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Can You Really Remove Stretch Marks?

By: Sarah Knowles BA, MA - Updated: 13 Oct 2011 | comments*Discuss
Stretch Marks Pregnancy Skin Puberty

One of the most troublesome legacies of pregnancy is the appearance of stretch marks, which for some women is a relatively minor blemish, while for others can be a devastating reminder of lost youth.

Stretch marks can appear at other times in a person’s life as well – during times of rapid weight gain such as puberty, or during a period of intense muscle build-up, which is often the case with serious bodybuilders. Both men and women can get stretch marks, and they can be relatively minor or quite severe.

Luckily, there are ways to get rid of stretch marks. But eradicating them completely – or minimising their appearance – can come with a hefty price tag, as well as a modicum of pain.

What are Stretch Marks?

Stretch marks occur due to weight gain in a relatively short period of time, which quite literally tears the outer layer of the skin, or the dermis. Known in medical terminology as striae, they are a form of scarring that cause bluish or reddish lines in the skin to appear due to skin breakage.

Some pregnant women are more prone to getting stretch marks than others, and factors such as multiple births and ethnicity (people with lighter skin get stretch marks more easily) play a role. Women who have several children may find that their stretch marks worsen or multiply with each pregnancy, and dehydration during pregnancy can play a crucial role.

Pregnancy is not the only time when people are prone to getting stretch marks. Both boys and girls can get them during puberty – girls particularly in the breast, hip, tummy and thigh areas. People also get them when they build up muscle quickly, and some get them as a result of hormone replacement therapy – transsexuals, for example.

Stretch marks do fade over time, and some people with mild stretch marks learn to live with them quite easily. But for those whose stretch marks are very pronounced, there are some ways to reduce their appearance in some cases, and eradicate them completely in others.

Getting Rid of Stretch Marks

It’s only possible to get rid of stretch marks completely if you cut off the affected skin. But it is possible to greatly reduce the appearance of stretch marks, and make them much less visible to the naked eye…

  • Tummy Tuck. This is the only foolproof way to get rid of stretch marks, by removing loose skin on the abdomen – often the skin underneath the belly button are, which is where stretch marks predominantly are. You will, however, be left with a different type of scar, but often this is preferable if the scarring from stretch marks is that obvious.
  • Fractional Laser Resurfacing. During this procedure, the collagen in the skin is heated so that it tightens and shrinks, thus causing new collagen to grow. Heat is only delivered to the affected areas, so there is no down-time. A series of treatments is required and while the procedure is not incredibly painful, an anaesthetic cream will be applied.
  • Dermabrasion. Literally “sands down” the skin to get rid of imperfections. Can work to reduce appearance of minor stretch marks but critics say the procedure does not delve deep enough to get rid of deeper ones.
  • Removal Cream. Some people swear this works, others say it doesn’t make a difference at all – but you may as well try it since it’s the least invasive and cheapest option. Creams that work best contain Vitamins E, A and D3. Good luck!

Prevention of Stretch Marks

Prevention is always the best cure, and this is true of stretch marks as well. Pregnant women in particular can take steps to minimise the appearance of stretch marks when they are first pregnant, including:

  • Avoiding excess weight gain. Women who put on more than two stone while they are pregnant may be more prone to getting stretch marks, as well as women who gain weight very quickly. Watching your weight when you are not pregnant is also important.
  • Applying Vitamin E Cream. Vitamin E cream can help reduce the appearance of stretch marks, including older scars. Keeping your skin well-hydrated during pregnancy is also important.
  • Drinking enough water. Water is important throughout life, but especially during pregnancy. Keeping well-hydrated will help your skin to regain its pre-pregnancy state once you've given birth, and also is crucial to body-builders in preventing stretch-marks.
Stretch marks are rarely as bad as you think they are. New mums should really see them as a motherhood “badge of honour”, but unfortunately most don’t see them that way. In some cases, when the appearance of stretch marks is severe, they can really affect an individual's overall self-esteem.

Remember, you can help prevent stretch marks and work to dramatically reduce their appearance – if you really want to. And while surgery might be one answer, there are several less-invasive - and less expensive - techniques that can help make stretch marks much less visible.

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