13 Stretch Mark Treatments That Dermatologists Recommend (2024)

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Hallie Gould

13 Stretch Mark Treatments That Dermatologists Recommend (1)

Hallie Gould

Hallie Gould is Byrdie's editor in chief + GM. She has a decade's worth of experience as a writer and editor, and her bylines can be found in such publications as ELLE, Cosmopolitan, and InStyle.

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Updated on 11/28/23 01:04PM

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Morgan Rabach, MD

13 Stretch Mark Treatments That Dermatologists Recommend (2)

Reviewed byMorgan Rabach, MD

Dr. Morgan Rabach is a board-certified dermatologist and Clinical Assistant Professor of Dermatology at The Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai Hospital.

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13 Stretch Mark Treatments That Dermatologists Recommend (3)

Stretch marks are totally normal and just about everyone has them. More formally known as striae distansae—the skin condition is a result of elasticity breaking down as the skin stretches to accommodate a growth spurt, rapid weight gain, or pregnancy. Some take pride in and celebrate their stripes, while others are relatively unbothered by the stretch marks. That being said, feeling proud of our bodies and wanting to reduce the appearance of stretch marks don't have to be mutually exclusive. We can embracebody positivity and still tryout the various treatments available to smooth them out.

For those seeking to fade existing stretch marks or prevent new ones from forming, we've got all the details. Ahead, experts weigh in on the best treatments for stretch marks.

Meet the Expert

  • Zein Obagi, MD, is a world-renowned, board-certified dermatologist based in Los Angeles. He is the founder of Zo Skin Health.
  • Claire Chang, MD, is a board-certified cosmetic dermatologist based in New York.
  • Shari Sperling, DO, is a board-certified dermatologist based in New Jersey.
  • Paul Banwell, FRCS, is a plastic, reconstructive, and cosmetic surgeon based in England.

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Apply a Retinol

Obagi suggests using retinol-infused products. Retinol is a vitamin A derivative often used in acne and anti-aging skincare products. It works by improving the rate of cellular turnover, providing effective exfoliation.

Obagi recommends mixing the Zo Skin Health Body Emulsion Plus withWrinkle & Texture Repair. "What makes the formula a spectacular choice for treating stretch marks is that you are mixing a micro-emulsion retinol—which will significantly improve texture by stimulating epidermal renewal, collagen production, and even skin tone—with papainandsaccharomycescerevisiae extract to provideenzymatic exfoliation," he says. "This removes dead skin cells and smoothes rough skin textures. It also sloughs away stretch marks and replenishes hydration and lipids to restore the skin's barrier function. Ultimately, this will help the skin return to a healthy-looking state and prevent any new damage fromoccurring."

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Get a Tretinoin Prescription

If you've tried retinol products with no luck, you may benefit from a tretinoin prescription. "Tretinoin and/or hyaluronic acid applied to the skin can offer some benefit for the treatment of stretch marks," Sperling says.

Like retinol, tretinoin is a retinoid, meaning it's a vitamin A derivative. While retinol is a natural form of vitamin A, tretinoin is a much stronger, synthetic version. It is only available with a prescription and is often sold under the brand name Retin-A. The retinoid works to speed up cell turnover, rapidly exfoliate the skin, and stimulate collagen and elastin. Because of its aggressiveness, it's not recommended for sensitive skin.

Byrdie Tip

Apply an SPF of 30 or higher and avoid sun exposure when possible while using tretinoin, which can make the skin much more sensitive to the sun than usual.

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Rebuild Skin Cells With Microneedling

According to Sperling, a few rounds of microneedling is a great option to aid in stretch mark removal. When the skin stretches or shrinks too quickly, the collagen and elastin rupture, and stretch marks become visible. "Microneedling uses a device with many tiny needles which penetrate the skin and causes micro-trauma to the skin," she explains. "It stimulates the collagen and elastin to rebuild and to help the appearance of stretch marks." Typically, multiple in-office treatments are required to notice a difference, but several at-home devices on the market can help.

