$13 chemist buy that may help stretch marks, according to a dermatologist

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Dr. Shreya Andric is a dermatologist based in Sydney. She is passionate about skin health and her mission is to educate the public on how to care for their skin, and also clear up the vast amount of misinformation out there on this topic.

While Dr. Andric has independently chosen the products that appear in this article, she does not receive revenue from the links. Some of the links may return revenue to Yahoo Lifestyle Australia.

Dr Shreya Andric is a Sydney-based dermatologist on a mission to educate people on how to look after their skin. Photo: supplied.
Dr Shreya Andric is a Sydney-based dermatologist on a mission to educate people on how to look after their skin. Photo: supplied.

Stretch marks, also known as striae, are fine lines on the body that occur when tissue under the skin tears from rapid growth or over-stretching.

It is very common and does not cause any significant medical problems, but can be a cosmetic concern for some.

Who gets stretch marks?

Stretch marks are very common and they occur in most adult women, as they readily develop at puberty or during pregnancy. They affect 70% of adolescent girls and 40% of boys and occur in areas of the body where the skin is subject to constant and progressive stretching.

They are often associated with growth spurts in adolescent males. Some examples include:

  • The abdomen and breasts in pregnant women

  • Adolescents who are undergoing growth spurts – thighs, buttocks, breasts

  • The shoulders in body-builders

They can also occur from prolonged use of oral or topical corticosteroids and from anabolic steroids. They are usually seen in otherwise healthy individuals but can also be seen in certain medical conditions, such as Cushing syndrome and Marfan syndrome.

Side view of crop ethnic female in bikini panties standing on wet seashore in summer during vacation. Photo: Getty Images.
Stretch marks are very common and are a cosmetic concern for many - but they don’t necessarily need any treatment. Photo: Getty Images.

What do stretch marks look like?

Stretch marks often start off as an area of flattened thin skin with a pink colour. They can sometimes be itchy. Soon, reddish or purplish slightly swollen develop perpendicular to the direction of skin tension. Their surface may be finely wrinkled.

Over time, these lighten to become whitish or flesh-coloured and much less obvious. They are generally paler than the surrounding skin. They are usually several centimetres long and 1-10mm wide. If caused by corticosteroid use or Cushing syndrome, they are usually larger and wider and may involve other areas of the body, including the face.

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Treatment for stretch marks

Stretch marks are usually a cosmetic concern only and don’t necessarily need any treatment, but very rarely, and if they are extensive, they can ulcerate or tear easily in an accident.

Stretch marks occurring during adolescence and those that develop during pregnancy do become less visible over time and usually require no treatment. Like scars, stretch marks are permanent, but treatment may make them less noticeable.

SkinCeuticals Retinol 1.0, $127 from Adore Beauty
SkinCeuticals Retinol 1.0, $127 from Adore Beauty
La Roche-Posay Redermic R Retinol Anti-Ageing Moisturiser 30ml, $50.99 from Chemist Warehouse
La Roche-Posay Redermic R Retinol Anti-Ageing Moisturiser 30ml, $50.99 from Chemist Warehouse

Treatment can also help to relieve any itch. It is important to keep in mind that no single treatment works for everyone – and many don’t seem to work at all.

Some options include:

Stretch mark creams, lotions, and gels

These have been extensively studied. Whilst no one product seems to help all the time (and some don’t work at all), researchers have found some tips that may help:

  • Use the product on early stretch marks – using treatment on mature stretch marks often makes no difference.

  • Taking the time to massage the product gently into your skin may make it more effective.

  • Be consistent – use the product every day for weeks. If you do see results, they take weeks to appear.

Home remedies

These include almond oil, cocoa butter, olive oil, and vitamin E. Researchers have found that no stretch marks faded with use of these.

Self-tanners

A fake tan can camouflage stretch marks – both early and mature – but will not get rid of them altogether.

Prescription topical medications

Hyaluronic acid and tretinoin have both been found to make stretch marks less noticeable. In one study, people who applied tretinoin every night for 24 weeks had less noticeable stretch marks. Those who didn’t apply the cream saw their early stretch marks grow.

A prescription retinoid is always going to be more effective and that is what the evidence is based on but an over the counter retinol may help; examples include SkinCeuticals Retinol 1.0 and La Roche-Posay Redermic R Retinol Anti-Ageing Moisturiser.

CeraVe Hydrating Hyaluronic Acid Serum 30ml, $29.99 from Chemist Warehouse
CeraVe Hydrating Hyaluronic Acid Serum 30ml, $29.99 from Chemist Warehouse
The Ordinary Hyaluronic Acid 2% + B5 30ml, $12.90 from Adore Beauty
The Ordinary Hyaluronic Acid 2% + B5 30ml, $12.90 from Adore Beauty

Procedures that dermatologists perform

Dermatologists use the following modalities to make stretch marks less obvious. Again, they won’t get rid of them completely.

  • Chemical peels

  • Laser treatments

  • Microdermabrasion

  • Radiofrequency

  • Ultrasound

  • A combination of any of the above

With all procedures, side effects are possible. If you see an experienced physician, these tend to be minor and temporary – most often there will be some redness and swelling which will disappear within a few hours or days.

Can anything prevent stretch marks?

Researchers have found that products containing hyaluronic acid — such as The Ordinary Hyaluronic Acid 2% + B5 and CeraVe Hydrating Hyaluronic Acid Serum — as well as a herb called centella may help to prevent stretch marks.

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