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Stretch Marks 101

Dr. Hilary Baldwin

Stretch marks, a skin condition commonly associated with pregnancy and weight gain, are far more common than you may think, and can affect men and women alike. In this piece, I’ll explain how, why and where stretch marks form, and provide you with tips to reduce the chance you’ll develop them. I’ll also review a few “Old Wives Tales” for reducing the appearance of stretch marks to address which products work, and which don’t.

The clinical term for stretch marks is “striae distensae,” or “striae gravidarum” when they occur during pregnancy. They generally appear during pregnancy and adolescence, though they can also be the result of obesity and weight lifting. Stretch marks are tears in the middle layer of the skin (the dermis), which occur after the skin has been stretched too far too quickly, and have the appearance of red or purple indented lines. After a while, the redness disappears, and white, depressed lines are left. Stretch marks can appear anywhere on the body that has been stretched, but they commonly form on the stomach, buttocks, breasts, upper arms and upper thighs.

Massaging the cream into stretch marks also has benefits, as the massage promotes tissue regeneration, which can also help to reduce the appearance of stretch marks.

The tendency to develop stretch marks is genetic, so if your family members have stretch marks it is very likely you will as well. However, certain lifestyle factors can reduce the severity of the stretch marks. You should take care of your skin by eating a healthy diet, drinking plenty of water, taking vitamins and ensuring skin is well-moisturized. These steps promote overall skin health and elasticity, which could potentially help reduce the appearance of stretch marks.

There are a number of “Old Wives Tales” that provide advice for reducing the appearance of stretch marks, and some hold more weight than others. For example, some women believe that scratching their expanding stomach while pregnant will aggravate the development of stretch marks. In reality, stretch marks are unaffected by scratching, but a good moisturizer can relieve itchy skin while supporting skin health. One of the best-known “Old Wives Tales” is that cocoa butter can help prevent stretch marks from forming and that it can help reduce their appearance. Although cocoa butter is a very effective moisturizer, and it is good for overall skin health and elasticity, there is little data supporting its effectiveness in reducing the appearance of stretch marks in women or in men. Cocoa butter can also cause or aggravate acne.

It is important to remember that nothing, aside from surgery to remove the affected skin, can completely eliminate stretch marks. Mederma® Stretch Marks Therapy, however, has been clinically shown to reduce the overall appearance of stretch marks. If you use the cream twice daily for twelve weeks, you should see reduced discoloration, improved texture, enhanced softness and an overall improvement in the appearance of your stretch marks. Massaging the cream into stretch marks also has benefits, as the massage promotes tissue regeneration, which can also help to reduce the appearance of stretch marks. However, similar to scar therapy, this product must be used diligently to see the best results, and may take longer to work, or may not work as well on older stretch marks.

Remember, even though there is no foolproof way to eliminate stretch marks, there are steps you can take to reduce their appearance. If you are interested in learning more about Mederma® Stretch Marks Therapy, I encourage you to visit the Success Stories page on this site to hear about some real-life results.

All information in the Mederma® Learning Center is intended for informational and educational purposes only. It is not intended to be a replacement for professional medical advice. You should seek professional medical care if you have any concerns about your skin.