Stretch marks, those inevitable badges of motherhood, may not seem like an honor when you see lurid pink, purple and red striations coursing from the décolletage of your low-cut couture. According to the American Academy of Dermatology (AAD), 90 percent of expectant women get stretch marks during the sixth and seventh months of pregnancy, not only on the breasts, but the abdomen and thighs, too. Stretch marks are tough scar types to treat, says dermatologist Eric F. Bernstein, M.D., of the University of Pennsylvania Medical School. The rapid expansion of your skin, coupled with excessive levels of the hormone cortisone released during pregnancy, weakens the skin’s elastin fibers. Breathing new life back into damaged elastin is next to impossible. Before you resort to medical treatments to make a serious dent on the troublesome areas that have made a dent on you, try less expensive ways to get rid of your stretch marks.
Wait out the worst. Stretch marks, like any other scars, do not heal, but they will become less noticeable as time passes. New, red stretch marks eventually fade to white, blending in with the rest of your skin. What about those miracle creams, oils and other potions that purportedly prevent and get rid of stretch marks? There’s no scientific research that shows that any of them work, says Bernstein. Even the old stand-by, cocoa butter, has been debunked as an effective stretch mark cure. Smoothing these on won’t hurt you, however. In fact, they can make your skin feel more supple. But they won’t eliminate the marks.
Airbrush them. Sunless tanning topicals blend stretch marks in with the rest of your skin, says the AAD. Choose a drugstore self-tanner or head down to the tanning salon for a spray-on treatment. However, don’t seek out the sun or tanning beds. Stretch marks don’t tan and may appear more obvious against a canvas of darker skin.
Use body makeup to camouflage. Body makeup used to conceal scars, varicose veins and other cosmetic imperfections is yet another way stretch marks can go incognito. Select a product that’s closest to your own skin tone. Pick a product formulated to use on stretch marks. Simple concealers won’t do the trick. It’s best to use body makeup that is water resistant, but probably not a good idea to rely on it if you plan to spend a great deal of your time swimming or participating in other water sports.
Take your woes to the pros. A dermatologist or cosmetic surgeon offers the most effective, long-term solution for stretch marks. Dermatologist Brian Zelickson, M.D. of the University of Minnesota Medical School, says that while there’s no ideal medical procedure for this particular scar type, nor is there any way to restore your bosom completely to its former glory, there are treatments that can make marks take a back seat. A series of laser treatments are most effective for both old and new stretch marks, but they are not the only game in town. Microdermabrasion treatments, a series of chemical peels and tretinoin creams used with other topical treatments, can yield modest improvements in the appearance of stretch marks.