Stretch Marks Treatment Overview

More than three-quarters of all women get stretch marks.

Stretch Mark treatments are sought after pregnancy

*Treatment results may vary
While many pregnancy related stretch marks fade away with time, becoming less obvious, some become permanent and look very similar to scars.

Stretch mark causes

Stretch marks are visible scars occurring in the skin.

  • They are caused by tearing of the dermis and rapid stretching of the skin seen during periods of growth.
  • The normal expansion of the skin cannot keep pace with the volume growth and a rend or tear occurs within the dermis. This most commonly occurs during puberty, pregnancy, or significant weight gain.
  • The scars are often accompanied by a color change, with pink or red hues occurring when the stretch marks are young and newly formed, for up to 9-12 months.

Stretch mark removal

If you have significant post-pregnancy stretch marks on your abdomen, you may be able to get rid of stretch marks by undergoing a
tummy tuck. A tummy tuck is meant to provide 3 benefits:

1. Remove excess abdominal skin

2. Improve your profile view by pulling in the abdominal wall

3. Improve you waistline by pulling the muscles toward the midline Stretch mark removal by tummy tuck surgery

*Treatment results may vary

Before and after of stretch marks from Tummy Tuck surgery. Photo: Kimberly O'Sullivan, MD, Boston Plastic Surgeon

Liposuction is NOT a technique for removing stretch marks.  Laser stretch mark treatment can reduce darker color when stretch marks are new but they don't eliminate the damaged skin. Lasers and Intense Pulsed Light (IPL) treatment just make the lines less conspicuous.

The anatomy of a stretch mark explains why no treatments can entirely cure them. They are a splitting of the deeper dermis layer of the skin while the outside epidermal layer remains intact. It is like splitting a tomato over a flame only in a stretch mark, it is the deeper layer that splits, not the outermost layer.

Stretch mark cream

There are numerous products available that claim to treat or reduce the appearance of stretch marks. Popular creams or oils include: Bio Oil is a stretch mark product for at-home treatment

*Treatment results may vary
  • Mederma and Bio Oil
  • StriVectin-SD is a skin-smoothing cream originally designed to help eliminate the appearance of stretch marks
  • Mustela Stretch Mark Intensive Action is said to "diminish the size, depth and color of existing stretch marks."

The medical experts on RealSelf routinely offer the opinion that stretch mark creams do nothing as far as treating stretchmarks. Topical vitamin E and A may help prevent them.

3 tips for preventing stretch marks

There are several ways to prevent stretch marks from occurring in the first place:

1. Avoid unusually large weight gains during pregnancy. Not only do large weight gains cause stretch marks, but they are unhealthy for the baby and the mother.

2. Avoid excessively large
breast implants. They can stretch the skin, occasionally causing it to give way and form stretch marks along the top and sides of the breast.

3. Avoid repeated weight gain and loss. In stretching to accommodate increased body weight, the dermal fibers can rip, causing stretch marks.

Sources: Stephen A. Goldstein, MD, Brent Moelleken, MD, Richard P. Rand, MD

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