How to Get Rid of Stretch Marks
What to do to fade stretch marks faster |
Stretch marks, or striae, are completely harmless skin conditions, but they can be rather unsightly and annoying. Not everyone gets them, but many people do. I, for instance, have stretch marks on both my inner and outer thighs.
The stretch marks on my outer thighs I got when I was growing up. I wasn't overweight at all, but the red streaks showed up anyway as my body changed throughout adolescence. The stretch marks on my inner thighs (pictured above) happened when I rapidly gained around 15lbs of weight in my mid-twenties. I couldn't blame puberty for that though. I simply could not stop eating brownies!
Once you get stretch marks, there's nothing you can do to make your skin look like how it was before you got them. However, there are a few things you can do to make stretch marks fade faster and look better. Keep reading to learn more about stretch marks, what causes them, and how to get rid of them to the maximum extent.
What Causes Stretch Marks
Stretch marks are injuries in the dermis layer of your skin. They occur when your skin stretches more than it can handle, causing elastin and collagen fibers to snap. Elastin and collagen fibers are what help keep your skin elastic. When you rapidly or excessively stretch your skin, such as through weight gain or pregnancy, you cause these fibers to permanently breakdown and show up as stretch marks.
Depending on your skin, stretch marks can be pink, red, brown, or purple colored streaks or indentations. When they are fresh and new, they are usually redder. Older stretch marks, on the other hand, usually fade to a pale white. Sometimes stretch marks even look shiny. This shiny, silvery appearance occurs when your epidermis (the outer most layer of your skin) is thinner. Most people tend to get stretch marks on their upper arms, breasts, stomach, butt, and/or thighs.
Stretch marks can be caused by pregnancy, rapid weight gain or loss, growth spurts, genetic disorders, and long-term steroid use. Pregnancy, weight changes, and body growth are three of the most common causes of stretch marks.
Whether you will get stretch marks will depend on your skin tissue type and your genetics. If your parents got stretch marks, you will be more likely to get them too. Some people are just more prone than others. If you do get stretch marks though, it's not the end of the world! There are ways to help prevent stretch marks and make them less noticeable.
How to Get Rid of Stretch Marks
Unless you cut the stretch marks off by removing the skin its on (i.e. get a tummy tuck), it is nearly impossible to make signs of stretch marks disappear completely. However, the following tips are effective for fading them and improving their appearance. These tips also help prevent stretch marks from forming in the first place.
Here is what you can do to fade your stretch marks in a few short months:
- Moisturize. Massage liberal amounts of moisturizer deep into the stretch marks at least 3 times a day. The best moisturizers to use on stretch marks are cocoa butter and shea butter (wheat germ oil might help too). The idea is to keep your skin moisturized as much as possible so it stays hydrated and supple. That way your skin can stretch without breaking.
- Exercise. Exercise moderately at least 3 times a week to improve the circulation in your skin. Losing excess weight (if you have weight to lose) will also make stretch marks less noticeable as your skin firms up. When you gain or lose weight (this includes not only body fat weight, but also muscle mass), make sure you do it slowly. That way as you gain or lose weight, your skin has time to adjust to the stretching instead of being rapidly stretched.
- Exfoliate. Exfoliate your stretch marks at least once a day. You can either use a loofah in the shower or some type of body scrub. However, dry skin brushing is my favorite exfoliating technique. Dry skin brushing stimulates your lymphatic system, helps firm up skin, improves skin circulation, and massages the stretch marks to help make them go away faster.
Keep in mind that newer stretch marks (the ones that are still red) respond better to treatments than older ones (the ones that have faded white). So, if you moisturize, exercise, and dry skin brush your stretch marks as soon as you get them, you stand a better chance of them going away without any lasting effects.
It can take anywhere from several months to over a year for stretch marks to fade completely. How long it will take for them to go away varies from person to person. Sometimes it happens so gradually that you don't even notice until the stretch marks have already turned white.
For me, I moisturized with cocoa butter 3 times a day (morning, noon, and before bed), exercised 3-5x a week (took kick boxing classes), and dry skin brushed twice a day. Using this routine, the stretch marks on my inner thighs (pictured above) faded in around 3-4 months. If I look closely at them or stretch my skin out, I can see the white lines, but otherwise, they are not that noticeable.
Getting rid of stretch marks really depends on the individual though. Some people don't have to do anything for their stretch marks to fade, while others can do everything and spend hundreds of dollars on expensive treatments and not have them improve at all.
Saving Your Money
Stretch mark treatments range from expensive stretch mark repair creams to even more expensive cosmetic procedures. Some of these can help improve the appearance of stretch marks (usually at most a 30% improvement), but most of them don't work. You are better off saving your money.
Because stretch marks occur in the deep dermis layer of your skin, no cream or cosmetic surgery will make them go away completely. Retinoids, glycolic acid, chemical peels, vitamin C, microdermabrasion, and laser are products and procedures often recommended for healing stretch marks. The idea is that with long term use, they can help stimulate collagen production in your skin, which can make stretch marks less noticeable.
However, because retinoids, glycolic acid, chemical peels, vitamin C, microdermabrasion, and laser treatments do not reach into the dermis layer of your skin (where the stretch mark injuries are), they may actually not be that effective. They work based on their potential to stimulate collagen production, but whether they will actually do anything for stretch marks is far from guaranteed.
Nothing will completely erase stretch marks, but a cheap and easy routine of moisturizing, exercising, and exfoliating will help stretch marks fade faster and look better. If your stretch marks really bother you, try covering them up with makeup. Or, better yet, adjust your attitude. The amazingly hot Salma Hayek calls her stretch marks "tiger stripes." My mom sees the stretch marks on her belly from having three kids as "ribbons of honor." Sometimes simply embracing your stretch marks for what they are can make life both easier and happier.
Last updated: September 24, 2012
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