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Boost Collagen With Laser Treatments

In addition to topical products, laser treatments may be worth looking into. "Since stretch marks are an area of the skin where the collagen is damaged, treatments to improve stretch marks are directed at rebuilding the integrity of the collagen," Wells explains. "Collagen-building lasers, such as the Palomar 1540 and Deep IR Lasers, are employed to stimulate dermal repair. Generally, several treatments are needed, but we have treated hundreds of stretch marks and seen significant improvement in their appearance using these modalities."

Wells suggests a minimum of three treatments scheduled about a month apart to see results. Each laser procedure is generally15 to 30 minutes long, depending on the area you're looking to treat. For smaller areas (just a few marks), expect to pay about $250, and for larger surfaces, $500.

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Try Healing Growth Factors With PRP

"Platelet-rich plasma (PRP) applies concentrated growth factors taken from a patient's blood, which is used topically or by injection to stimulate new collagen production," explains Chang. During a PRP appointment, the provider will draw blood and spin the sample in a centrifuge to isolate the platelets, which are where the healing and regenerating growth factors are found.

"It can be used alone or in combination with resurfacing lasers, microneedling, or radiofrequency microneedling," says Chang. When used alone, PRP works best on fresh stretch marks. This is because active healing triggers the growth factors to work, so if the stretch marks are still in this stage, the results will likely be more apparent. For this reason, a combined treatment that initiates healing through micro-wounds (like microneedling) is recommended.

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Treat Stretch Marks With Fillers

Chang explains that poly-L lactic acid (Sculptra) and dilute calcium hydroxyapatite (Radiesse) are bio-stimulatory fillers that work by volumizing and stimulating collagen from within the scars. "They can be combined with resurfacing lasers, microneedling, or micro-focused ultrasound to improve the appearance and texture of stretch marks."

After a Radiesse injection, you can expect pretty immediate volumizing effects, which isn't the case with Sculptra, but both yield some of the longest-lasting filler results on the market. Sculptra typically lasts up to 24 months, and Radiesse sustains for about 12 months.

Chang notes that these in-office stretch mark treatments will typically require multiple rounds and three to four months to see any significant improvements as the body takes time to rebuild collagen. However, a study found significant improvement in the appearance of subjects' stretch marks in as little as two months with a combined treatment of Radiesse filler, microneedling, and topical vitamin C.

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Slather Your Skin in Hydrating Products

"The key to stretch mark prevention and treatment is to understand the need to hydrate the skin for optimum tissue repair and vitality and to keep the skin soft and supple," Banwell says.

Pai's Pomegranate & Pumpkin Seed 2-Step Pregnancy Stretch Mark Oil & Cream is an ultra-hydrating option. The products contain an antioxidant-rich buttery cream to use in the morning and a rich, replenishing oil to use at night. Both are high in omegas meant for optimum skin nourishment, and together they promise to maximize the skin's ability to stretch. "This unique approach of integrating the duality of a cream for skin hydration and specialty oils with antioxidant effects is very exciting," he adds.

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Reach for the Bio-Oil

Bio-Oil's Multi-Use Skincare Oil is a cult-favorite product for treating scars and may be just as effective on stretch marks. It melts into your skin with rich moisturizers meant to hydrate and nourish for hours post-application. The formula is blended with purcellin oil meant to makethe product especially easy to absorb and lightweight to the touch. It's an incredible option when you're not able to splurge, as it promises to fade scars, even skin tone, moisturize, and can even be used as an after-sun treatment and bath oil.

09of 13

Resurface Skin With Radiofrequency

Radiofrequency technology stimulates collagen production by directing energy waves deep into the skin. The method of heating the dermis without damaging the top layer of skin makes it an increasingly popular non-surgical skin tightening and firming treatment.

Recently, radiofrequency microneedling devices have been used to treat stretch marks. "These devices couple both microneedling and radiofrequency to deliver thermal energy to the dermis and stimulate collagen/elastin formation," Chang says.

