Stretch marks are caused by tears in the deeper layers of the skin, known as the dermis.
This can be caused by things like hormone fluctuations, puberty, weight gain, pregnancy and topical steroid treatment.
There is some research indicating that skin prone to stretch marks are more sensitive to estrogen, androgens and glucocorticoids.
There is a strong genetic component to getting stretch marks, so if your parents have them, it’s likely that you will too at some point of your life – unfortunately.
Not to fret though. New stretch marks may look angry, painful and red…but understand that over time they do become less red and turn grey or white. For most people once they’ve reached the grey or white stage they are no longer bothered by them.
It is important to keep uncovered stretch marks protected with a high and broad spectrum SPF. Clothing provides an SPF of around 15, depending on the tightness of the cloth weave.
There are treatments that have been researched and have been proven to be effective for dealing with stretch marks.
The combination of tretinoin and vitamin C works to fade the appearance of stretch marks as well as remodel the underlying skin, but tretinoin does require a prescription. Glycolic acid and vitamin C provides similar benefits in terms of appearance of the stretch marks, but does not remodel the underlying skin. Glycolic acid and vitamin C are widely available, though not usually in the same product.
There is little research showing that cocoa butter or other butters applied topically will increase the amount of collagen and other elastic fibres in the skin. This is necessary for repairing and reducing the size of stretch marks. There is experimental (non-human) evidence that cocoa polyphenols may increase collagen, but cocoa polyphenols are not present in cocoa butter.
A study examining the use of olive oil during pregnancy to prevent stretch marks also had lack luster results. So it’s unlikely that other vegetable oils such as coconut or grape seed oils will have a preventative effect.
It’s important to remember that with any treatment involving exfoliation or Vitamin A derivatives that your skin becomes more sensitive to the Sun, so it is important to use a broad spectrum sunscreen daily when treating the skin.
Irritation of the skin is common when using retinoids (Vitamin A acids) on the skin, generally the irritation will reduce after 1 month of consistent use.
There are no studies examining the effects of other vitamin A acids, such as tazarotene, but it is likely they will provide benefits as well as they activate the same receptors in the skin.
Laser treatment is also very effective, though expensive.
Though effective, lasers and radio frequency treatment are less commonly thought of as a viable treatment for stretch marks due to the cost.
The literature indicates that there are effective treatment types for both red and white stretch marks, and that these treatments are safe and effective for various skin tones.