What the Yuck: Make my stretch marks go away
March 11th, 2011
02:20 PM ET

What the Yuck: Make my stretch marks go away

Too embarrassed to ask your doctor about sex, body quirks, or the latest celeb health fad? In a regular feature and a new book, "What the Yuck?!," Health magazine medical editor Dr. Roshini Raj tackles your most personal and provocative questions. Send 'em to Dr. Raj at whattheyuck@health.com.

Q: I have hideous stretch marks. Can you make them go away?

If I could, I'd be a rich woman. Almost 90 percent of us have stretch marks. Despite claims made on late-night infomercials, no cure-all lotion or cream will reliably erase those marks, which appear when skin stretched by the rapid growth of pregnancy (or major weight gain or loss) doesn't snap back.

The marks start out red or purple, and fade to white over time. Your best bet for diminishing them is seeing a board-certified dermatologist for micro-dermabrasion or a chemical peel, procedures that slowly remove layers of the scarred skin tissue. Most derms suggest six treatments on any spot that needs work, which can cost $75 to $600 a session, depending on the treatment.

Hoping to prevent stretch marks? There's a limit to how much you can do, and some of it comes down to genetics. Plus, you can't help but stretch in pregnancy. Staying hydrated and exercising regularly improves circulation to your skin to maintain elasticity.

As for all the belly rubs marketed to pregnant women for stretch mark prevention? Some women swear by them, but there's not yet scientific evidence to show they work. Lotions that contain cocoa or shea butter, olive oil, and vitamin E help your skin retain moisture, which may relieve the itching that accompanies dry skin and stretch marks.

Copyright Health Magazine 2011

soundoff (104 Responses)
  1. Neil

    Dermatologist's advice: If the stretch mark is red, then tretinoin or other retinoids, or vascular lasers, might be helpful. However, for stria (stretch marks) which have turned white the options are less helpful. Microdermabrasion is no more helpful than placebo for nearly any condition. You can run a safety razor across your skin for the same effect. However, new ablative and non-ablative fractional lasers can be used. They are mildly helpful (30% improvement in most cases) but expensive (2-3k for a full treatment course) and time consuming (4-6 treatments). Be careful with chemical peels off the face – the rest of the skin responds variably. They can be helpful in trained hands, but require caution. Put bluntly – there isn't much we can do about them at present. My biggest advice to patients is don't waste your time on expensive creams and treatments – none of them work.

    March 11, 2011 at 16:52 | Report abuse | Reply
    • ZK

      thanks so much for taking the time out to post. think i'll change my perspective about my stretch marks and live with them. not worth the time and effort thinking about them. but that's just me! thanks again.

      March 14, 2011 at 01:32 | Report abuse |
  2. KritterKat

    Get over your vanity and deal with your stretch marks. They won't kill you. If you have an extra $500 for micro-dermabrasion give it to the Red Cross for people who need real medical procedures.

    March 11, 2011 at 17:10 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Brandy

      Spoken like someone who doesn't have stretch marks! I look like Freddy Krueger has attacked me. I look horrible and scarred. If you don't then you're darn lucky, so get off your high horse.

      March 11, 2011 at 20:45 | Report abuse |
    • LinzeeLou

      Wanting to be more attractive is not a fault. Everyone is vain to a degree, which is why mirrors are so popular. Most people who want their stretch marks gone don't have the money for the expensive dermatologist appointments. People spend their money that they earn on things that they want, and there's really nothing wrong with that.

      March 11, 2011 at 22:06 | Report abuse |
    • LEB

      If you have $12,000 to spend on a car then donate to a 3rd world country that has few paved roads and ride a bike to work. By your logic, it would be selfish to do anything else.

      March 11, 2011 at 22:45 | Report abuse |
    • Me

      I'm sure the fear of stretch marks is related to maturity. Kids or people who think like kids probably worry more about silly stuff than do adults with real problems to worry about.

      I personally plan to put on my bikini and go have a good time at the beach with my child, stretch marks or not.

