What are stretch marks?

Skin will not bounce back in its pure state if it has been stretched by rapid growth due to pregnancy, weight gain, extreme weight loss or weight training with rapid muscle growth. Instead, it becomes marked by a form of scarring called stretch marks, or striae. Stretch marks often start off as reddish or purplish in color, then become glossy skin that appears streaked in silver or white.

Men and women can get stretch marks on several areas of their bodies, including the abdominal area, thighs, hips, breasts, upper arms or lower back.

How are stretch marks treated?

There are several treatment options for stretch marks. In general, the treatment of these scars is difficult. Treatment mostly improves the appearance of stretch marks and will not cause them to go away completely. Patients respond differently to treatments, and so results vary widely. If you are serious about dealing with unwanted stretch marks, it is best to be in the care of a dermatologist who can recommend your best options. If you go to a dermatologist, he or she will take a detailed medical history, including medications you are taking. Some medications can cause stretch marks, and it is very important to be open and honest with your doctor. Those medications include hormones and steroids. It is important to remember that each treatment plan may require several visits and several treatment rounds.

Surgical methods

Dermabrasion, chemical peel, laser therapy, radiofrequency or ultrasound can be used to address unwanted stretch marks, and there are new advances in laser surgeries that can help the color and texture of the stretch marks. These advances help to blend stretch marks in with the surrounding skin. The degree of success with any treatment will be influenced by your age, skin tone, and diet. It is important to note that insurance coverage probably will not cover stretch mark removal because it is a cosmetic procedure (even if the stretch marks are particularly severe).

Prescription medication

Applying hyaluronic acid and tretinoin to early stretch marks has been shown to make stretch marks less noticeable when compared to the stretch marks of those who did not apply these creams.

Lotions and creams

There are plenty of over-the-counter treatments for stretch marks. If you are a woman who is pregnant and you are concerned with stretch marks, let your physician know before you want to begin preventative treatment before your stomach starts growing. Often, your physician can recommend creams. It is important to note that creams and lotions may or may not work since a person's genetics play a role in stretch mark formation.

If you want to use lotions and creams be sure to:

  1. Use the product on early stretch marks.
  2. Massage the product into your stretch marks.
  3. Apply the product every day for weeks.

Nutritional factors

Drink plenty of water. Proper water intake keeps your skin soft and less likely to develop stretch marks. Caffeine can increase your risk of stretch marks. If you're stuck on your caffeinated coffee or tea, make sure you balance the fluids. Drink just as much – or more – water as you drink coffee, tea or soda.

Remember, stretch marks can also result from nutritional deficiencies. Be sure to consume foods that promote skin health:

  • Zinc-rich foods such as nuts or fish.
  • Foods high in vitamins A, C, D, such as carrots, citrus fruits, and milk.
  • Protein-rich foods.

Last reviewed by a Cleveland Clinic medical professional on 07/31/2019.


  • American Academy of Dermatology. Stretch marks: Why they appear and how to get rid of them. (https://www.aad.org/cosmetic/scars-stretch-marks/stretch-marks-why-appear) Accessed 11/4/2019.
  • American Pregnancy Association. Are Pregnancy Stretch Marks Different? (http://americanpregnancy.org/your-pregnancy/are-pregnancy-stretchmarks-different/) Accessed 11/4/2019.
  • American Society for Dermatologic Surgery. Stretch marks. (https://www.asds.net/skin-experts/skin-conditions/stretch-marks) Accessed 11/4/2019.

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