Our skin is an impressive organ, protecting us from harmful bacteria, repelling and holding water, and keeping all insides safe from the elements. While durable in many ways, skin is more fragile than you may realize; stretch marks are a good example of this. Stretch marks develop when the skin undergoes quick changes—such as rapid weight gain or loss—causing it to become thinner and less elastic. Is there any way to avoid these dreaded after-effects even while meeting your weight goals?
It’s important to note that without procedures administered by a cosmetic surgeon or dermatologist—such as laser resurfacing or abdominoplasty—you cannot fully get rid of stretch marks. With that said, you can take measures to lessen their color and deepness. Like the pink elephant in the room, the sooner you address your stretch marks, the more effectively you’ll be able to reduce their appearance.
At the first sign of stretch marks, you should begin treatment. Dermatologists often recommend prescription retinol creams, which refine the skin’s texture and lessen the appearance and deepness of stretch marks. It’s advised to continue this regimen for at least two months and only after giving birth, since they aren’t safe for pregnant women. Again, remember that your stretch marks won’t fully disappear and that everyone’s skin reacts differently to topical treatments.
Fading Over Time
The more time that passes, the less severe your stretch marks will be in appearance. Permitting that rapid weight gain stops and prevents your skin from stretching more, you’ll notice your marks will fade from deep red or purple to a silvery or white color. With time, they may also become smoother and less deep in appearance. This fading process can take as little as several months to several years.
As time goes by, you can continue using ointments and creams containing retinol to reduce the appearance of your stretch marks. These topical treatments are most effective at the onset of stretch marks, but continued use may also help. If medical procedures seem too extreme, you can always opt for a self-tanning solution that’s both budget-friendly and helps to mask their appearance.
This article has been reviewed by board-certified dermatologist Dr. Emmy Graber.