We’re not opposed to the stripes. If anything, we say wear them proudly! We’ve all got them. Stretch marks can occur during pregnancy of course, but also as early as puberty from growth spurts. They can show up later in life during periods of weight gain, and even crop up when you’re doing the most, aka working out and getting those squats in.
Stretch marks are completely natural. They are not a negative side effect, just a totally normal part of the growth process in life. There is nothing we can do to rid ourselves of them completely, so we say embrace them! The best way to treat your stretch marks is actually to love on them—exfoliate, stay hydrated, stay active, and get good blood flow. We’ve stretched it all out for you.
The scientific term for stretch marks is “striae.” Striae are technically a type of scar, caused by damage to the elastic tissues and collagen in the skin following rapid growth, according to this study. Since scars are a permanent molecular change, you can only reduce them, not reverse them. And because scars and striae are much more pronounced when skin is dry and unhealthy, it’s smart to keep your skin ultra-moisturized.
While it goes without saying that hydrating from the inside out is crucial, i.e. drinking plenty of H2O, it’s also important to eat moisturizing foods. Moisturizing foods are different than hydrating foods—which are also important—i.e. watermelon, cucumbers, apples, other high-water-content fruits, and veggies. Healthy fats and foods abundant in vitamin A are all moisturizing foods, like fish (take your omega 3s!), avocados, nuts, olive oil, and sweet potatoes. Antioxidant vitamins C and E play a big role in skin health as well, so eat and supplement your C and E to see results.
The best emollients to keep your skin looking healthy contain ingredients like coconut oil or shea and cocoa butters. You may have heard that the myth that cocoa butter “gets rid of” stretch marks has been totally busted, and that’s true. Like we said, nothing can get rid of stretch marks. But these natural emollients work double-time to create a protective barrier over your skin to prevent water evaporation from the dermis, keeping things looking supple and even.
Supple is always a good thing when we’re talking about skin. Soft, deeply hydrated, and moisturized skin has healthier elastic tissues and more resilient collagen to prevent future stretch marks, or prevent existing striae from deepening. That’s why you’ll see so many pregnant women slathering themselves in these butters before even an inkling of a bump becomes apparent.
Topical vitamin A, otherwise known as a prescription retinoid, can also help lessen the appearance of deep striae due to its effect on quick cell turnover. Since pregnant women should steer clear of retinoids, this one is great for them—or for the rest of us, on our thighs, bums, chest, and wherever the stripes may grace us. You can also try a self-tanner to even things out! Sun damage is not typically recommended for the health of any type of scarring, but a healthy glow looks radiant and smooth. Just make sure to exfoliate first to avoid streaks, and prep using one of those rich emollients.
Microneedling has been used to boost the supply of collagen to our faces, resulting in smoother skin and helping to fade the appearance of sun damage and scars, and, you guessed it, does the same thing for striae scars. Since we doubt any of you want to microneedle your entire body (ouch!), we suggest saving this for deep, exposed areas that you may treat a little at a time. This takes several sessions, and works best on the softer and more malleable skin on the abdominal area.
Now that we’re getting into the heavy stuff, let’s talk lasers. Fractional CO2 lasers are not just the hottest fad, they’ve been studied and tested, and the results are significant. The results are most dramatic on fresh, red stretch marks, requiring several sessions over the course of three months or so, but this is the closest technology has come to reversing these fresh stretch marks completely. It’s also shown to reduce the appearance of older stretch marks by 50%, making it the most effective treatment, but at no small cost.