The facts about getting, fading, and treating stretch marks
Leslie George -
February 16, 2005
If you're like most women you're probably used to seeing air-brushed bodies in ads, fashion spreads and magazine covers. And you may not know that the large majority of the women, girls and even men have stretch marks.
How do stretch marks form?
Growing causes them. If growth spurts during adolescence don't create these tiny skin tears, they will form at any time in your life when you suddenly get bigger, whether your stretched skin comes from bulging muscle, fat or pregnancy. (Ninety percent of women get stretch marks while they are pregnant.)
Do stretch marks go away or fade?
Be patient. Your reddish-purplish marks will eventually fade in color. Whether or not the marks disappear has to do with your skin type; the depth of the stretch marks and your determination to treat them. If you want a barometer of how your body will handle stretch marks, think of how your scars fade. Stretch marks are, in fact, tiny scars, formed when the lower layers of skin tear because they don't stretch as fast as upper layers of skin.
In some people it can take months and years for stretch marks to fade into barely-seen thin lines. In others, stretch marks may be thick and sit like scars on top of the skin, or as grooves in the skin. Doctors say it's possible topical creams can speed the fading process but there is no guarantee the treatments will make stretch marks invisible. If you go that route, you'll get the best results if you start early, as soon as stretch marks form. Prepare to be vigilant. Most products need to be applied two or three times a day.
How can you get rid of stretch marks?
"It's high-maintenance treatment but I've seen some results," says dermatologist Dr. Vivian Bucay, assistant clinical professor at the University of Texas Health Science Center. "I recommend a combination of treatments," she says, "beginning with an over-the-counter product like StriVectin-SD, which contains peptides," She says these non-irritating ingredients have been shown to stimulate the production of collagen in the skin, and can be found in a number of products, including Kinerase C6 Peptide Intensive Treatment and Olay's Regenerist. "If patients can tolerate it, I also give them a prescription for Retin-A, which helps rejuvenate skin, although Retin-A is too drying and irritating for some patients." In both cases products have to be applied at least twice a day, she says. The manufacturer of StriVectin-SD, which contains a patented oligo-peptide, claims the product can make a difference on older stretch marks. The company says in clinical studies their peptide performed better than retinol, vitamin C and a placebo.
If you have new stretch marks you may also want to try Mederma, a cream formulated to minimize scars. It contains a botanical mix of ingredients the company calls Cepalin which softens and smooth scars. It needs to be applied two to four times a day for at least eight weeks.
Or, you can grow to accept your stretch marks, comforted by the fact that nearly everyone has them. If you're OK with them but don't want to flaunt them, you can always diminish the appearance of stretch marks by using self-tanning products. There are dozens of sunless tanning products to choose from. St. Tropez Tinted Self Tanning Lotion claims to go on skin streak-free and hide stretch marks, varicose veins, and vitiligo.
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