Stretch marks occur when your body quickly changes shape, usually as a result of rapid weight gain. The additional weight forces the afflicted parts of the body to literally stretch, causing the red or purple indentations in the skin known as stretch marks. Many people experience this as a result of poor diet and/or little exercise, causing them to gain weight at a faster rate than the body is accustomed to. Less commonly, stretch marks may be the result of adrenal gland disorders or the use of products containing a corticosteroid, both of which lower the skin’s natural ability to stretch without harm. Women often develop stretch marks during pregnancy. They are commonly visible on the areas where fat most easily builds: the thighs, butt, abdomen, breasts, and hips.
When someone discovers they’ve developed stretch marks, they find themselves asking this question: Is it bad to have stretch marks? From a personal health perspective, no. Though the presence of stretch marks may indicate an underlying problem (such as poor diet), the marks themselves are not harmful, though they may cause itching from time to time. Still, many find the appearance of stretch marks distressing and seek ways to treat or otherwise remove them.
The streaks themselves naturally fade over time and their color will more closely resemble your skin tone. But do stretch marks go away? Unfortunately, when left alone, your body will never truly repair stretch marks. If, for example, you developed stretch marks during pregnancy, they would remain even after dropping the pregnancy weight; you could still feel the indentations with your fingers and they would still be visible to the naked eye, even if they fade somewhat over time. However, there are a few methods for treating stretch marks that have demonstrable results:
- Restoring the collagen in your skin helps to recover its natural elasticity. Creams and lotions that contain tretinoin can be applied to stretch marks that still have color. Collagen restoration will help minimize their appearance.
- Laser therapy. There are several different laser treatments for stretch marks. For the most part, they are only effective against newer stretch marks. Excimer laser therapy boosts melanin production in the affected areas so that they more closely resemble your natural skin color. Pulsed dye laser therapy, meanwhile, promotes restoration of elastin and collagen, both of which help to maintain elasticity.
- Microdermabrasion is one of the most powerful approaches to treating old, faded stretch marks. It is the process of using incredibly small crystals to buff away the uppermost layers of skin to reveal fresh skin beneath, which is less impacted by stretch marks.
As with any medical treatment, there is no “one size fits all solution” when it comes to the treatment of stretch marks. Always discuss options with your doctor to get an accurate assessment of any risks of side effects involved, and to get a professional opinion of what your unique situation calls for.