Dermatologist-Reviewed Articles

What Really Works for Skin Discoloration and Stretch Marks?

girl touching leg

Both a common skincare complaint and a rite of passage, stretch marks affect the majority of women. Between 50 and 90 percent of women develop these lines on their abdomens, breasts and thighs. Whether stretching skin during puberty, pregnancy, extreme weight fluctuations or bodybuilding, know that stretch marks sometimes fade with time. Other skin discolorations, such as scars and freckles, may also disappear as time passes, but certain strategies can help expedite their exit.

Peel It Off

A chemical peel that uses TCA (trichloroacetic acid) or glycolic acid can help reduce discoloration. Your body perceives it’s been injured when subjected to these treatments and responds with a healing process that lightens the darkened areas. Such an approach is particularly effective on sun spots as well. At-home versions are milder than aesthetician treatments, and may require multiple applications.

Targeted Treatment

Prescription creams with tretinoin (which derives from Vitamin A) can help reduce the length and width of stretch marks and are particularly effective when used early after the discoloration or stretch marks appear. Tretinoin can be the primary ingredient, or used in conjunction with other stretch-mark treatments like onion extract. While retinoid creams pack the most punch, they can also be used in tandem with gentle exfoliation. Using body scrubs and body brushes help to stimulate the fibroblasts that aid in the production of collagen and elastin—which are responsible for supple and smooth skin.

Vitamin All-Stars

Many anti-aging ingredients work equally as well for reducing stretch-mark appearance, but there can also be side effects. For those who experience redness and peeling from tretinoin, there’s another alternative in the patented form of vitamin B3 or niacin, called NIA-114. Routinely prescribed by dermatologists to keep aging skin looking younger, this star ingredient has been shown to thicken the top layer of the skin and improve its ability to retain moisture, which can help with stretch marks.

This article has been reviewed by board-certified dermatologist Dr. Emmy Graber.

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