The 10 Best Stretch Mark Creams
10. Protégé Vanish
9. It Works! Moisturizing EU212
8. Body Merry Scars Defense
7. 100% Pure Coconut
6. Mederma Therapy
5. CeraVe Special Use Intensive
4. Mommy Knows Best Vanishing Cream
3. Palmer's Cocoa Butter Formula
2. Mama Belly Butter
1. Cos Naturals Cream
What Exactly Are Stretch Marks?
The medical term for stretch marks is striae, referring to the thin, narrow grooves or channels they resemble. While they do most often look like bands of parallel lines on the skin, not all stretch marks look alike. Their appearance and severity will vary depending not only on what caused them and where they are, but also based on your body's own unique physiology.
The causes of stretch marks are numerous, but they occur anytime the dermis, the middle layer of skin, is torn due to rapid growth or weight changes. The result is a form of scarring on the skin with an off-color hue. While they pose no heath risk, they can cause an irritating burning or itching sensation. For some, the changes in skin appearance can be substantial and even cause emotional distress.
Sudden growth spurts in puberty and extreme weight gain at any time in life are the best known risk factors for the development of stretch marks, but there are lesser-known risk factors to keep in mind. Bodybuilders who over-train can gain muscle mass too quickly and stretch the dermis much in the same way weight gain can. Heavy or long-term use of corticosteroids, widely used to treat arthritis, asthma and allergy conditions, has also been proven to contribute to the formation of stretch marks.
Prevention and Treatment of Stretch Marks
When it comes to treating stretch marks, Benjamin Franklin summed it up best when he said, "An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure." Because stretch marks are essentially scars, expensive cosmetic surgery is the only way to completely remove them, and even this method has its limitations.
An abdominoplasty, most commonly referred to as a "tummy tuck", will eliminate your stretch marks, but only if they are located on the areas of excess skin to be removed from your abdomen. In addition, surgery candidates need to be in good health, have a significant amount of excess skin on the stomach, and be prepared to endure a long 4-6 week recovery time.
If you are unable or unwilling to go under the knife, or have stretch marks in other areas, laser removal is another option. The success of laser treatments is directly tied to the severity and age of the striae to be treated. Laser removal can be highly effective on stretch marks that are less than a year old. Excimer laser therapy, uses high-energy ultraviolet light to disintegrate the tissue instead of burning or cutting the affected areas.
While the recovery time from laser treatments is significantly shorter than that of surgery, patients will still be red and tender and can experience temporary blistering. Deeper stretch marks will never be completely removed, but significantly reduced and faded.
The most effective way to prevent stretch marks is to avoid sudden weight changes. Preventative creams are popular, especially during pregnancy when you know you'll be gaining weight, but their effectiveness varies widely. Because everyone has different skin, you may need to experiment to find what works for you.
Be wary of creams that claim to remove stretch marks. While this isn't really possible, the right cream can reduce their size and coloring to the point where they are barely noticeable. For many this less expensive, non-invasive treatment is preferable to surgery or laser treatments.
Pregnancy and Stretch Marks
Because weight gain is one of the leading causes of stretch marks, they are often commonly associated with having a baby. Almost three out of four women will develop striae on at least one of the areas affected by the rapid, dramatic body changes of pregnancy.
You are most likely to end up with pregnancy-related stretch marks if you are carrying multiples, an unusually large baby, or excess amniotic fluid. Even without these factors, if your mother had stretch marks after her pregnancy, chances are you will too. While there is no way to change your genetics, you can be proactive and take a few steps to reduce your probability of getting them.
When you are pregnant, you can anticipate the weight gain that is coming, and that the skin on your abdomen will be expanded to its limit. Gaining no more than the recommended amount of weight and gaining it slowly is the best way to reduce potential stress to the dermis. Before any stretch marks appear, try massaging the skin with a nourishing preventative cream. While there are no oils, salves or creams guaranteed to prevent stretch marks, keeping your growing abdomen moisturized is still a good idea because it will definitely reduce dryness and itching.