Preventing and Getting Rid of Stretch Marks: What Science Says About 18 Popular Methods
It’s hard to tell fact from fiction when it comes to stretch mark removal and prevention. It’s time to learn the truth about the world’s most common scar.
Some people wear their stretch marks as a badge of honor, while others are embarrassed and try to hide them away.
With 80% of women and 40% of men getting these scars there is a large market with billions being spent per year trying to get rid of them. That much money is going to attract a lot of snake oil salesman.
Luckily, it also means a lot of investment into scientific research. We are going to take a thorough look at what science says about the treatment and prevention of stretch marks to see what actually works.
First, let’s clear up any confusion about what they are and how they form.
Stretch marks are actually scars. They all go through three phases of development:
Stage 1: Light pink lines that may be itchy.
Stage 2: Gradually growing in length and width while becoming a red or purple color.
Stage 3: Fading into white or silver lines.
They are caused by a large amount of growth in a small amount of time. Rapid growth can cause skin to stretch beyond what it’s elasticity will allow. This can leave tears in the dermis (middle layer of skin), which then allows the lower layers of the skin to show. A stretch mark turns red because of blood vessels showing through the tear.
Since rapid stretching is the cause of these scars they occur most often from:
- Rapid weight gain
- Rapid muscle growth
- Puberty and growth spurts
A Note on Pregnancy: The reason stretch marks after pregnancy are so common is because of the hormones released to soften pelvic ligaments and improve flexibility. These hormones also affect the skin by softening its fibers, making it more at risk to tear. This is more common in younger woman, with stretch marks occurring in 70% of women at the 25th week of pregnancy.
Stretch marks are most likely to be seen on the:
While they aren’t dangerous, they can be a worry and make people self-conscious. But as you can see from the above statistics, you aren’t alone! Most people you know likely have stretch marks as well.
Luckily, there are steps you can take prevent them. If you’ve already earned your stripes and want to fade them, there are solutions for getting rid of stretch marks. Below you’ll find what methods actually do the trick.
There have been hundreds of studies trying to find what works. From extracts to lasers, if there is a chance something could work it has been tried.
We reviewed the research to see which methods have been proven to heal a stretch mark. Here is what we found on the most common solutions available:
Cocoa Butter: Doesn’t Work
Although cocoa butter is widely thought to help prevent and heal stretch marks, no evidence of improvement has been shown. There have been several studies and none show any visual change or decrease in occurrence.
There are many proven benefits to cocoa butter, especially with hair and nails. But getting rid of stretch marks and scars isn’t one of them.
Shea Butter: Maybe
Like cocoa butter, this ingredient has been used by most to prevent stretch marks and scars. Some say it has helped them while others haven’t noticed any results. Unfortunately there is no definitive proof one way or the other.
Shea butter is packed with vitamin E, vitamin A and fatty acids. These are all great for moisturizing the skin and improving elasticity, which is what you want for preventing stretch marks. But, until research shows otherwise there is no guarantee that it will help.
Silicone Gel: Maybe
A study done on the use of silicone gel did show it to increase collagen production and reduces pigmentation. However, the study was done on a very small group of 20 women. This is more preliminary evidence than complete proof. We will have to wait and see what develops from it.
Trofolastin and Alphastria Creams: Maybe
Trofolastin cream contains centella asiatica extract (an Asian plant), vitamin E and a form of collagen. Alphastria cream contains hyaluronic acid, allantoin, vitamin A, vitamin E and dexpanthenol.
We found this and this study that shows both of them have some effect at preventing stretch marks. But the sample size was small so it is hard to give a firm “yes”. Looking at reviews from people that have used them you get a mixed bag. Sometimes they help, sometimes they don’t do anything.
Olive Oil: Maybe
One study showed no distinct improvement in prevention, while anothershowed it may reduce the severity of stretch marks. Many other studies have been done and none prove that it works. The problem has been using a large enough sample size to really be conclusive.
Whether it directly helps or not olive oil does offer a lot of nutrition to the skin. It is a good choice as a base for creams and oils made to treat stretch marks.
This study found that zinc is directly related to collagen production, one of the main parts of skin that gets damaged when stretch marks and scars form. This study found that during pregnancy and growth spurts the need for zinc is increased so people tend to become deficient.
If you put those two findings together it makes sense that puberty and pregnancy are the most common times for people to develop stretch marks! The skin is rapidly stretching, the skin and collagen start to tear, the lack of zinc prevents proper healing, scars get left behind.
Unfortunately, there is no research on the direct impact of zinc and stretch marks, but it’s a safe bet that supplementing with it will help prevent them.
Laser Treatment: Sometimes
Laser therapy is one of the most researched ways to treat stretch marks and other scars. Many different types of lasers and methods have been used. Somehave been shown to improve the length, depth and coloration of stretch marks, but the results are inconsistent.
Usual treatments last about 30 minutes and are performed over a course of 3-5 sessions. When result are seen you get a noticeably faded mark. Scientist are encouraged that this can be a workable treatment in the future.
Intense Pulsed Light (IPL): Works
IPL uses pulses of high-powered light to force the skin to rebuild. What makes it different from laser therapy is a broader spectrum of light waves are used.
This study showed that after 5 sessions stretch mark width and length decreased, skin texture improved, and collagen production was increase.
This method can get expensive because you must be consistent, and you may see side effects. For a safer and more affordable approach try an at home microdermabrasion treatment.