      March 12, 2011 at 06:13 | Report abuse |
    • eva68

      That is true about having stretch marks. You can't just say "get over vanity". I don't find it too vain to want to show my tummy again. It isn't about showing it really but being able to enjoy the sun's warm on my skin without worrying about these huge scars. Mine are very wide. Would you tell someone that had scars all over their face to get over vanity? We all want to look at least normal. Tanning helps, but that is dangerous to your skin (makes me wonder if it is really dangerous to scarred skin)

      March 12, 2011 at 09:08 | Report abuse |
  3. Melissa

    My mother and my sister have horrible stretch marks from their pregnancies. I however was lucky enough to have an Obstetrician tell me from month 2 of my pregnancy to apply a generous amount of Palmer's cocoa butter to my tummy every morning and before bedtime for the entire extent of my pregnancy. I was lucky to be left with minimal stretch marks on my tummy because of his great advice. Not sure if this is the case for other women, but it definitely worked for me. And trust me, the genes were there for me to get terrible stretch marks!

    March 11, 2011 at 17:12 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Elizabeth

      I did the same thing from the moment that I found out that I was pregnant; Cocoa butter every day twice a day and I still got stretch marks. You were lucky but not because of the cocoa butter.

      March 11, 2011 at 18:16 | Report abuse |
    • Health Teach

      It sounds like you got your father's and not your mother's genetics on this one! (Congrats!)

      PS: I'm not trying to be rude... My mother had horrible stretch marks as did her mother and her mother before her. I never even bothered with Palmer's during my first pregnancy because I'd heard doctor's say it was genetic and you'd get them or you wouldn't. Surprisingly, I didn't hardly at all–then I found my paternal grandmother had been the same way so I guess I got lucky and got her genes for that. (Unfortunately I got unlucky in some other genetic traits thought, LOL!)

      March 11, 2011 at 18:54 | Report abuse |
    • Me

      The cocoa butter idea is a myth, but it does help with the itching and dry skin that come with expanding bellies. What is more likely to help prevent stretch marks is gaining a reasonable amount of weight slowly and steadily over nine months instead of packing on huge amounts at once.

      March 12, 2011 at 06:15 | Report abuse |
    • Flora

      I noticed people on here trying to use cocoa butter to PREVENT stretch marks – I've never seen it prevent them, but it does FADE them. Cocoa butter DOES work, but apparently only on darker skinned people, since it darkens the skin; if you're white, you want the opposite effect. If you do use it, I reccommend the Shea's Cocoa Butter stick – it's a more concentrated dose straight to the skin, and you leave smelling like chocolate : )

      March 12, 2011 at 17:22 | Report abuse |

      With our first child, I had a horrible dark marks. With our second child, I did put cocoa butter night and day while pregnant and it did fantastic job.

      March 12, 2011 at 21:04 | Report abuse |
    • Ellen

      My mother never got stretch marks after 5 kids and my sister had none after two. I had one and I look like I have zebra stripes. Cocoa butter, genes, olive oil, or whatever goop you wanna smear on your body doesn't matter. It boils down to luck. If you didn't get them, lucky you. It's a gamble you take when you have kids. I gambled and lost. I hate the way my body looks.

      March 13, 2011 at 18:13 | Report abuse |
    • Jujubeans

      there's another use for cocoa butter!

      March 14, 2011 at 13:41 | Report abuse |
  4. MAX

    @melissa, tired of people giving to organizations. its so stupid! all they do is send it overseas anyway. we got so many people suffering here in the US. kids arnt eating here. instead our government and organizations our quick to give our money to another country.

    March 11, 2011 at 17:32 | Report abuse | Reply
    • KritterKat

      You can give it to a local chapter of the Red Cross and stipulate that the money be used locally for specific causes.

      March 11, 2011 at 17:41 | Report abuse |
  5. MAX

    @kritter kat sorry melissa

    March 11, 2011 at 17:34 | Report abuse | Reply
  6. T3chsupport

    I have some pretty major ones from pregnancy. The one thing I've found that lessens their appearance drastically is daily rough scrubbing with a loufa sponge. Makes them almost the same color as the rest of my skin.

    March 11, 2011 at 20:05 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Ashley Gray

      t3 chsupport, I have had stretch marks for 12 years. check out http://www.stretchmarkblog.com. Its a support site for individuals who suffer from stretch marks. it has Blogs and home remedies. Its awesome because I can connect to other women who are going through the same thing I am

      November 16, 2012 at 17:37 | Report abuse |
  7. Kati

    Age plays a role, too. The younger you are when you have kids, the more elasticity your skin has and the less likely you'll get stretch marks.

