5 ways to avoid and lessen the appearance of stretch marks.
They're the bane of some women's existence, and a nuisance to countless others. They're stretch marks, and while most adult women have them (it's estimated that 90 percent of women acquire them when pregnant), they're hard to live with. While there's no potion or treatment that can completely remove stretch marks, there are some steps you can take to avoid getting new ones and to make the old ones look better.
- Exercise. Stretch marks form when the skin stretches quickly, such as when a teenager hits a growth spurt, or when a woman's belly bulges from pregnancy. This rapid growth causes the collagen and elastin fibers deep in the skin to break, creating purple or red lines on the surface (these lines turn silvery with age). Because stretch marks can also form from gaining weight, exercising regularly is key. It staves off weight gain, thereby keeping skin taut and preventing stretch marks.
- Use AHAs or retinoids. The redness of new stretch marks is what makes them most obvious. But AHAs and the retinoid Retin-A have been proven to help fade this redness. That's because both products stimulate collagen renewal underneath the skin, "repairing" the tears gradually. They also slough off dead skin cells on the surface, making the marks smoother and less dimpled. Because Retin-A is prescription strength, its effects are more noticeable.
- Be wary of magic lotions. Cocoa butter and other topical moisturizers make stretch-marked skin feel smoother and softer, but they do little to actually fade the marks.
- Try lasers for more dramatic results. Using lasers to lighten and repigment stretch marks is a relatively new concept. Forward-thinking dermatologists use a pulsed dye laser to fade red marks, and can now add pigment back to silvery, older marks with lasers like the ReLume laser. Both types of therapy require multiple treatments; some burning or pain may be involved, although it's generally minimal.
- Be cautious with prescription skin creams. Some creams that are used to treat rashes or other conditions are steroid-based; steroids actually thin the skin, making it very easy for stretch marks to form.
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