If you’ve got tiger stripes, you’re in extraordinarily good company. An estimated 80 percent of women in the USA have stretch marks, per CBS News—and hey, even RiRi says she’s got ‘em. Strength in numbers, y’all.
when u can’t wait for summer.
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Still, you’re human, so you may have been tempted once or twice by all the stretch mark creams you see on store shelves. Easier and less painful than whatever the hell Kim K does, right? But…here’s why you should save your $.
Can anything prevent stretch marks?
Stretch marks, simply put, happen when skin is rapidly stretched, like with pregnancy, weight gain, a growth spurt, or while body building, says New York dermatologist Tara Rao, M.D., of Schweiger Dermatology Group.
The mark develops when skin is stretching faster than the body can lay down all the nutrients needed to build normal, smooth skin. They can also crop up if your skin is too thin after using topical steroid creams (like to treat a rash) over a long period of time, she says.
Moisturizing abdominal skin while pregnant, or when skin is otherwise rapidly expanding, can help support fragile skin, but there are no studies to show that any particular creams can really help prevent stretch marks.
“The tendency to develop a stretch mark is largely genetic,” says Rao. So basically, some people are more likely to get them than others. Sh*t happens.
So do stretch mark creams actually do anything?
Again, there’s really nothing you can do to prevent stretch marks. But as far as treatment goes, some stretch mark creams are better than others.
Most OTC options provide a lot of moisture (and not much else). That’s fine but again, it’s not necessarily going to anything except hydrate your skin.
Some people think stretch mark creams work simply because the marks often get better and fade with time, says cosmetic physician Stanley Kovak, M.D., of the Kovak Cosmetic Center.
“The only type of cream that does anything is Retin-A, which has been shown in studies to decrease redness and even stop or reverse some of the scarring by causing collagen to rebuild,” says Kovak.
Products that contain retinol, a lower over the counter version of retinoid, can also potentially help—though not as much as Retin A, adds Kovak. (But FYI: If you’re pregnant, you def shouldn’t use anything with retinol, since it’s not safe for the fetus.)
What else can you do to treat stretch marks?
Okay, so stretch mark creams are out. But Kovac and Rao agree that there are other, better options if you visit a dermatologist, like microneedling or laser treatments.
In general, fresh, red stretch marks or relatively new marks that have turned white are easier to fade than ones that are years old (which can be extremely stubborn).
Keep in mind that it takes several treatments to see improvement on any type of stretch marks. And keep your expectations in check, as improvement isn’t usually very dramatic—it’s minimal to moderate for most people.
The bottom line: If your stretch marks truly bother you, head straight for the dermatologist—because the OTC creams really aren’t up to snuff.
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