Stretch marks are common in women—nearly 90 per cent of women get them during their first pregnancy. They also appear after a sudden increase in muscle mass, like in the case of body builders. Although the skin starts losing its elasticity in early 30s, even adolescents get stretch marks. This happens when the skin is unable to keep pace with tissue growth. Obesity—particularly in the thigh and abdomen area—is another leading cause of stretch marks.
Rampant, continuous and unsupervised use of steroid containing creams also cause stretch marks. These creams, though invaluable in curing certain diseases, have to be used under strict supervision of a qualified dermatologist. Skin type also plays an important role. Dry skin is less elastic as compared to oily skin and hence more prone to developing stretch marks.
Stretch marks mar a person’s appearance and cause low confidence. Besides, it’s no consolation that these marks can never be completely erased.
Can they be treated?
Treatment for stretch marks is limited and largely unsatisfactory. However, here are some options to control and prevent them.
- Massaging the skin with creams containing vitamin E helps prevent stretch marks.
- Topical vitamin A products [retinol] and topical glycolic acid are used in cosmetic preparations to eliminate stretch marks.
- Products containing cocoa butter claim to decrease stretch marks. However, their efficacy and safety have not been determined. More than the ingredients of the product, it is the massage that helps rejuvenate collagen.
- Creams containing tretinoin and glycolic acid help if the marks are newly-formed [red in colour].
- Topical application of vitamin C improves the appearance in early cases.
- Multiple creams are available for preventing stretch mark formation. In an extensive study, a herbal product containing Centella asiatica extract [brahmi], alpha tocopherol and collagen-elastin hydrolysate was found to be effective in preventing scars. Unfortunately, the product is not yet available in India and its safety in pregnancy is not established.
- Laser therapy too helps cure the redness of the marks in the initial stages. It even corrects the whiteness in the later stages. Microdermabrasion is sometimes used along with it for better results. Microdermabrasion involves blowing high velocity crystals of abrasive substances such as aluminium oxide on the skin that causes superficial abrasion of skin. This leads to certain dermal changes that help in limited resolution of the white stretch marks.
Stretch marks scar your skin and your self-esteem. However, they are self-limiting and tend to fade over time. Regular cleansing and moisturising of the skin and weight and diet control is the secret behind blemish-free skin.