best stretch marks removal treatments

How do you remove stretch marks? The unsightly streaks are like pimples. They appear at the worst of times. Like puberty. I had finally managed to shed off the extra pounds I had put off during a couple of rough years at school (don’t ask), only to have my excitement ruined by the unsightly stretch marks that now graced my thighs and bum. Or pregnancy. It’s one of the most magical moments of your life, but the stretch marks are almost a done deal that makes new mums feel super self-conscious.

It’s easy to say stretch marks are not a big deal. In the grand scheme of things they aren’t. I’d take stretch marks over being fired any day, for example. But for years, stretch marks affected my confidence so much, I refused to wear miniskirts or – heaven forbid! – a bikini at the beach. Heck, I avoided the beach completely. Sad, I know.

These days, things are different. It took a lot of time, tears, and compassion, but I’m finally comfortable with my body – stretch marks and all. But I’d lie if I said I wouldn’t jump at the chance to get rid of them (because you can be ok with something and still not want it in your life). Is it possible? Can you really remove stretch marks completely and get your smooth skin back or can you only improve their appearance somewhat? Let’s find out:

What Are Stretch Marks?

First things first: what are stretch marks? (Cos you can’t fight an enemy if you don’t even know what it is). Stretch marks are a type of scarring. They’re very easy to recognise. They look like long, narrow streaks (or lines) and can be pink, red, brown, black, silver or purple.

When stretch marks first appear, they tend to be red, purple, pink, reddish-brown, or dark brown, depending on your skin colour,” says Dr Anastasia Therianou, consultant dermatologist. “With time, the colour fades and the narrow bands sink beneath your skin.”

Anyone can develop stretch marks, but they’re common in women. 90% of us have it, ladies. You’re definitely not alone. They’re also more common in certain areas:

  • Breasts
  • Bottom
  • Chest
  • Hips
  • Thighs
  • Upper arm

What Causes Stretch Marks?

You wanna know the real reason stretch marks are so hard to remove? No one knows what’s causing them… All we know is that stretch marks appear during periods of sudden growth or weight gain, such as:

  • Pregnancy
  • Puberty (because your life doesn’t suck enough already…)
  • Steroid therapy
  • Sudden weight gain
  • Sudden weight loss

Stretch marks can also be a result of certain diseases, like anorexia, tuberculosis, and Cushing’s disease (a condition characterised by too much cortisol in your body). Oh, genetics play a part, too.

Need help creating an anti-aging routine that really works? Sign up to the newsletter below to receive the “Anti-Aging Skincare Routine Cheatsheet” (it includes product recommendations, too!).

How Do You Develop Stretch Marks?

Stretch marks develop when skin is stretched too quickly and pulled too far in opposite directions.

Skin is usually pretty elastic. Thanks elastin for that. It’s a protein that makes sure your skin bounces back after you pull it. But just like an elastic band snaps with overuse, elastin production is disrupted when skin is overstretched.

That’s exactly what rapid weight gain or loss does to your skin. The elastin in your skin snaps, giving you stretch marks. It all happens in the deepest layers of your skin, so you don’t get a cut or bruise. You see, your skin has three layers:

  • Epidermis: The most superficial layer of your skin (the one you see).
  • Dermis: The second layer of your skin, where most of your collagen and elastin proteins reside.
  • Hypodermis: The lowermost layer of your skin, it’s mainly used for fat storage.

When there’s a tear in your dermis layer, the Hypodermis is literally poking through to the top layer of your skin and becomes visible. That’s a stretch mark.

Why Are Stretch Marks Often Purple?

Have you noticed that when stretch marks first appear, they’re often a bright purple colour? There’s a reason for that. Remember when I told you stretch marks are bits of Hypodermis showing through the fracture in the dermis? The Hypodermis is full of blood vessels. Blood is red.

