Stretch marks are a common, disfiguring skin change that affects between 50 and 90% of women. Not only do they cause distress, but they also significantly reduce quality of life. Doctors often dismiss stretch marks as a “cosmetic” concern, but that doesn’t reduce the suffering you are experiencing. Here, we will discuss what causes stretch marks and some new evidence about potential ways to prevent and treat them.
Stretch marks first present as flat, pink to red marks that later become more raised, longer, and darker. Over a period of several months to years, the marks fade and become lighter, but in many cases they remain as wrinkled, scar-like patches. Stretch marks can cause itching, burning, and pain and usually are found on the breasts, tummy, hips, and thighs. The cause of stretch marks is a combination of genetic and hormonal factors as well as physical stretching of the skin associated with weight changes. Stretch marks may be more common in women of color. Increased alcohol intake, decreased water consumption, lower vitamin C levels, and expecting a male baby, are other potential risk factors for developing stretch marks.
So what can be done to prevent them? Almond oil, olive oil, and cocoa butter, despite being the most common things used, don’t have much science backing them. One study showed that when olive oil was massaged into skin daily there was a lower rate of stretch mark development. However, the results probably reflected the benefit of massage alone. There is hope, however! Tretinoin, the activated form of vitamin A , when used on a daily basis for 3 to 6 months improved the appearance of stretch marks by 50% and decreased length and width by 20 and 23%, respectively. Tretinoin increases collagen formation in the skin, which leads to better looking skin.
In conclusion, stretch marks are a common skin change and can be a big source of stress. Despite a better understanding of what causes them, prevention of stretch marks remains a challenge. Talk to a My Skin of Color Provider and get your stretch marks treated today!