Depending on the number of sessions required, radiofrequency microneedling isn't exactly the kindest on our wallets. Sessions can range from $100 to over $2,000, with an average cost of about $800 per visit. For best results, Chang recommends multiple treatments, "Radiofrequency microneedling is typically performed at monthly intervals and has been shown to significantly improve skin texture in stretch marks," she says, adding that it's highly effective when administered in combination with other treatments like pulsed dye laser, PRP, or a topical retinoid.

10of 13

Nourish the Skin With Oils

Here's an under-the-radar industry tip: Try FurOil for stretch marks. Made specifically for softening pubic hair and clearing ingrown hair, the product is formulated with grapeseed, tea tree, and jojoba oils, along with vitamins A and E. It also uses clary sage seed oil, which has healing properties that not only soothe and reduce inflammation but also keep your skin healthier over time.One of the founders, Lillian, used it to prevent stretch marks while pregnant.

Smooth the oil on for a week and watch as your skin remains supple, hydrated, and smells amazing. Again, it seems it might work well to help prevent stretch marks, but it may not do much to eliminate them. But added moisturedoesalways help in a pinch!

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Use Medical-Grade Skincare Products

Drugstore skincare products are undoubtedly beneficial; however, medical-grade skincare is also worth looking into. Medical-grade formulas treat specific conditions and are usually formulated with a higher concentration of active ingredients than OTC products, meaning they usually produce greater results. Dr. Zenovia Skincare's Scar Gel Treatment, for example, is a medical-grade, silicone-based treatment that reduces the appearance of acne, stretch marks, abrasions, stitches, burns, and insect bites.

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Stick On Silicone Patches

You've likely seen silicone patches going viral over social media for their claims of reducing and preventing fine lines and wrinkles while you sleep. Their efficacy, however, also spills over to benefit stretch marks. The Dermaclara Stretch Mark Kit, a Byrdie favorite, includes medical-grade silicone patches that lock extra moisture to your skin, helping prevent new stretch marks and treat existing ones.

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Understand Timing

When treating scars and stretch marks, timing is everything. The best measures are usually preventative. So, if you know you might be susceptible to gaining some new stretch marks in the near future (say from a pregnancy), it's best to start slathering on the creams immediately so the skin is already supple and nourished when the time comes. Newer stretch marks will also be the most responsive to more accessible treatments like over-the-counter products and oils, while more established sections may show more subtle results. In this case, professional in-office treatments could be the most effective.

Article Sources

Byrdie takes every opportunity to use high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial guidelines to learn more about how we keep our content accurate, reliable and trustworthy.

  1. Zasada M, Budzisz E. Retinoids: active molecules influencing skin structure formation in cosmetic and dermatological treatments.Postepy Dermatol Alergol. 2019;36(4):392-397. doi:10.5114/ada.2019.87443

  2. Cleveland Clinic. Tretinoin skin cream (Cosmetic Use; Wrinkles).

  3. Chawla S. Split face comparative study of microneedling with PRP versus microneedling with vitamin C in treating atrophic post acne scars. J Cutan Aesthet Surg. 2014;7(4):209-212. doi:10.4103/0974-2077.150742

  4. Cable MM. On the front lines: what's new in botox and facial fillers.Mo Med. 2010;107(6):379-382.

  5. Casabona G, Marchese P. Calcium hydroxylapatite combined with microneedling and ascorbic acid is effective for treating stretch marks.Plast Reconstr Surg Glob Open. 2017;5(9):e1474. doi:10.1097/GOX.0000000000001474

  6. el-Domyati M, el-Ammawi TS, Medhat W, et al. Radiofrequency facial rejuvenation: evidence-based effect.J Am Acad Dermatol. 2011;64(3):524-535. doi:10.1016/j.jaad.2010.06.045

  7. Sienkiewicz M, Głowacka A, Poznańska-Kurowska K, Kaszuba A, Urbaniak A, Kowalczyk E. The effect of clary sage oil on staphylococci responsible for wound infections.Postepy Dermatol Alergol. 2015;32(1):21-26. doi:10.5114/pdia.2014.40957

13 Stretch Mark Treatments That Dermatologists Recommend (2024)
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