Dear Dr. Wu,
Is there any cure for stretch marks, or are they permanent? Could you recommend any favorite products?
– Jacqueline, Albuqueque
Stretch marks occur when the skin stretches, such as during pregnancy or growth spurts. When this happens, collagen and elastic fibers in the skin snap, just like a rubber band that’s stretched too tight.
While they are most commonly found on the abdomen, they can also appear on the breasts, thighs, hips, and back.
Newer stretch marks are typically pink-red and are often itchy and raised. This type of stretch mark can be improved with prescription-strength Retin A cream (available from your dermatologist), which helps to rebuild collagen. Just keep in mind that this treatment is not recommended during pregnancy or while breastfeeding. Red stretch marks can also respond to laser treatments.
Older stretch marks look like thin white squiggles.
This type of stretch mark is more difficult to treat and often does not respond to topical creams.
Microdermabrasion (typically done by a facialist) can temporarily improve the appearance, but it must be done repeatedly, up to once a month, to maintain the results. In addition, a dermatologist can use lasers such as the Fraxel and Affirm with Multiplex to gently resurface the skin and reduce the appearance of older stretch marks.
Since collagen and elastic tissue are both proteins, it’s also important to make sure you’re including protein in your diet – think fish, chicken, red meat, tofu, lentils — so your body has the building blocks to help repair itself. This is especially important if your stretch marks are fresh.
I recommend visiting a dermatologist who can examine your stretch marks to determine which type you have, and what treatment might work for you.
Dr. Jessica Wu
Dr. Jessica Wu, a graduate of Harvard Medical School, runs a private practice in Los Angeles and also serves as Clinical Instructor of Dermatology at the Los Angeles County-USC Medical Center. She has appeared on Inside Edition, EXTRA and Lifetime Channel for Women.
Check out Dr. Jessica Wu Cosmeceuticals at www.drjessicawu.com