Fighting Stretch Marks

Looking for ways to minimize stretch marks? Here's what you can do to boost your skin's collagen and reduce the appearance of stretch marks.

Looking for ways to minimize stretch marks? Here’s what you can do to boost your skin’s collagen and reduce the appearance of stretch marks.

Stretch marks are probably one of the most common (and frustrating) problems that patients ask me about. In fact, according to Wear Your Skin Proudly — an online survey conducted by Harris Interactive of more than 1,000 women aged 18 and over — almost half of women believe that stretch marks are the main difference between the body they have now and the body they used to have, and more than 40 percent said that their self-confidence would improve if they could reduce the appearance of their skin imperfections. Fortunately, there are ways to minimize the appearance of stretch marks.

  • Make sure you get plenty of protein in your diet. Stretch marks are produced when your skin’s collagen and elastic fibers snap, like a rubber band. Because collagen and elastic tissue are made of protein, you need to supply your skin with the building blocks to repair itself.
  • Newer, reddish, raised stretch marks respond the best to creams. One product that I’ve recommended to my patients is Mederma Stretch Marks Therapy, which contains onion extract as well as an extract from Centella asiatica, an Asian herb that’s thought to stimulate the skin cells that produce collagen and elastin. Studies conducted by the manufacturer showed that 80 percent of women who used it twice a day had improvement of their stretch marks after 12 weeks. For those with more stubborn or extensive stretch marks, I also prescribe tretinoin (Retin-A), which has been shown to stimulate the growth of new collagen and to repair new stretch marks (although it’s not recommended for those who are pregnant or breastfeeding). In addition, laser treatments can help fade the red discoloration.
  • Older, pale stretch marks are harder to treat because the skin gets wrinkly, like an old scar. However, recent research has shown that microdermabrasion and noninvasive fractionated lasers (Fraxel, Affirm) can help regenerate collagen and make skin smoother in about 20 percent of those with older stretch marks, although these treatments typically require multiple sessions.