Stretch marks can make even the most confident women self-conscious, but with more and more ladies loving their lines—supermodel Chrissy Teigen has no qualms uploading a photo of her "stretchies" on her Instagram account—it's only a matter of time before the stigma disappears completely. But why do we get stretch marks in the first place? Kaycee Reyes, M.D., skin and laser specialist, and the dermatologist behind Luminisce Holistic Skin Innovations in Bonifacio Global City, schools us on what they are, how we get them, and what we can do to lighten them (if we want to).
What are stretch marks?
Stretch marks are caused by the quick and excessive stretching of the skin. The dermis is made of strong flexible fibers and a protein called collagen that is responsible for the skin's elasticity as it contracts or expands over time.
However, once it expands or widens at a faster rate than normal, the dermis breaks and when the fibers split in between, the blood vessels begin to show. This is why stretch marks begin as red or purple. When the dermis heals, the stretch marks' color changes to white, silver, or near the natural skin color of the individual.
How do you get stretch marks?
• Pregnancy, either by rapid weight gain or during the last trimester when the baby's growth inside the womb accelerates
• Puberty, when the body develops and grows fast
• Rapid weight gain, including weightlifting that builds muscle
• Hormonal changes, especially when there is presence of cortisol that decreases the collagen that maintains the skin's elasticity
• Rare health problems such as Cushing's syndrome (overproduction of cortisol) or Marfan syndrome (impairs the body's tissues, affecting the skin's elasticity)
How do you get rid of stretch marks?
While stretch marks are permanent, they do fade over time. Some creams and over-the-counter medications may lighten or erase those marks, but there is still no scientific evidence that topical treatments are effective. At most, the effect may only be minimal. Retinoic acid cream is the most effective topical cream available for stretch marks.
Procedures like laser treatments can also be done–laser light passes through the skin and effectively targets areas by repairing damaged skin. Another option is Carboxytherapy or the administration of carbon dioxide into deeper layers of the skin for faster cell regeneration. According to Dr. Reyes, it may be more effective in reducing the appearance of stretch marks because it penetrates into the deeper layers of the skin.
Doctor’s note: There are still no proven effects of DIY products for stretch marks. It might help with prevention, but not with the removal of stretch marks.