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What are stretch marks?


Stretch marks, or striae, form when your skin is continuously stretched, as it is during pregnancy, with weight changes, growth spurts, or while weight lifting, leaving permanent scars. In some cases, stretch marks may be caused by a medical condition or by certain medicines such as steroid creams like triamcinolone (Kenalog®) and clobetasol (Temovate®). Initially, stretch marks can appear pink or purple in color, but often fade with time and become less noticeable. While stretch marks are not considered dangerous, many people find them unsightly.

Stretch mark prevention

Unfortunately, there are no products that are proven to prevent stretch marks. They can also be difficult to treat. People have tried several different over-the-counter and prescription products for stretch marks.

Over-the-counter treatments

One popular over-the-counter product called Mederma® may help improve the appearance of stretch marks, as well as other scars and burns. It's a combination of onion extract and allantoin in a gel base. Apply Mederma® directly to stretch marks daily for three to six months. Sunless tanning products may also help soften or hide the appearance of stretch marks. But again, these products won't make the marks disappear. Commonly used sunless tanning products include Neutrogena Sunless Tanning Spray.

Prescription treatments for stretch marks

Prescriptions include tretinoin (Renova® and Retin-A®). Some studies suggest that tretinoin may be effective in improving the appearance of stretch marks. In one study of 22 people, 40 to 80% reported an improvement in the appearance of stretch marks after using tretinoin for six months. In another study, 15 out of the 16 people who used it saw improvement in the appearance of their stretch marks. Side effects of tretinoin include skin irritation, dry skin, stinging, sun sensitivity, and peeling.

There are also some cosmetic surgery options for treating stretch marks. In some situations, your doctor or dermatologist may recommend laser surgery to improve the appearance of stretch marks.

Alternative therapies

There are some alternative therapies people use to treat stretch marks, but their effectiveness has not been studied. Some people use vitamin E and cocoa butter cream or oil to keep the skin moist and pliable. But, there is no proof that these products can improve the appearance or prevent the formation of stretch marks. Although there is no medical proof that they work, aloe vera, methylsulfonylmethane (MSM), and vitamin K creams have also been touted to improve the appearance of stretch marks.

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