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Creams, herbs, oils, vitamins—if only it were that easy. The simple truth is, there’s still no sure-fire way to treat stretch marks, though researchers are working furiously to find one. In the meantime, here’s what you need to know.
Stretch marks, those unattractive lines with a reddish, purplish, white or silvery color, are medically known as striae. They occur most often in places where your body stores fat, such as thighs, buttocks, abdomen, breasts and upper arms. Some people are more prone to them than others.
Stretch marks are a result of rapid growth or weight gain, often happening during puberty and pregnancy. There’s evidence that hormones play a role in striae development, but simple rapid weight gain and muscle building can result in stretch marks too. Men get stretch marks as well as women, but since the skin tends to be thicker for males, they don’t suffer stretch marks as universally as women do.
Simply put, as your body builds mass quickly, splits and fissures occur in the dermis, the inner layers of your skin, and show up on the epidermis (surface of the skin) as marks resembling scars. One doctor suggests you think of the dermis as a burlap bag. When the bag is stretched, the fibers separate permanently. With this visual in mind, it’s easier to understand why topical treatments like creams and oils don’t work. They don’t penetrate deeply enough to make any difference. Similarly, no herbs, vitamins or drugs have been shown to repair the dermis. Do not fall victim to the very aggressive advertising for such “solutions” on the Internet.
Microdermabrasion and chemical peels don’t penetrate deeply enough to do much good either. These options may improve the quality of the skin that overlies fissures in the dermis, but that’s about all you can reasonably expect from these surface treatments.
There’s much talk these days about lasers and light therapy for stretch marks.