    March 11, 2011 at 23:42 | Report abuse | Reply
  8. Mommy of 2

    I was 18 when i had my oldest he gave me absolutely unforgettable stretch marks ... I had my youngest at 21 and he just made my stretch marks more extensive ... I believe its a natural part of women and my children gave them to me so im completely ok with the way i look .. And i dont much care what anyone else thinks of me

    March 12, 2011 at 01:46 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Ashley Gray

      hey mommy of 2 I have had stretch marks for 12 years. check out http://www.stretchmarkblog.com. Its a support site for individuals who suffer from stretch marks. it has Blogs and home remedies. Its awesome because I can connect to other women who are going through the same thing I am

      November 16, 2012 at 17:38 | Report abuse |
  9. Me

    I'm a 32 year old woman having my first child. I've always looked young for my age and I've had my "perfect" thin and perky body until recently. Now I'm in a new phase of life and I'm proud of my new pregnancy stretch marks! I feel like they show I've lived and my baby is definitely worth it.

    March 12, 2011 at 06:10 | Report abuse | Reply
  10. charlie not sheen

    what about stretch mark on the boobs? any advice?

    March 12, 2011 at 07:14 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Ashley Gray

      hello charlie not sheen lol nice name, I have had stretch marks for 12 years. check out http://www.stretchmarkblog.com. Its a support site for individuals who suffer from stretch marks. it has Blogs and home remedies. Its awesome because I can connect to other women who are going through the same thing I am

      November 16, 2012 at 17:39 | Report abuse |
  11. biomed

    Studies show that the only factors able to predict if you will get stretch marks are: age, if your relatives got them, race, and drinking sufficient water (8+ glasses/day).

    Women under something like 23 have a higher chance of getting them, as do those with a mom or sister who got them, women with darker skin and women who drank only a few glasses of water a day.

    Coco butter does not work, according to controlled studies, nor did any other creams.

    I did use a special cream, rilastil, on my belly and got no stretch marks there, but I did get small white ones on my hips from the rapid weight loss while nursing. I hadn't used a cream then. I don't know if it did make a difference, but regardless you can barely see them. I bet it would have all turned out the same without the creams, but I did make a special effort to drink a lot of water while pregnant.

    March 12, 2011 at 14:36 | Report abuse | Reply
  12. Flora

    How about if you're black? On black people, stretch marks don't turn any colors as they grow – they start out a light tan & stay that way, making them stand out more. I have a lot of stretch marks from when I was young & plump, but the marks haven't gone anywhere – I look like I was mauled by a bear.

    March 12, 2011 at 17:20 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Ashley Gray

      hi Flora,I have had stretch marks for 12 years. check out http://www.stretchmarkblog.com. Its a support site for individuals who suffer from stretch marks. it has Blogs and home remedies. Its awesome because I can connect to other women who are going through the same thing I am

      November 16, 2012 at 17:40 | Report abuse |
  13. Heather

    My daughter gave me marks on the chest and my son gave me marks on my thighs. Thanks kids. 😉 Oddly, of all my imperfections, the stretch marks bother me least. I got my figure back and that's good enough for me. I always looked at the ads for mark removers dubiously and instead try to invest in bathing suits that cover where the marks are and show off the places where they missed. Now if only I could do something about the 11's between the eyes that stressing over the both of them have caused!

    March 12, 2011 at 18:02 | Report abuse | Reply
    • D

      Don't know if I would blame them for the 11s. I don't have any kids and I have those!

      March 13, 2011 at 18:08 | Report abuse |
  14. Austin

    I'm a 26 y/o 6'1" 190lb male,not overweight or a weightlifter - my doctors say it's just genetic and from having fair skin. I started getting them when I was 10 y/o when I hit puberty. Don't waste your time with creams - nothing works, once you get them they're there forever. It's a shame that doctors are so dismissive of this issue i don't think people realize that this is also a problem for men and that they're also physically painful - burning, itching, aching and extremely sensitive to touch. to say it's vanity is adding insult to injury - literally

    March 12, 2011 at 18:31 | Report abuse | Reply
  15. ravenous

    Essential fatty acids during pregnancy. Good for baby's brain, essential for momma's skin. Our fast food culture is starving for the good oils.

