The only way to get rid of stretch marks permanently is through surgery that removes the skin in the area of the stretch marks, such as a tummy tuck (abdominoplasty), breast lift, or thigh lift. It is uncommon for surgery to be performed just to get rid of skin with stretch marks alone, and the procedures usually leave scars.
Without treatment, stretch marks usually don’t go away, but they may fade over time and their appearance may be reduced with treatment.
Treatment of pregnant patients is usually delayed until after delivery because of concerns over the effects of treatments on the fetus.
The first-line treatment for red- and purple-colored stretch marks (striae rubra) includes:
- Topical retinoids: must be used daily for several months
- Pulsed dye laser therapy
The first line treatment for white- and silver-colored stretch marks (striae alba) includes:
- Fractional laser therapy
- May be combined with the delivery of radiofrequency energy (RF microneedling)
- Topical retinoids: not as effective for striae alba (white) as for striae rubra (red)
Other treatments that may improve the appearance of stretch marks have limited evidence for their effectiveness and include:
- Chemical peels
- Superficial dermabrasion
- Radiofrequency devices
- Intense pulsed light (IPL)
- Infrared laser
- Other treatments: more study is needed to determine the effectiveness of these regimens
- Sand abrasion and trichloroacetic acid
- 20% glycolic acid, topical silicone, or non-silicone gels applied with massage
- Succinylated atelocollagen
- Products containing onion extract and Centella asiatica
- Home remedies: these products may soften the skin but there is no evidence they can prevent or treat stretch marks
- Shea butter
- Vitamin E oil
- Cocoa butter
- Olive oil
What Are Stretch Marks?
Stretch marks (striae) are a common form of skin scarring that appear on the skin as red, purple, or light-colored lines. Stretch marks are harmless but can be upsetting for patients who are unhappy with their appearance.
There are two main types of stretch marks:
- Striae rubra, which are red or purple in color
- Striae alba, which are white to silver in color
Stretch marks commonly appear on the:
Stretch marks are a cosmetic problem and do not cause other symptoms so treatment is not necessary unless patients wish to change the appearance of the affected skin.
What Causes Stretch Marks?
Stretch marks usually appear on parts of the body that grow rapidly, such as stretch marks that commonly appear on the abdomen or breasts during pregnancy (striae gravidarum).
Risk factors for developing stretch marks during pregnancy include:
- Higher weight gain during pregnancy
- Higher pre-pregnancy body mass index (BMI)
- Higher birth weight and gestational age
- A family history of striae gravidarum
- Multiple gestation pregnancies
- Excessive amniotic fluid (polyhydramnios)
Aside from pregnancy, other causes of stretch marks include:
- Sudden weight gain or loss
- Growth spurt in adolescents
- Bodybuilding exercise
- Medical conditions
- Use of certain medications
- Breast augmentation
- Heart surgery
- Organ transplantation
- Tension-requiring skin sutures
- Tissue expanders
Health Solutions From Our Sponsors
Skin Problems and Treatments Resources
Image Source: iStock Images
United States. UptoDate.com. Wolters Kluwer. "Striae distensae (stretch marks)." June 16, 2022. https://www.uptodate.com/contents/striae-distensae-stretch-marks?search=stretch%20marks&source=search_result&selectedTitle=1~140&usage_type=default&display_rank=1