Disclaimer :: Dr. Emily Kirby relied upon her expertise as a medical professional to craft and sponsor the blog post.
As a plastic surgeon who works with a lot of post-pregnancy moms, I field a lot of questions about stretch marks: Can anything get rid of them? Do stretch mark creams work? Why do I have stretch marks when my friend who just gave birth to twins does not?
Stretch marks are completely normal — an estimated 90 percent of women have them, so, it is in fact more extraordinary not to have them. However, it is perfectly reasonable to want to do something about them! Unfortunately, stretch marks are surrounded by myths and misconceptions about why they form, why they are so hard to treat, and what will truly work to get rid of them. The first step to solving a problem is understanding it, so here are the facts about stretch marks.
Stretch marks happen (and it is not your fault). Skin is a dynamic organ that grows and contracts as our body contours change — up to a certain point. Episodes of rapid growth (i.e., adolescent growth spurts, pregnancy, or weight gain) can outpace the skin’s ability to generate collagen and elastin (the substances that make skin smooth, firm, and elastic). This causes tiny tears in the skin’s deeper layers that result in those depressed, linear marks you see on the surface.
Most of us experience a period of rapid physical change at some point in our lives, so most of us will get stretch marks. They are not a reflection of poor self-care. They are physically harmless and stretch marks do not require treatment unless how they look bothers you.
Stretch marks are not just a pregnancy or obesity issue. Significantly overweight individuals are more likely to have stretch marks, and men are less likely to get them (mainly because they do not get pregnant). However, anyone can get them if an area of the body grows at a faster rate than the skin can handle. This can include; teenagers going through a growth spurt, adult men or women who gain significant weight, bodybuilders (it’s true!), and, of course, pregnant women.
That said, certain individuals are genetically prone to developing stretch marks — if you have naturally thinner or less elastic skin, or your mom has stretch marks, chances are you will get them too at some point. Also, those with darker skin tend to get stretch marks more easily.
Stretch marks can fade, but not go away, on their own. Many patients I see are dismayed to find that stretch marks remain after they return to their pre-baby weight, despite a healthy diet and exercise. Again, this is due to the fact that stretch marks are result of deep, structural changes in the skin — so even people with generally good skin elasticity will have them, and you cannot “lose” stretch marks on your own, no matter what you try.
Over time, the natural skin regeneration process will help stretch marks fade somewhat in appearance. However, this typically takes years, and stretch marks will almost never completely disappear. If you are bothered by stretch marks, you will need to actively treat them.
Creams, oils, and magic potions do not get rid of stretch marks. Over-the-counter oils, creams, and other topical treatments cannot change skin structure and are generally not an effective option to reduce stretch marks, no matter how pricey the product or convincing the advertisement. Vitamin supplements and massage are also totally ineffective methods for losing stretch marks.
Stretch marks can be treated with professional medical help. The good news is that there are effective stretch mark treatments — but you will find them from a board certified plastic surgeon or dermatologist, not an infomercial or cosmetics counter.
Prescription-strength tretinoin (i.e. RetinA) can be effective in reducing fresh stretch marks in certain individuals by accelerating skin healing and renewal. Lasers and other skin resurfacing treatments, particularly those that trigger collagen and elastin production, are another effective option. In my experience, microneedling, which induces cell regeneration and collagen and elastin production by creating microscopic holes in the skin, can yield excellent results with minimal risk and no downtime.
Finally, some stretch marks can be removed surgically during a tummy tuck, breast lift, or other skin removal procedure (i.e., body lift). While the main purpose of such procedures is to firm and reshape the breasts or body, the skin removed is often the same skin where stretch marks are a problem, making stretch mark removal a potential “fringe benefit” of these surgeries.
If you would like to find a safe, effective stretch mark treatment in Fort Worth, I encourage you to contact us at Kirby Plastic Surgery. We offer a variety of minimally invasive options, as well as surgical body contouring, that can reduce stretch marks. I would be glad to discuss your options during a personal consultation.
Dr. Emily J. Kirby is a plastic surgeon board certified by the American Board of Plastic Surgery and member of the American Society of Plastic Surgeons and the American Society for Aesthetic Plastic Surgery who sees patients at Kirby Plastic Surgery in Fort Worth. A graduate of Vanderbilt University in Nashville, Tennessee and Texas A&M University College of Medicine, Dr. Kirby performs cosmetic and reconstructive plastic surgery.