    March 12, 2011 at 22:35 | Report abuse | Reply
  16. christy

    I think every woman is different. My mother had 3 kids, and claims she never got stretch marks with any of us, and I've never seen any. But my sister got stretch marks with both of her kids. But I'm pregnant
    now, and use palmer's tummy butter only once a day and try to drink a good amount of water everyday, and haven't gotten a single stretch mark yet. Just because it didn't work for you doesn't mean it isn't gonna work for someone else. Stop being know-it-alls, people. And yeah, there's nothing wrong with wanting to look good. I'm proud of the fact that I haven't gotten any stretch marks yet. Its nice to be able to feel good about your self.

    March 13, 2011 at 04:05 | Report abuse | Reply
    • D

      Not sure if there is anything to be proud about. Just count yourself lucky.

      March 13, 2011 at 18:09 | Report abuse |
  17. SunflowerHW

    You might want to try a couple of aromatherapy products like Myrrh or Lavender.

    March 13, 2011 at 22:57 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Jujubeans

      they're not as much fun as a cocoa butter belly rub!

      March 14, 2011 at 13:44 | Report abuse |
  18. Vera

    An iPhone app that can save your life? That's right! The Breast Health GPS can locate the nearest mammogram screening center AND connect you to all the social networking sites of the Breast Health and Healing Foundation. It's the # 1 breast cancer app on iTunes! Take a look: http://itunes.apple.com/us/app/breast-health-gps/id361840350?mt=8

    March 14, 2011 at 00:07 | Report abuse | Reply
  19. LMR

    Eh, who cares? My 2 healthy, beautiful sons were worth every stretch mark.

    March 14, 2011 at 00:32 | Report abuse | Reply
  20. MoniInTheMiddle

    I would love to get rid of my stretch marks and so would many people on here especially those who claim people should give away their hard earned money to a charity who claims they do good for others. At the end of the day we really don't know where our money is going when it leave our hands. Like someone said earlier, would you be proud to walk around with a scar on your face? Probably not right. I bet they looked at this article because they secretly want to get rid of their stretch marks. Its not about being a proud parent because you love your kids or being too proud its about having pride in yourself and if you do care about what others think (which is NOT a bad thing because they can possibly be right if you see things from others point of view instead of having tunnel vision all the time) you present yourself as having taken very good care of yourself, in turn making people think if they were to become close to you, you would take very good care of the relationship. THINK!

    March 14, 2011 at 14:54 | Report abuse | Reply
  21. Helen

    I did not have a single stretch mark until I was 38-39weeks. I didn't drink a lot of water during 1 single week and got many stretch marks. Lotions increase elasticity but the real key is simply drinking enough water from the start of your pregnancy until your body gets relatively back to normal.

    March 18, 2011 at 19:40 | Report abuse | Reply
  22. charles s

    It might be possible to minimize or prevent stretch marks by using Vitamin C during pregnancy. Here is an article about a Dr Kenner who used Vitamin C with his pregnant patient and they experience minimize stretch marks: http://www.doctoryourself.com/vitaminc2.html

    March 28, 2011 at 21:25 | Report abuse | Reply
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    Woah! I'm really loving the template/theme of this site. It's simple, yet effective. A lot of times it's difficult to get that "perfect balance" between superb usability and visual appearance. I must say you've done a excellent job with this. Also, the blog loads super fast for me on Internet explorer. Outstanding Blog!

    July 14, 2011 at 11:16 | Report abuse | Reply
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    September 4, 2011 at 09:17 | Report abuse | Reply
  25. Nancy

    I suggest Belly Oil for those who cannot erase your stretched mark. Try to use and judge it by your self.

    September 28, 2011 at 07:11 | Report abuse | Reply
  26. Bialik

    I decided to test products on the newest stretch marks I had, which were also the worst ones I've ever had and was really looking forward to get rid of. They were bright red, quite long and deep.

    I've tried Avon stretch mark lotions, Mederma for stretch marks (which I hated and was over-priced), scar removal products, bio-oil, and plain cocoa butter lotions. None of those products worked, but Made from Earth's Aloe & Jojoba Creme Therapy seems to be doing well. I've used about 1/3 of the product (for almost 3 weeks now), trying to remember to use it twice a day but sometimes only once. The product itself has a light citrus fresh smell (which I'm thankful for, the Mederma one I used smelled strongly of hospital soap, ew.), it has a consistency of whipped butter, it's not oily.

    The reason I decided to review it is because I actually do notice a difference which obviously surprises me since I've tried SO many things. They're definitely not as bright red, more of a dull red. They're a lot softer and not as deep. Once I've finished with this container, I plan on getting another one. I really think the Aloe & Jojoba Creme Therapy was a worthwhile purchase. If you do decide to buy this, just remember to use it twice a day and stay patient. I really didn't notice a difference until almost 3 week's use, but the difference is obvious.

