In this article we’re going to talk about the best methods for getting rid of stretch marks and give you some tips to make the whole process go faster.
Stretch marks can be pretty stubborn and a pain to treat but we promise you can make them a thing of the past. As always, it’s important you apply what you learn because reading but not doing won’t make them go away on their own! The sooner you act, the sooner your skin will improve and the sooner you’ll reap the benefits as you transform your appearance!
If you’re here to look the best you can be — do what’s necessary. If stretch marks are a problem for you…. do what’s necessary. Think of yourself as a butterfly still trapped in it’s cocoon. Right now you’re in the “growing and under construction” stage as you’re slowly undergoing a transformation, but the only way to complete this stage and move on to the next is if you take action. Be that butterfly and spread your wings! Become what you can and reach your potential!
Okay enough pep talk (Yeah, it was pretty melodramatic….) Let’s get straight to business.
What are stretch marks? Stretch marks are the “thanks, but no thanks” gift the universe presents to us whenever our skin quite literally “stretches” more than it should have or is used to.
They look like reddish, purple, or white lines that group together in a pattern and they usually appear during or after pregnancy, puberty, or weight gain, and after taking certain medications.
Obviously, stretch marks aren’t the most appealing thing in the world especially if you’re trying to show off a beach ready body and they’re far from the ideal of spotless, clear looking skin. No worries! We can take steps to address them. Our goal is to help you get better skin so you can become the best version of you and that’s what we’re going to do.
“Can I Prevent Stretch Marks?”
Let’s get this out of the way: Despite what you might have heard elsewhere or claims made by advertisers, there really isn’t a way to prevent stretch marks from forming. No cream or lotion will stop them from showing up in the first place (although there are some that can help them fade away after they appear, we talk about them below) so don’t stress yourself out.
Topical Vitamin E, cocoa butter, almond oil — none of them will do anything to prevent stretch marks from forming. Sometimes products that are commonly recommended end up doing more harm than good like Vitamin E oil. Don’t believe the myths. We tell you what works further below.
Prevention is hard because stretch marks can pop up without warning and relatively fast leaving you with little time to react. Luckily, there are ways to prepare for them so your skin can better handle stretching. Here are some basic tips everyone should follow if they’re expecting to put on a lot of weight fast:
Eat a Skin Healthy Diet
We’ve created an entire guide on the foods you should and shouldn’t be eating for better skin.
In particular, you want to focus on eating foods high in Vitamin C and Omega 3s because they promote the formation of collagen.
If you’ve read our special report on collagen (link above), you know that it’s the main support structure of our skin and what keeps it supple and elastic. With enough collagen in your skin, you’ll be better equipped to handle any stretching that your skin goes through, which can help reduce the amount of stretch marks.
Drink enough water to not get dehydrated. Dehydration can make the skin lose some its suppleness which isn’t a good thing if you want it to be elastic enough to handle potential stretch marks.
If you don’t want to keep chugging water bottles, eat foods with a high water content like grapes, watermelon, and other types of fruits.
Exercise helps prevent stretch marks in two ways.
The obvious way is that exercise will help limit the amount of weight you put on which is good because the less weight you gain, the less of a chance any severe stretch marks can form since your skin won’t have to adapt to any stretching.
The second way is by improving circulation. Exercising will get your heart pumping and rush blood to your your skin improving its elasticity.
Even light exercise can be beneficial. The point is to get your blood moving and break a sweat. As you’ll see later on, exercise is even more important for getting rid of stretch marks than preventing them.
Studies show stretch mark treatments work better when skin is well hydrated.
Moisturizing will also keep your skin supple and elastic but you want something a little “heavier” than what you’d normally use. Remember, the skin on your face is different than the skin on rest of your body (its thinner and more sensitive) so don’t be afraid to using moisturizers that are able to penetrate deeper into your pores.
There are moisturizers made specifically for pregnant women which we talk more about further below. If you’d like a recommendation, Bio-Oil is a popular moisturizer used during pregnancy and for good reason.
You could also try using coconut oil (which you might already have at home) or castor oil as heavy duty moisturizers.
The main areas you want to focus on are your stomach (especially around your waist), butt, and legs since these are the spots you’re most likely to get stretch marks.
Again, none of the above will completely prevent any marks from forming but they can reduce the likelihood of you having to deal with them.
So what can you do after they appear? Here are the best ways of treating stretch marks along with our personal routine recommendation.
How To Reduce Stretch Marks
Also known as skin needling, dermal rollers use a plastic instrument with dozens and dozens of tiny “needles” which may look more like a torture device than something that’s supposed to help your skin but really the whole point is for these needles to penetrate and make tiny holes on the surface which is supposed to kickstart the healing process and allow other products to be more easily absorbed by the skin.
When you damage your skin (in this case you’re creating minor damage by poking tiny holes) it encourages new growth to occur, replacing the older skin that has stretch marks with newer skin.
