7 Ways Dermatologists Treat and Prevent Stretch Marks

Celebrities like Chrissy Teigen may be flaunting their stretch marks all over social media, but you may be a bit more self-conscious about yours—or eager to avoid them. Here's how dermatologists deal with those pesky red streaks.

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They know how stretch marks happen

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Some 40 to 90 percent of Americans develop stretch marks—usually by the armpits and on the thighs, abdomen, chest and groin, according to an analysis in the American Journal of Clinical Dermatology. "Stretch marks are thought to be due to rapid skin expansion, such as from weight gain during pregnancy or puberty, and breaks in connective tissue and collagen found deep underneath the skin," says Rachel Nazarian, MD, assistant clinical professor at Mount Sinai Hospital Department of Dermatology. These are other significant beauty changes that happen during pregnancy.

They moisturize, moisturize, and moisturize some more

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The good news: Stretch marks aren't inevitable. The bad news? According to Dr. Nazarian, some people are just genetically predisposed to them. But a good way to help minimize your chances of getting stretch marks is to make sure to moisturize skin liberally, especially during times of pregnancy and rapid weight gain or loss, since skin that's well hydrated is more supple and better able to withstand the forces of stretch. These are derms' rules for using moisturizer.

They get handy

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Another thing that keeps skin healthy and less likely to develop stretch marks is massage, according to Dr. Nazarian. "I encourage massage with emollients that help promote circulation and potentially minimize the chance of stretch marks," says Nazarian.

They hydrate

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Hydration is the key to so many things when it comes to our bodies. According to the American Pregnancy Association, keeping skin hydrated is a great defense against stretch marks. This keeps skin supple, so it can be more flexible even when it's being pulled and stretched. Use these flavored water recipes to entice you to drink more water.

They use topical retinoids

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Tretinoin or Retin-A, a derivative of vitamin A, is usually prescribed for acne or anti-aging, but it's the also the only active ingredient shown to fade stretch marks. It works by encouraging collagen remodeling, which helps heal scars—and stretch marks are a form of scarring. "Topically, Tretinoin has been shown to stimulate new collagen growth, says Jeremy Brauer, MD, a NYC-based dermatologic surgeon, "which lessens the look of stretch marks." Dr. Nazarian warns that retinoids are not safe during pregnancy or while breastfeeding. Retinoids work best when used early on, when stretch marks are still red and inflamed. Once stretch marks turn white, they're harder to treat.

They shoot lasers

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Since stretch marks are nearly impossible to erase completely, the goals of treatment are to improve the appearance and texture of the skin as much as possible, according to Dr. Brauer. He adds that newer red striae vascular laser treatment, such as the pulsed dye laser, is very successful at reducing the color of stretch marks as well as achieving some improvement in texture. Fractional non-ablative lasers are also effective at improving texture. Dr. Nazarian adds that treatments such as Fraxel, CO2, and microneedling all help stimulate collagen and elastin fibers under the skin.

They sometimes go OTC

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When looking for over-the-counter treatments, both Dr. Nazarian and Dr. Brauer suggest looking for a cream that contain retinol, such as Paula's Choice 1% Retinol Treatment or Cerave Skin Renewing Cream Serum. Another option is Mederma's Stretch Mark Therapy, which uses Hyaluronic Acid instead of a retinol, making it safe to use for pregnant and nursing women, and has been clinically shown to increase the moisture content of the skin, keeping skin supple and elastic.

They don't scoff at at-home remedies

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Dr. Nazarian warns that no at-home treatment has ever been proven to work in clinical studies. That being said, she adds that olive oil and coconut oil are wonderful anti-inflammatory options that may help and certainly won't hurt when it comes to treating stretch marks. At the very least, they're likely to keep skin soft and supple.


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