Stretch mark removal options

How to get rid of stretch marks: Do creams work?

Is an expensive stretch mark cream the key to how to get rid of stretch marks? Read on before you make any hasty purchases.

Stretch marks are common and few people escape these lines completely. They are a normal part of puberty and pregnancy and also appear during many other times in your life. However, whilst some people can wear their stripes with pride, you might feel more self-conscious.

When it comes to how to get rid of stretch marks, there are a whole range of treatments (both surgical and non-invasive) and creams that promise to make your marks disappear. However, the research to support their claims is far from conclusive.

So, before you invest in a stretch mark treatment or another cream, we want you to understand what’s causing these marks so that you can make educated decisions about if and how you tackle them.

What are stretch marks?

Stretch marks are lines or marks on the skin that develop when your skin is stretched too far over a short period of time. They vary in colour. Often, they will start out pink, red, brown or purple, and fade to silver over time. The most popular locations for stretch marks are on the tummy, chest, upper arms, legs, bottom, hips or back.

What causes stretch marks to form?

It’s important to understand what causes stretch marks to fully appreciate why it’s so difficult to do anything about them. When skin stretches too much, too rapidly, the elastic fibres and collagen beneath the surface over-extend and can even break. Once these tissues are over-stretched or damaged, they lose their elasticity. This means they don't bounce back. On the surface, this shows as stretch marks.

They can appear at various stages in your life. Whether due to adolescent growth spurts, pregnancy, bulking up through bodybuilding or weight gain, they are an outward sign of damage and disruption to the collagen and fibres supporting your skin.

When am I most likely to get stretch marks?

Stretch marks are so hard to avoid because they can happen for so many reasons at various times in your life. A few things that can make you more likely to develop stretch marks are:

  • Puberty growth spurts
  • Pregnancy
  • Gaining (or losing) weight quickly
  • Being overweight
  • Some kinds of medications (e.g. steroid creams and tablets)

So, is it only a matter of time before stretch marks appear?

It's impossible to say. Whether you get stretch marks or not, is largely influenced by your genes. As a general rule, if your parents have them, you’re more likely to get them too. As a result, preventing stretch marks is not always possible but maintaining a healthy, consistent weight can help.

Do stretch marks fade if you use the right cream?

First of all, you can expect stretch marks to change and fade over time. Without treatment. These lines typically start off darker and get lighter and less noticeable over time. So, once the reasons for ‘stretching’ settle, you may start to see a reduction in the appearance of any marks naturally.

However, many skincare products and treatments claim to reduce the appearance of stretch marks dramatically and more rapidly. But there's very little evidence to suggest any form of stretch mark removal will actually work. There are some treatments that may help make stretch marks look better, but they will not get rid of them.

When you consider stretch marks are the result of damage to collagen and fibre supporting your skin, you can see how difficult it would be for a topical cream to repair this damage. Realistically, a cream is unlikely to repair this fibrous support structure.

So, should I hold off on buying stretch mark cream?

Consistent use of super moisturising formulations may enhance the appearance of your skin. Although this won’t prevent or remove stretch marks, it may help improve your skin tone and general appearance of your complexion.  However, a specific stretch mark cream may not be necessary. Some research suggests using a standard moisturiser could be just as effective.

And finally…

Whether you gain stretch marks during your teenage years or through pregnancy, it’s important to remember one thing - stretch marks are completely normal. Most of us have them and many of us choose to wear them with pride.

Last updated: 2 April 2020