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The Cold Hard Truth About Stretch Marks

Oct 9, 2007
Some people think there's nothing that can be done about stretch marks. Once you've got 'em there here to stay. That turns out not to be true.

First off, many stretch marks just fade over time, making them much less noticeable, and some people can live with them this way. You can also cover them up with makeup made especially for that purpose. For those who want to do better than just covering them up, laser therapy is a promising option. The color of the stretch marks that need treatment will determine the type of laser a surgeon uses. One type stimulates production of cells that make pigment, another reduces the color of stretch marks.

Another type of laser treatment actually stimulates collagen production to restore elasticity in the stretch marks themselves. It is the skin's being stretched past its limit that causes stretch marks in the first place. This can happen when a person grows rapidly such as during puberty. It can also happen when a person gains weight rapidly such as during a pregnancy. The damage is actually done in the skin's middle layer, the dermis. (The skin has three layers: the other two are the outer layer, called the epidermis, and the innermost layer, called the subcutaneous layer.)

Another treatment for stretch marks is blue light therapy, something that can be helpful in treating acne too. It is a combination of gel and light, used to remove stretch marks.

An older, low-tech treatment is to use creams to help moisturize skin, repair collagen and elastin growth. They commonly contain combinations of cocoa butter, wheat germ oil, lanolin and vitamin E. But actually, these creams are most effective if used while your skin is being stretched to help keep it soft, supple, smooth and elastic. So prevention is a good idea for those most susceptible to them. If you haven't applied creams while the skin was being stretched, the sooner you begin afterwards, the better.

Who has to worry most about stretch marks? People who are genetically disposed to them, that's who. And it turns out people with darker skin tend to be less susceptible than those with lighter skin.

There isn't one fail-safe, 100 percent way to prevent or eradicate stretch marks, but a combination of some of these therapies will dramatically reduce their appearance or eliminate them. One thing to keep in mind about stretch marks is that they pose absolutely no health risk. They're more of an imperfection than a threat.
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