It’s a bit like getting a cut, only with no pain or blood flowing out of the wound. You just get a glimpse of what’s underneath the surface. “Purple stretch marks typically indicate that they are relatively new or recent,” says Alexandra Mills, cosmetic nurse and owner of AM Aesthetics. “When stretch marks first develop, they often appear as red or purple marks on the skin. The purple hue is a result of inflammation and increased blood flow in the affected area, and this discolouration is due to the underlying blood vessels being more visible in the early stages.”

As time passes, and your stretch marks get old, that bright red colour turns to silver. Why? Silver is the colour of scars. That’s just what’s happening to your skin now. (FYI, as their colour fades, stretch marks can also be pink, purple, white…).

Fun fact: bright red stretch marks are easier to treat than silvery/white streaks. Makes sense. The older they are, the harder the scar removal job.

cellulite is normal - get over it

Can You Prevent Stretch Marks?

Stretch marks are so hard to treat, it’s better to prevent them when you can. But can you? The internet is full of stretch marks prevention treatments that are supposed to keep these reddish stripes off your skin. Let’s take a look at some of them:

Can Coconut Oil, Bio Oil, Etc Prevent Stretch Marks?

Words on that street is that anything moisturising can prevent stretch marks. Like coconut oil. Bio Oil. All kinds of oils. Or hyaluronic acid creams like Alphastria. Common sense says that if you keep your skin well-moisturised, you can prevent tears and stretch marks.

Science isn’t on board yet. Truth is, there is no proof anything – moisturising or not – works. Studies tested, as a preventative measure during pregnancy:

  • Alphastria
  • Cocoa butter
  • Olive oil
  • Trofolastin
  • Verum

The results? “There was no statistically significant average difference in the development of stretch marks in women who received topical preparations with active ingredients compared to women who received a placebo or no treatment.”

Other studies are a bit more positive. There is some small evidence that Alphastria and Trofolastin may be onto something:

If you know you’re going to gain or lose a lot of weight fast, using Alphastria or Trofolastin to prevent stretch marks is your best bet. But they don’t work in 100% of cases. Makes sense: stretch marks happen deep within your skin and most moisturising substances simply can’t penetrate that deeply. Give them a try, but don’t get too bummed out if they don’t work.

Related: The Complete Guide To Hyaluronic Acid: What It Is, What It Does, And How To Use It

stretch marks

How To Remove Stretch Marks

There’s no magical cure that’ll remove stretch marks completely. “Redness in new stretch marks will generally turn pale white with time, but once the damage is done, it’s done,” says aesthetic doctor Dr David Jack. But, there are some treatments that can help reduce them. Let’s take a look at them:

Can Laser Treatments Remove Stretch Marks?

Although there are no miracle cures for stretch marks, lasers are your best bet in fading them somewhat. So what types of lasers work best at removing stretch marks? There are two main types: Ablative remodelling lasers and non-ablative lasers.


Ablative lasers use intense wavelengths of light to destroy the upper layers of your skin. In doing so, they trigger your body to produce new skin that’s smoother and brighter. The most common types of ablative lasers include fractional CO2 lasers, Fraxel Re:Pair, and Erbium YAG. These types of lasers are quite intense. That has both pros and cons. On the plus side, you need fewer sessions (one to 3) to see results. On the downside, they can be painful, cause swelling, inflammation, and peeling, and require a week of downtime to fully recover.


Non-ablative lasers use precise wavelengths of light to emit heat into the lower layers of your skin. This damages skin, triggering the production of skin-repairing collagen. Popular non-ablative lasers include Nd:YAG lasers, Icon 1540 Fractional Laser, and pulsed-dye lasers. They’re less painful and require only 1 to 3 days of downtime. But you’ll need more sessions (around 5 to 8) a month apart to see visible results.


Before you invest in lasers, talk to your dermatologist to find out which is the best option for you. Also, darker skin tones may not be able to use lasers at all. Some lasers cause dark spots – you don’t want to trade one problem for another.

Can Microdermabrasion Remove Stretch Marks?

