Many women develop stretch marks after a pregnancy, but they can also occur for other reasons as well, such as times of rapid weight gain or loss. For some women, the stretch marks that occur after pregnancy are a badge of honor. For others, they are simply an unattractive annoyance, no matter how they developed. Many women dream of a cream that they can gently rub onto their skin that will moisturize, soften, and also prevent stretch marks. While some creams are marketed for that very purpose, they don’t always work quite the way you hope they will.
Stretch marks, called “striae,” occur when the skin is stretched too quickly, due to rapid growth or even reduction, according to MayoClinic.com. This often occurs during pregnancy, or weight loss or gain. The marks actually occur in the middle layer of the skin, which is elastic. This area is the dermis. When the dermis is stretched or retracted too quickly, it breaks down, leaving the marks behind as a symptom of the breakage.
Stretch marks can vary, depending on the pigment of your skin, according to the BabyCenter website. They usually start out pinkish or purplish on fair-skinned people, and reddish or brownish on darker-skinned people. As time goes by, the stretch marks fade and may become silvery in color.
Stretch marks develop more severely and quickly on skin that is not elastic. It is for this reason that creams are used to prevent and treat stretch marks. Creams can make the skin softer and more pliable, which might make the skin stretch more easily, without breaking.
Over-the-counter creams are usually not really effective in preventing or treating stretch marks, according to MedicineNet.com. Tretinoin is a prescription cream that can be effective in reducing the appearance of stretch marks if treatment is applied when the stretch marks are still new. Vitamins (especially A and C), retinoids and other substances (such as glycolic acid) that stimulate collagen production can also prevent and reduce the appearance of stretch marks.
Genetics can play an important role in whether you will get stretch marks. In fact, if you are genetically predisposed to stretch marks, all the cream in the world will not prevent them, according to BabyCenter. If the other women in your family suffer from stretch marks, it is likely that you will, too.