    November 8, 2011 at 23:20 | Report abuse | Reply
  27. Lisa Ann

    Its genetic, but you can help with drinking H2O, moisturizing, and keeping weight down but Nothing will change your genes J21 Skin. Natural oils help soak in better so use natural oils & body butters

    January 24, 2012 at 01:10 | Report abuse | Reply
  28. stretch marks lotions

    It's actually a nice and helpful piece of information. I'm glad that you shared this useful info with us. Please keep us up to date like this. Thanks for sharing.

    June 20, 2012 at 02:21 | Report abuse | Reply
  29. sheridan

    This is good to know. I have tried everything from Burt’s Bees but way to oily. I’ve tried every product too at Wholefoods almost. I do the at home facial with the Riiviva Microdermabrasion tool for my acne scarring and it’s terrific. It is here at http://www.riiviva.com.

    Do you have any recommendations as to what avenue to take for moisture without all the oily residue that happens when I use oils. Thanks

    July 12, 2012 at 14:57 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Ashley Gray

      Sheridan, I have had stretch marks for 12 years. check out http://www.stretchmarkblog.com. Its a support site for individuals who suffer from stretch marks. it has Blogs and home remedies. Its awesome because I can connect to other women who are going through the same thing I am

      November 16, 2012 at 17:35 | Report abuse |
  30. Ashley Gray

    I have had stretch marks for 12 years. check out http://www.stretchmarkblog.com. Its a support site for individuals who suffer from stretch marks. it has Blogs and home remedies. Its awesome because I can connect to other women who are going through the same thing I am.

    November 16, 2012 at 17:33 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Brenda Martonfi

      There is a treatment that remove completely the stretch marks at 100% http://www.bio-stria.com

      October 1, 2016 at 21:56 | Report abuse |
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    I have to examine with you here, which isn't one thing I normally do http://dsrhrjr.webs.com/apps

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  32. Cristie Norr

    Stretch marks don't look the same on everyone. The appearance of stretch marks depends on the color of your skin; they can start out pink, reddish brown, brown, or dark brown, and fade over time to a more silvery color.^,-.

    Catch you around

    July 5, 2013 at 22:17 | Report abuse | Reply
  33. Dona Yovino

    Research has focused on the early stages of stretch marks, when they are still red or purple and most readily respond to treatment, Baumann explains. Once stretch marks pass the initial stage, when they are red or purple, to the later stages, where they become white or silver - often with deep indentations - they are much more challenging to treat.**`,

    Catch ya later <http://www.healthdigest101.com

    July 5, 2013 at 22:18 | Report abuse | Reply
  34. Tami

    I used the spoiled mama stretch mark butter called tummy butter and bump gloss stretch mark oil with both pregnancies. I didn't get any stretch marks with either pregnancy!! It is kinda pricey but I googled a coupon and got 10% off and free shipping. I swear by this product and if ur not happy they claim to have a money back guarantee.

    July 7, 2013 at 23:14 | Report abuse | Reply
  35. NY Mama

    My husband is a weight lifting athlete – and he had some stretch marks on his shoulders from lifting too much. He was using the Dr Max Powers Stretch Mark treatment and it helped him.

    I called the company to ask if it was safe for women to use – and to my surprise it was! And it had all these organic ingredients in. Well, as a mother of three, I started using the Dr Max Powers Cream on my stretch marks and after 1 jar, I am starting to see them diminish. I am going to buy the 3 pack now and will post my results.

    I thought it was just for men, but it worked great on my stomach stretch marks after 3 kids! Yay!

    September 7, 2013 at 11:02 | Report abuse | Reply
  36. Sandy

    It is always good to remember to moisturizing during the drastic weight changes. The body needs to be elastic so it can morph into the new shape instead of tear because it can not stretch enough.

    May 8, 2014 at 10:26 | Report abuse | Reply
  37. Natalie

    I had 2 children almost back to back and ended up getting the bright purple/red stretch marks. I had tried other creams and either they would make me break out into a rash or simply didn't work at all. Since using dermelastic serum they are no longer bright purple or red, they have faded and are less visible.

    October 5, 2017 at 05:42 | Report abuse | Reply
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