Do Stretch Marks Go Away? (2024)

Stretch marks (striae) are areas of the skin that look like lines or stripes. They are scars that form when the skin is stretched quickly, such as during pregnancy, with rapid weight gain or loss, puberty, or intense weight training and muscle growth. They can also result from certain diseases.

Stretch marks often appear on the breasts, hips, thighs, buttocks, abdomen, and low back. These marks are scars and never disappear completely.

This article discusses the causes and most effective treatment options for stretch marks.

Do Stretch Marks Go Away? (1)

What to Know About Pregnancy Stretch Marks

What Do Stretch Marks Look Like?

Stretch marks often appear reddish brown, dark brown, red, purple, or pink, depending on skin color. They can be slightly raised and often feel itchy. Over time, stretch marks fade into whitish-grayish scars and sink into the skin.

Do Stretch Marks Go Away?

Stretch marks do not go away completely. They are scars that can fade over time but do not disappear.

Stretch marks occur when the skin is overstretched quickly. When this happens, the protein that makes up the tissue in the skin (collagen) ruptures. As it heals, stretch marks form.

Certain disorders may cause stretch marks over time. They include:

  • Cushing’s syndrome: A condition causing the body to produce a high level of the hormone cortisol
  • Ehlers-Danlos syndrome: A group of hereditary disorders that can cause very stretchy skin
  • Marfan syndrome: A genetic disorder affecting the body’s connective tissues

Factors That (Might) Affect Stretch Mark Healing

Many people with stretch marks are eager to find ways to make them heal faster. While there are some treatment options, the healing process can be slow, and it’s helpful to understand which factors are affecting it.

Red Stretch Marks: Everything You Need to Know

Cause

The cause of your stretch marks can determine how quickly they fade. Stretch marks are common after rapid weight gain, as the extra weight stretches the skin.

Up to 90% of pregnant people experience stretch marks. For most of them, the marks begin to fade after they give birth. If you develop stretch marks after rapid weight gain, the marks will likely fade if you experience weight loss.

Time

Perhaps the most effective treatment for stretch marks is time. Like any type of scar, stretch marks naturally fade over time.

Stretch Mark Formation

Stretch marks form when the skin is stretched very quickly. When this happens, the skin goes through a rapid change in collagen and elastin, the proteins that make up the skin. The overstretching of the skin causes these proteins to rupture. Then as the skin begins to heal, stretch marks appear.

Pregnancy is a common time for stretch marks because of rapid weight gain and fluctuating hormone levels. Your risk of experiencing stretch marks is higher if these marks run in your family.

Ways to Care for Stretch Marks

While stretch marks will never disappear completely, there are ways to care for them and make them appear less noticeable. It is important to note that many products claim to remove stretch marks without any evidence.

Research shows that home remedies, including almond oil, cocoa butter, olive oil, and vitamin E, do not affect stretch marks. The products that have been proven to affect stretch marks include:

  • Hyaluronic acid: Apply it to early stretch marks to make them less noticeable.
  • Tretinoin cream: Massage this retinoid into stretch marks every night for several weeks.

Talk to your healthcare provider before treating stretch marks during pregnancy or while nursing. Many products contain retinol, which is unsafe for your baby.

Medical Treatment Options

Some people are best served by seeking care from a dermatologist, a medical doctor specializing in skin disorders. Possible dermatologist treatment options may include:

  • Laser therapy
  • Microdermabrasion
  • Chemical peel
  • Ultrasound
  • Microneedling

Possible side effects of these medical treatments include redness and swelling at the site.

In the past, people believed that tanning was an effective treatment for stretch marks. Dermatologists do not recommend tanning because it raises the risk of skin cancer. It also does not treat stretch marks.

Tanning makes your skin darker but does not darken stretch marks. This makes them more noticeable.A self-tanning product darkens your skin and stretch marks, so trying a topical tanning product may be helpful.

Prevention

It is often not possible to prevent stretch marks. If you can avoid rapid weight gain, this will lower your risk of stretch marks.

When you gain weight rapidly, such as during pregnancy, using a quality moisturizer daily can help prevent itching at the site. However, there are no proven ways to prevent stretch marks completely.

Many over-the-counter products that claim to treat stretch marks do not work. Research shows that almond oil, cocoa butter, olive oil, and vitamin E do not affect the appearance of stretch marks. Products that contain centella (a natural herb) or hyaluronic acid may sometimes prevent stretch marks.

Learning to Live With Stretch Marks

Stretch marks are natural and affect many people for a variety of reasons. It’s important to note that even though they are common, stretch marks bother many people.

It is OK to admit that you don’t love your stretch marks, and it’s helpful to remember that stretch marks will fade over time. Many people can benefit from focusing on all the things that their bodies can do rather than the things they don’t like.

If you continue to struggle with feelings about your appearance or sense of self, meeting with a mental health provider may be helpful to learn new tools and resources.

Summary

Stretch marks look like lines or stripes on the skin. Depending on your skin color, they may appear reddish brown, dark brown, red, purple, or pink. They are usually slightly raised from the skin and may feel itchy.Stretch marks form when the skin is overstretched quickly, for example, during pregnancy, from rapid weight gain, in puberty, and from intense weight training.

Stretch marks tend to fade over time but will not disappear completely. Many over-the-counter products claim to treat stretch marks but are not effective. See your healthcare provider or dermatologist for the best treatment options for you.

8 Sources

Verywell Health uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.

  1. MedlinePlus. Stretch marks.

  2. American Academy of Dermatology. Stretch marks: Why they appear and how to get rid of them.

  3. Nemours TeensHealth. Stretch marks (for teens).

  4. Korgavkar K, Wang F. Stretch marks during pregnancy: a review of topical prevention. Br J Dermatol. 2015;172(3):606-615. doi:10.1111/bjd.13426

  5. Office on Women’s Health. Body changes and discomforts.

  6. Ud-Din S, McGeorge D, Bayat A. Topical management of striae distensae (stretch marks): prevention and therapy of striae rubrae and albae. J Eur Acad Dermatol Venereol. 2016;30(2):211-222. doi:10.1111/jdv.13223

  7. Hague A, Bayat A. Therapeutic targets in the management of striae distensae: A systematic review. J Am Acad Dermatol. 2017;77(3):559-568.e18. doi:10.1016/j.jaad.2017.02.048

  8. American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists. What causes stretch marks during pregnancy?.

Do Stretch Marks Go Away? (2)

By Carrie Madormo, RN, MPH
Madormo is a health writer with over a decade of experience as a registered nurse. She has worked in pediatrics, oncology, chronic pain, and public health.

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