You’ve just had a baby and are overjoyed with the newest addition to your family. However, you are less than thrilled with the stretch marks that appeared on your abdomen just weeks before your baby was due to be born. Although you realize that many women develop stretch marks during pregnancy, you were hoping against hope that you would be one of the lucky ones, sailing through your pregnancy without any. You wonder if you are stuck with the unsightly lines forever, or if there is some treatment that can effectively remove them.
If this sounds like you, you are not alone. Many women (60-90%, according to some studies) develop stretch marks at some point in their pregnancy. If you are Caucasian, you are more likely to develop them, and if your mother and sisters also have them, you are also more likely to get them. Your skin type may also play a role in the development of stretch marks. Other factors, such as weight gain, diet and age, have also been implicated as risk factors for stretch marks, called striae by health professionals.
What causes stretch marks? Stretch marks are caused by a stretching force on the skin (such as that which occurs when the abdomen rapidly expands to accommodate a growing fetus) resulting in damage to the dermis, the middle layer of your skin. This layer provides support and structure to your skin so that damage to this layer results in the characteristic reddish or purplish discoloration of stretch marks. Over time, these marks or lines fade to a whitish or silvery color. Although they will fade naturally, they never totally disappear.
What can be done about stretch marks after you have given birth? Most studies agree that treating stretch marks as early as possible after their development is the key to their successful removal. Most stretch marks will not go away completely (think of them as badges of honor for surviving pregnancy and childbirth), but treatment may improve their appearance greatly. The following are some treatments that are anecdotally successful in reducing stretch marks; a few have some scientific basis to back them:
• Oils- some oils, such as wheat germ oil, are a popular remedy for stretch marks. One study found that, when used in the early phase after the development of stretch marks, wheat germ oil was helpful in fading them.
• Glycolic acid- an alpha hydroxyl acid (AHA), glycolic acid has been used as a chemical peel by dermatologists. It is thought to work by stimulating collagen production. It is available in some over-the-counter formulations and is also available in higher strengths from a dermatologist. More than one treatment is required, and treatments may be expensive.
• Vitamin C- vitamin C is also thought to stimulate the formation of collagen. You may choose to take an oral supplement (the suggested amount is 500 mg a day), or you may buy it as a topical formulation. It is sometimes used with glycolic acid to potentiate each of their effects.
• Retinoids- retinoids belong to the vitamin A family. There are several commercial preparations of vitamin A to treat stretch marks, including Retin-A, Retinol and Tretinoin. None of these products can be used if you are pregnant or nursing. How do they work? They are thought to boost elastin and collagen formation and should be used during the early phase of stretch mark development.
• Laser treatments- various types of lasers have been used to attempt to remove stretch marks. Many firmly believe in their power to reduce the appearance of both old and new stretch marks, but be prepared: it may take several sessions to achieve the results you want, and laser therapy can be very expensive. You may be expected to pay up to $1,000.00 per session.
• Surgery- the only surgery that is guaranteed to remove stretch marks actually removes the affected skin. This type of surgery, called abdominoplasty, is often done to remove both excess fat and loose skin, sculpting the abdomen to achieve a more pleasing visual effect. It may be done under a local or general anesthetic and is not without risk. If you are choosing this route to rid yourself of stretch marks, it is important to research your surgeon and to be aware of both the risks and benefits. This surgery will not be covered under any insurance plans as it is considered to be cosmetic surgery, done only for aesthetic reasons.
Although most women will develop stretch marks during pregnancy, there are treatments available that can help fade stretch marks, although they may not get rid of them completely. Treating stretch marks soon after they appear, when they are still new, is recommended. Once they have faded to a white or silvery color they will be much more difficult to treat. If you are concerned about your stretch marks, you may want to ask your physician about any products he or she recommends. If you are nursing, you will want to keep in mind that some products cannot be used while nursing.
Out of all the stretch mark creams tested, the highest rated stretch mark creams is: Revitol.
1. Revitol Discount Revitol at www.revitol.com
2. Trilastin www.Trilastin.com