can occur due to genetics, pregnancy and/or diet. If you get them, no big deal! There are safe and effective treatments that can be done to help reduce their appearance or remove them entirely.”
So, that’s the good news: there is a silver lining should you develop stretch marks during pregnancy or after weight gain or loss. But before we discuss treatments, let’s dive into some of the ways that stretch marks can be prevented.
1. Maintain a skin-nourishing diet. This is especially important during and after pregnancy. “The omega-3’s found in fish, nuts, and flax seed are especially helpful in encouraging skin to recover and renew from the stress,” says Dr. Mary Szatkowski-Pritikin of PritiSkin.
2. Perform low impact exercises. Yoga, water aerobics, and walking throughout pregnancy (and continued afterwards) are fantastic ways to keep the body and skin toned and pliable, Szatkowski-Pritikin expplains.
3. Stay hydrated. Drink water–at least six to eight 8-ounce glasses per day–and eat fruits and vegetables with higher water content like watermelon, strawberries, peaches, cucumbers, celery, and radishes.
4. Apply natural oils to keep skin hydrated and moisturized. “There are no studies that suggest creams or oils actually prevent stretch marks, however, it is still important to exfoliate dead skin cells and add moisture to the skin,” Mari says. “Not only will it result in a healthy glow, but it will also help with itchiness due to the stretching of the skin. We suggest moisturizing with coconut oil; it contains a high amount of vitamin E and it is 100 percent safe to use during pregnancy as long as you use amounts comparable to those recommened for a normal diet.
5. Don’t give into every craving. It’s tempting to want to eat for two while pregnant but it’s crucial to get enough of the right nourishing foods. Overindulging can lead to rapid weight gain and stretch marks could potentially follow. “Slowly increase weight over time throughout any pregnancy in order to decrease the chance that you will develop stretch marks from the skin rapidly stretching and expanding,” says Szatkowski-Pritikin.
Too late? You did everything you were supposed to do and still developed stretch marks, so now what? First and foremost, it’s important to remember that stretch marks are so common it is believed nine out of 10 women get them while pregnant. You’re not alone. If that’s little comfort to you and you’d just like to zap them off of your skin, here are 3 stretch marks treatments experts suggest.
1. Laser therapy. Dr. Jill Waibel of Miami Dermatology & Laser Institute says lasers are safe to use post-delivery and while breastfeeding. “A pulsed-dye laser (PDL) can be used to reduce red stretch marks, known as striae rubia. For white stretch marks, known as striae alba, a fractional laser can be used.”
2. Retin-A. One topical treatment to try is Retin-A, which Waibel says works great to help reduce the appearance of stubborn marks. Unlike laser therapy, Retin-A should only be used after delivery and once breastfeeding has concluded.
3. Over-the-counter creams. Most creams worth their name aren’t going to make outrageous claims about having the power to eliminate stretch marks altogether, but many women swear by certain over-the-counter remedies that they say helped fade their red marks. One to try: StriVectin SD Advanced Intensive Concentrate, which is said to hydrate and enhance skin texture with Collagen III.
No matter what, remember: stretch marks are a sign of both new life and a life well lived–and they will fade over time.
For more beauty tips, check out 6 foods that are ruining your skin and hair and everything you need to know about lip oil, the new ‘It’ beauty item.