Stretch marks. Most of us have them, but many of us wish we didn’t.
Stretch marks are surprisingly common – an estimated 80% of people get them at some stage during their life, and whilst they affect women more, both men and women can develop them.
They don’t just happen because of pregnancy, they can appear after putting on weight or just through growing into your body – which is why people of any shape or size can have them. Stretch marks can also appear in a range of colours, from pinky-purple when they’re fresh to silvery or white when they’re old, and on any part of your body, although the most common areas include the stomach, thighs, upper arms, and breasts.
Despite the normalcy, the question on everyone’s lips is still how to get rid of stretch marks. There are a number of options available to help you reduce their appearance, from cosmetic products all the way through to surgery – however, it’s important to note that whilst you can improve your stretch marks, it’s very difficult to get rid of them completely, so your expectations should be realistic.
Many choose to look at their stretch marks ‘like a tiger that’s earned their stripes’, and learning to love your lines should always be an option too.
Stretch mark prevention
If you moisturise twice a day, every day from around the age of puberty, you reduce your chances of developing stretch marks as you grow. Stretch marks are exactly that, marks where the skin has stretched, and supple, well-moisturised skin will not give in to stretch marks as easily.
However, if it’s too late for you (as it is for the majority of us!), you can still tackle stretch marks in many different ways.
How to get rid of stretch marks
If you’ve got stretch marks, the earlier you treat them, the more successful you’re likely to be – so for example, if you’re expecting a baby, treating your skin from the beginning of your pregnancy may help to reduce their appearance.
Having said this, each of these treatments will have varying success from person to person. And even if you can’t get rid of them completely, keeping them moisturized should prevent them from itching, which is a common complaint with new stretch marks.
Stretch mark creams
Stretch mark creams improve the condition of your skin in general, meaning that your stretch marks will appear smoother and less noticeable. Active ingredient like tretinoin or retinol, which, according to research, can improve stretch marks by around 20%, are a promising option, working to rebuild collegen and level out the area, but should be avoided if you’re pregnant or breastfeeding. Silicone-based products are also thought to have some benefit. Many women swear by cocoa butter as the best option, but there is no scientific evidence that it has an effect on stretch marks, so it may be a case of trying a variety of creams to see what works for your skin.
Whether it’s a branded oil like Bio-Oil or a generic essential oil, certain oils may go some way to improving the appearance of stretch marks. One study that looked at the results of a stretch mark treatment containing rosehip oil and vitamin E proved to be effective in reducing severity, whilst another bout of research focusing solely on bitter almond oil showed that it could also be effective when coupled with a 15-minute massage. Crucially, applying the oil without the massage didn’t have a significant effect, so if you do choose any topical treatment, be sure to massage the area you’re applying it to to stimulate the skin.
Laser therapy may be an effective way to resurface your skin, but it’s much more expensive than an over-the-counter product (often hundreds of pounds per session), requires multiple treatments to tackle the problem – and it’s not available on the NHS either. Having said this, the procedure itself is said to be fairly quick and painless – if you’re considering laser treatment, consult with a qualified professional who can advise you on the right process for your skin type and number of stretch marks.
Surgery is a something of a last resort for stretch marks – again, the NHS will not provide it for you, so it can be very costly, and invasive to boot. It’s only available for stretch marks on the stomach, specifically below the belly button, and involves an operation where excess skin and fat are removed from the abdomen. You’ll also be left with a significant scar from the surgery, so it’s worth weighing up whether this will bother you more than the stretch marks would. However, people who’ve had the procedure are often extremely happy with their results.
If you’re going on holiday or want to bare an area of skin that has stretch marks for a special occasion or short period of time, camouflage make-up could be a useful solution for you. It can be purchased in larger pharmacies, just like normal make up, and some makes are even waterproof, lasting up to two or three days. All you need to do is make sure that the make-up matches your natural skin colour, or you could be making the area you’re conscious of even more noticeable.
Have you used a stretchmark treatment that’s made a real difference to your skin? Let us know your recommendations in the comment box below.