From the international pop-icon Rihanna to Bollywood’s very own Malaika Arora, everyone has stretch marks and they flaunt them with grace. They’re incredibly common and there’s nothing wrong with your body or skin if you have them, too. But if you want to minimise their appearance, it’s possible to do so with ease.

TC46 connected with Dermatologist Dr Smriti Naswa Singh, a Consultant at Fortis Hospital In Mumbai. She shares what causes stretch marks, some preventive measures that help and a few treatment options you can try.

1. What are stretch marks? How to identify them?

Stretch marks or ‘Striae’ are long, thin, rippled strips or marks on the skin which happen because of excessive stretching of the skin. Skin is like an elastic band, which if stretched beyond its strength, will tear from the centre. The tear is the Stria. One can identify them as reddish-pink (new Striae) or white (old Striae) stripes along with the areas of excessive weight gain or stretched skin at the waist, hips, calves, thighs, arms and shoulders.

2. What are the causes of stretch marks?

Excessive stretch can happen due to:

  • An excessive gain of weight (commonly around waist, hips, arms, thighs & calves)
  • As a normal part of the growth in teenagers when they gain their height (Striae along the spine)
  • Pregnancy (lower abdomen)
  • Among bodybuilders (along shoulders)
  • As a side effect of oral steroids or strong steroid creams
  • Certain diseases like Cushing’s Syndrome, Marfan’s Syndrome, Ehlers Danlos Syndrome and more

3. Are stretch marks permanent? Can you get rid of them?

Yes, stretch marks are like scars on the skin developed by breaking of skin tissue, so they are permanent. They fade as years pass by; the fading can be made faster by applying moisturizer frequently and liberally when they are developing; doctors prescribe certain Retinoid creams for red stretch marks (they don’t work on white ones), lasers (resurfacing lasers) help in decreasing the stretch marks over 6-8 sessions done at monthly intervals. With all of the above methods, they can be reduced but they don’t go completely.

4. What are some preventive measures one can take for stretch marks?

  • Following a good lifestyle with a balanced diet
  • Eating zero junk or processed foods
  • Exercising to maintain good weight control
  • Avoid excessive weight gain or sudden weight loss
  • Steady weight gain in pregnancy and avoiding excessive weight gain
  • Doing prenatal yoga and other prenatal exercises under guidance is a good idea
  • Applying moisturizer to the skin and tummy area during pregnancy prevents excessive stretch mark development

5. What are some cosmetic treatments to get rid of stretch marks?

  • Microneedling or Dermaroller
  • Resurfacing Ablative Lasers (fractional CO2 laser)
  • Non-invasive Radiofrequency
  • High Intensity Focused Ultrasound (HIFU)
  • Chemical peels (only certain, very strong, medium depth peeling agents work)
  • Dermabrasion

6. What are some home remedies to reduce the appearance of stretch marks?

The best and statistically proven method to reduce stretch marks is moisturizing. This helps to moisten the various layers of skin and helps skin to rejuvenate. Many vegetable oils like Coconut oil, Aloe Vera gel, Shea Butter, Calendula oil and vitamin-E oil work as good moisturizers and can be used.

7. When should you seek a dermatologist’s expertise for stretch marks?

The best time to consult a skin specialist is when the stretch marks are still red and fresh because creams help reduce them. Patients with old white stretch marks can also come for various procedures which help to decrease/ fade the stretch marks faster.

8. How long does the cosmetic procedure to reduce the appearance of stretch marks take?

Usually, 6-8 monthly sessions are required to reduce the stretch marks up to 50-75% but the result depends and varies on the person. And if the person gains weight, then the stretch marks may appear again. In some cases, the results can be lesser as well. The results are seen after every session and more noticeably after the second session, but it takes months for very good rejuvenation because collagen re-modelling takes time.