Tretinoin Creams (Retinoic Acid): Works
Yes these creams will work, but are going to be using a product that contains things like isopropyl myristate, alcohol, polyoxyl 40 stearate, and more.
It has side effects like blistering, burning, peeling and swelling. You can only get it with a prescription and if used when pregnant it can cause congenital defects. Oh and it’s flammable.
I think we can agree that the juice isn’t worth the squeeze on this one.
Argan Oil: Works
Hyaluronic Acid: Works
Hyaluronic acid is a clear liquid that the body naturally produces. It is found mostly in the skin, joints and eyes. It helps maintain collagen, and increase moisture and elasticity.
It works on aging, burns, sores and wounds. It has also been shown to decrease wrinkle depth. These are great benefits for lessening stretch marks, but it can get expensive.
Gotu Kola: Works
This herb is native to Asia and has been used medicinally for hundreds of years. It has been shown to help many skin conditions like cellulite, psoriasis, burns and minor wounds.
It also helps heal stretch marks by increasing collagen products, improving the strength of new skin, and reducing inflammation.
Rosehip Oil: Works
This oil comes from the seeds of a specific type of rose, the Rosa Moschata. It is high in essential fatty acids, vitamin C, vitamin E and vitamin A.
Rosehip oil has been proven to prevent new stretch marks, prevent growth in current ones and improves their appearance.
Bitter Almond Oil: Works
This actually comes from a different almond than the sweet version we love to eat. A study done on pregnant woman found that bitter almond oil by itself didn’t do much to prevent stretch marks, but when applied with a 15 minute massage there was a noticeable decrease in development.
This does come with a warning: This oil contains some poison that can be fatal if too much is eaten. Certain uses have been banned in the US for this reason. While we don’t recommend it for safety reasons, if you plan to use it be careful and do not ingest it.
Pomegranate Oil and Dragon’s Blood Extract: Works
A study showed that after 6 weeks of application a combination of pomegranate oil and dragon’s blood extract helped in preventing and improving stretch marks. It achieved this by increasing skin hydration, elasticity and thickness.
Both of these are a natural anti-inflammatory so work well at reducing redness and swelling. But the main reason they help is that they repair collagen, one of main the parts of skin that gets damaged when stretch marks form.
Creams and Oils: Doesn’t Work?
A review of creams and oils was done to see if any were effective. It found no clear evidence that any of the products currently available actually work. They did note that all the trials had very small group sizes and were inconsistent in when they started application.
But just because nothing out there has been proven to work, doesn’t mean something couldn’t be made. One that uses the ingredients proven to help reduce and prevent stretch marks.
There you go! You now know which methods are worth using. If you want to stick to safe, all-natural methods you can use:
- Argan Oil
- Rosehip Oil
- Gotu Kola
- Pomegranate Oil and Dragon’s Blood Extract
- Natural microdermabrasion
Each of these ingredients can reduce appearance and help with prevention. Now let’s put together a routine for you to follow.
So, how do you put all that into use?
We can’t fully remove stretch marks, at least not until we find a way to regrow skin, but we can take steps to reduce their appearance.
This is our recommendation for a safe, inexpensive and easy routine to start fading stretch marks:
- Apply Rosehip Oil, Argan Oil, and/or Gotu Kola daily.
- Use an at home microdermabrasion 2 to 3 times per week.
- Follow for 3-4 weeks and reevaluate.
Pretty simple right?
The changes will be gradual so give it time. It’s a good idea to take before and after photos to track your progress.
If after following the above routine you want to try to fade them even more (and have the money), you can try laser or IPL treatment.
The best cure for stretch marks is to prevent them all together. This routine will work particularly well if you know you’ll be at high risk, like during pregnancy or puberty.
Follow these easy steps to prevent stretch marks:
- Maintain a healthy diet that is high in nutrients. Vitamins A, C, D and E are especially good for the skin.
- Eat foods high in zinc like pumpkin seeds, lamb, cocoa powder, chickpeas and beef. Add in a zinc supplement if needed.
- Stay hydrated to help keep the skin moisturized and supple.
- Apply Rosehip Oil, Argan Oil, and.or Gotu Kola daily to high risk areas.
- Use other ingredients known to keep the skin strong and healthy.
- Avoid rapid weight.
- When pregnant you will naturally gain weight, but avoid excess weight gain with regular exercise and avoiding overeating.
The severity of stretch marks is largely genetic, but a good skincare routine and a healthy diet will make a big difference for anyone. And while you can’t completely remove stretch marks, you can markedly fade them with the routine above.
If you want to try and remove them even further see your dermatologist about trying laser or IPL therapy. They can also help you with microdermabrasion, but to avoid side effects you can do it right at home naturally.
Our natural microderm cream uses walnut shell to gently exfoliate skin and is packed with other natural ingredients to refresh your skin.
Even though it might be hard to stop stretch marks from appearing across our skin entirely, we can certainly stop a good amount of them. It takes the discipline of keeping up a daily skincare routine, water consumption and diet but you’ll be able to make a difference.
Try using Era Organics’ USDA Organic Stretch Mark Oil to improve elasticity, strengthen skin fibers and help prevent stretch marks.
We use rosehip oil to directly prevent stretch marks. It also contains olive oil, apricot oil, shea butter, primrose oil, and borage oil to moisturize and nourish your skin while it adapts to the changes happening in your body.
Hopefully you found this article enlightening and helpful! We’d love to hear how our routines work for you, so let us know!
Feel free to share this with anyone that wants help dealing with stretch marks.