Stretch marks are a natural part of life, but for some people, they’re an unwanted nuisance that must be minimized or eliminated. And while there are a lot of products and procedures that claim to make stretch marks go away, most won’t help.
Celebs like Danielle Brooks and Chrissy Teigen (see photo below) have spoken openly about their stretch marks on Instagram, demonstrating it’s something even celebrities deal with:
In order to figure out if certain treatments actually do work, HuffPost reached out to a few experts to figure out what exactly stretch marks are, why we get them and whether or not it’s possible to eliminate or minimize their appearance.
What are stretch marks?
“Stretch marks are a pulling out of the elastic properties of skin, which result in a thinning of the dermis and epidermis,” Dr. Stafford Broumand, board-certified plastic surgeon at 740 Park Plastic Surgery, told HuffPost. “The elastic properties of skin stretch or pull out but they can’t retract back to their original shape.”
Stretch marks occur because of a few different factors.
Certain people are predisposed to get stretch marks from genetics, while others get them because of weight gain (through both fat gain or weightlifting), growth spurts or pregnancy, Broumand said. .
″[During pregnancy] is when the skin is stretched beyond what the capability of that skin type is to retract back,” he said. “It rips those elastic qualities of the skin and pulls them apart so that they can’t retract back to normal. In essence, they are irreversible as a problem.”
Stretch marks can develop anywhere on the body, like the abdomen, thighs, armpits, and breasts, Broumand explained. Essentially, anywhere skin can get pulled or stretched.
Some doctors believe you can reduce the appearance of stretch marks with treatments.
According to Dr. Jennifer Chwalek, M.D., a dermatologist at Union Square Laser Dermatology in NYC, it’s impossible to prevent stretch marks, but the appearance of certain stretch marks can fade with time or with special treatments. But they’ll never fade completely, as Chwalek sited a study that said “no treatment has proven to be completely effective.”
“Early stretch marks that are red respond well to lasers such as the pulsed dye. There are also studies showing treatments such as Fraxel [lasers] and microneedling devices may help to improve the appearance of stretch marks with multiple treatments over time,” Chwalek said, adding that the devices help stimulate collagen, creating plumper skin.
″People have tried microdermabrasion/dermabrasion as well. However this is less likely to result in a significant response compared to Fraxel and/or microneedling,” she said. “Topical retinoids are sometimes prescribed to help stimulate collagen as well (this can’t be used during pregnancy or breastfeeding though). How well one responds depends on how severe the stretch marks are at baseline.”
Others don’t believe it’s possible to get rid of stretch marks.
“There are a lot of gimmicks, products, procedures or interventions that many think will get rid of stretch marks. But the bottom line is that there really isn’t anything to get rid of stretch marks,” Broumand said.
If you really want to eliminate your stretch marks, he argues that you must completely remove them.
“That can be done in the abdomen area by having a tummy tuck to resect the skin, and eliminate the skin that has the stretch marks so it is gone,” he explained. “Then, the skin above the abdomen gets pulled down to stretch out the looseness of the stretch marks so they become less noticeable.”
And remember, drugstore products never work.
“Anything that hydrates the skin can potentially make stretch marks look better, but won’t get rid of them,” Broumand said. “Anything that smooths out the pigmentation irregularities can help to make stretch marks look better, but will not get rid of them.”
Since you can never completely eliminate them, it’s best to just embrace your stretch marks and remember that everyone gets them. As “Orange Is the New Black” actress Danielle Brooks said in a letter addressed to her younger self, “Love your stretch marks, Danie. They are the roadmap of your strength.” Wise words to follow.
- This article originally appeared on HuffPost.