Use the roller over your problem areas several times per session with each session spaced out a few days to give your skin enough time to heal.
In case you’re wondering, it isn’t really isn’t as painful as you’d expect. If you gently roll it over your skin it’ll feel more like a slight stinging sensation than anything. You should probably apply a numbing cream beforehand just in case especially if it’s your first time using one until you get the hang of it.
Their effectiveness has been questioned but there has been plenty of anecdotal evidence saying otherwise, that they do indeed work.
We also found a study testing dermal rollers that had 34 of the 37 patients achieve “a reduction in the severity of their scarring by one or two grades.” How satisfied were the patients? “More than 80% of patients assessed their treatment as ‘excellent’ on a 10-point scale. “
This was a study done on post-acne scars but it also work for stretch marks because the process which dermal rolling works by encourages your skin to heal itself and start producing collagen.
Now this is the KEY step to getting rid of your stretch marks. Combined with an effective cream and moisturizer like the ones we talked about above and dermal rolling — exfoliating (whether with scrubs or chemical based products, preferably both) will do wonders for treating stretch marks.
If you’re unfamiliar with exfoliators, they remove the top layer of dead and older skin cells so the younger ones underneath are revealed. This is a good thing because it increases the turnover rate of your skin cells, which means it can help get rid of the stretch marks faster!
If you’ve read our basic skincare guide you know that we generally discourage using physical exfoliators. This case is an exception Why? As we mentioned before, your body’s skin is different than your face’s skin. The areas where stretch marks most commonly occur (your stomach, hips etc) can take a scrubbing your face wouldn’t be able to.
A daily brushing with a scrub over your stretch marks using firm strokes will help stimulate blood flow to the surface of your skin as well as remove the top layer of skin cells. This will help minimize the appearance of the stretch marks and help them fade faster!
Here’s another tip: Use a loofah while you bathe or shower. As you’d expect, it works the same way by helping remove that top layer. You can apply whatever body wash you’re using over it and then really focus on the areas that are giving you trouble.
Physical types of exfoliators are great but know what’s even better? Chemical based exfoliators. While we recommend using both types in your routine (we outline how in the next section below), if you only had to choose one use a chemical exfoliator. Here’s two we recommend:
- Glycolic Acid
We talked a bit about glycolic acid in our acne treatments guide and we’re recommending it again here because it also works really well for stretch marks.
You can get a professional glycolic peel done at a dermatologist OR you can get glycolic acid for yourself at a smaller concentration. The only difference really between higher and lower concentrations is that treatment will take a little longer. You just don’t want something so low that it’ll take forever. Try this one:
Like all chemical exfoliators, you’ll want to avoid the sun after you apply it because it increases your photosensitivity which means UV rays will do more damage than usual.
2. Retin-A and Retinoids
Retin-A is one of the most popular exfoliators for anti-aging and post-acne hyperpigmentation but here we’re going to use its properties for stretch marks.
Over the counter retinoids which are similar to Retin-A can do a good job on their own but to really get the most out of them we recommend combining a retinoid treatment WITH glycolic acid.
As a combo, they’ll do everything you want your exfoliator to do: increase turnover, get rid of older cells, and promote collagen synthesis. The end result will be fading stretch marks!
It’s worth noting here that the earlier you start treating your stretch marks the quicker you’ll be able to get rid of them. Letting them fade naturally into a grayish white color that sticks around will be harder to remove but not impossible. We give time tables below in the routine description.
Also: Don’t use retinoids if you’re pregnant! It can cause birth defects and you’re not supposed to be on Retin-A if you’re expecting so wait until AFTER to treat any stretch marks.
Laser Stretch Mark Removal
While we’re not the absolute biggest fans of laser treatments (some people’s skin just do not react well to them) they can be an effective treatment for stretch marks. Like the other treatments we mention above, they’re supposed to promote new collagen production which will help fade any marks.
This type of treatment requires multiple sessions over an extended period of time so make sure you have some free time on your schedule. You should talk to a dermatologist or doctor if you’re interested because there’s different types of lasers and they each work slightly differently. If you want to learn a little more check out this article where we talk about laser treatments for acne.
After the stretch marks appear and you’re done with pregnancy or putting on weight, you should increase your activity levels to an even higher level than before. Both cardio and resistance training will help treat your stretch marks because you’ll be toning up your body, increasing the firmness of your skin while also burning fat.
- First make sure you keep your skin moisturized to allow the other stretch mark treatments to work more effectively.
- Use a dermal roller once or twice a day preferably around the time you take a bath / shower.
- Apply a chemical based exfoliator such as glycolic acid or a retinoid treatment to help shed the outermost layer of skin cells and help marks fade. Include this as a regular part of your skincare routine and use it once a day (in the morning is best).
- Use a cream to target stretch mark areas. Apply once a day at night before you go to bed.
Combine the above routine with an active lifestyle and consistent exercise and you’re good to go!