As far as girl bonding goes, I’ve now been to enough sleepovers to know that obsessing over your stretch marks comes second only to discussing boyfriends and comparing the lasting power of various lipsticks.
And it’s only because almost everybody has them. You either went through a crazy growth spurt or just shrunk / ballooned rapidly in high school and suddenly, there are bolt-like scars all over your tummy, thighs and, er, everywhere else. If you escaped this teenage trauma, congratulations; but there’s still pregnancy, if you ever choose to go down that route.
So what’s the deal with stretch marks? I got on the phone with two exceptional cosmetic surgeons to find out: Dr. Paul Jarrod Frank MD, the super cute founder of 5th Avenue Dermatology Surgery and Laser Center in New York, who took a break from his unending TV appearances (and his roster of celebrity clients) to chat, and Mumbai-based Dr. Mohan Thomas.
Between them, they gave me a pretty thorough feel for what those stubborn stripes really mean. Here’s the gist of it.
1/4 Stretch marks are literally murder on your skin.
Dr. Frank: “Stretch marks develop when the skin is stretched beyond its elastic capacity. When a part of the body grows in a short amount of time, the fibres in the middle layer of skin, or the dermis, can break and cause small tears in the tissue. These tears can reveal blood vessels in the deeper skin layers, resulting in pink, red, or purple lines on the skin’s surface. Eventually, as the blood vessels contract, the discoloration will fade and the streaks may look similar to a scar.”
Dr. Thomas: “One of the reasons they’re most common during pregnancy is that women usually put on anywhere between 10-30 kilos over a period of nine months; growing that fast means that your skin can’t keep up.”
2/4 You can’t escape them, but it really, really helps if you’re hydrated.
Dr. Frank: “While there’s no sure way to prevent stretch marks, you’re more likely to be successful if you keep your skin moisturized, which will help to minimize their appearance when they do show up. Pregnant women especially should start massaging with oil at 20 weeks.”
Try: Pai Pomegranate and Pumpkin Seed Stretch Mark System or Bio Oil.
Dr. Thomas: “It helps to keep your body hydrated because then, the skin has more turgor and can stretch without tearing. Make sure you’re drinking lots of water if you’re worried about stretch marks.”
Try: Palmer’s Cocoa Butter Tummy Butter for Stretch Marks.
3/4 There are solutions – first, the short term ones.
Dr. Frank: “Stretch marks are basically torn skin, and that’s difficult to repair with a topical cream. If I really had to, I would recommend getting your hands on Strivectin, which is a peptide collagen boosting formula.”
Dr. Thomas: “Firstly, use a moisturizing lotion on areas where you’re worried about getting stretch marks. This is the first, most important step. Vitamin E is especially effective at treating them.”
Try: Mario Badescu’s Vitamin E Body Lotion.
4/4 Now for the long term ones.
Dr. Thomas: There are a host of treatments depending on how old the marks are.
For newer stretch marks, glycolic acid peels are worth a shot. They can increase collagen production and make your skin more elastic overall, and are safe during pregnancy. Thepulsed dye laser treatment has proven itself worthy too, but having said that, laser treatments aren’t be as effective for women with darker skin because much like laser hair removal, the process works best when there's a large contrast between the red stretch marks and the pigment of the skin.
For older stretch marks, lasers work pretty well too; a laser treatment improves the discoloration and reduces the size and depth of stretch marks and improves the skin's elasticity significantly. Nano therapy uses adipose tissue-derived stem cells administered via a specialized delivery system, and abdominoplasty or a tummy tuck, is the most common surgical procedure which is usually done to correct body shape – but if you’ve got stretch marks on your tummy, it eliminates those as well.”
Dr. Frank: “If you want a permanent solution, these two treatments are your best bets: theVBeam® Laser which reduces the redness of the skin by directing light energy on the blood vessels of the treatment area and is then followed by the Fraxel® Laser, a technology that uses fractional lasers that only reach certain areas of tissue. When the light energy from the fractional lasers penetrates the top layer of the skin, it stimulates production of collagen, thereby prompting the body to begin a natural resurfacing process. After the procedure, the treated skin will be more even.”
(Editor’s note: We've checked that all of the treatments above are available in India, so just ask your dermat!)
Kate Upton for Vogue Spain July 2012.