Microdermabrasion is an exfoliating procedure that uses fine crystals and a vacuum to remove dead skin cells. There’s some evidence it’s as effective as Tretinoin to reduce stretch marks. Amazing, right? Not so fast…

There’s a catch… or two…

First off, you need at least 5 sessions A WEEK for 12 weeks! That’s a lot of exfoliation – and highly likely to cause irritation, dryness, and even redness and pain. But even if you were to agree to this torture, what do you get in return?

The main improvement from the study was fading away the reddish-purple marks (striae rubra). These fade away overtime on their own – and leave the unsightly white stretch marks behind! Ok, ok, even those with white stretch marks saw an improvement, but it wasn’t the miracle cure magazines tout it to be. It’s up to you to determine if the aggressiveness of the treatment is worth the small improvement.

Can Peels Remove Stretch Marks?

Peels are high intensity exfoliating treatments that remove several layers of dead cells from your skin. Which ones are best? Studies show that daily application of 20% glycolic acid can improve the appearance of stretch marks a little. But in this study, they were used together with L-Ascorbic Acid (Vitamin C) and tretinoin, so it’s not clear how well glycolic acid works alone. Plus, that’s a big dose that’s likely to cause redness and irritations.

Trichloroacetic acid peels are an alternative too. Monthly 15-20% diluted TA peels can improve both the texture and colour of stretch marks. They penetrate deeper into the skin than Glycolic acid, so they work better. But, again, these high concentration should be administered by a professional. Don’t use them at home on your own!

Can Prescription Retinoids Remove Stretch Marks?

Retinoids are forms of Vitamin A. The most common ones in cosmetics are retinol, retinaldehye, and granactive retinoid. They’re strong enough to reduce wrinkles somewhat, but too weak to get rid of stretch marks. For that, you need the pure form of Vitamin A, retinoic acid, a.k.a. Tretinoin. It’s so powerful (and harsh!), it’s available by prescription only.

Studies show that applying a 0.1% concentration every day for 6 months “reduced length and width of SD [stretch marks]… No significant difference in dermal collagen and elastic fibres in treatment compared to placebo.” Even then, it works only on new stretch marks. FYI, lower concentration of Tretinoin didn’t work as well. That makes it unlikely that OTC retinol creams and serums help with stretch marks, too. Tretinoin is also NOT suitable for pregnant women. It causes birth defects in mice, so stay away (that includes during breastfeeding, too).

Can Massage Treat Stretch Marks?

Word on the street is that massaging therapy is a good treatment for stretch marks. The source? Masseuses. Anyone selling a massage will tell you this, but I have yet to come across any scientific proof massage therapy does anything for stretch marks. Why? Again, stretch marks is the result of broken elastic deep under your skin – and no amount of massage can fix that.

I’d also caution against abdominal area during pregnancy. If the masseuse applies too much pressure on your belly, it may negatively affect your baby. If you want to try it, be sure to speak to your doctor for the kind of massage that is most appropriate and safest for you.

Can Derma Rollers Treat Stretch Marks?

Dermal rollers are small devices with multiple needles that pierce the skin as you roll it over it. Why would you want to do that? When you wound your skin, your body produces extra collagen to repair it. So it follows that, if you can control the wounding of the skin and its subsequent healing process, you can heal the stretch marks and get your smooth skin back.

That’s the theory. In practice, there’s no proof that derma rollers can treat stretch marks. Plus, I’m not a fan of wounding skin unnecessarily. The truth is, there’s no guarantee skin will heal the way you want it – and the more damage you inflict to it, the higher the chances something may go wrong. This is why I don’t recommend derma rollers for nothing, not even wrinkles. There are better (and safer!) treatments out there.

How To Reduce The Appearance Of Stretch Marks

If you can’t get rid of stretch marks, what can you do to get rid of them? Hide them. Here are a few options:

  • Concealer: Just like you’d hide a pimple or a brown spot, you can use concealer to cover up the stretch mark and make it look less obvious. Use a body foundation, like MAC Studio Face And Body Foundation ($42.00). It provides medium to full coverage to hide any imperfections and comes in 11 shades (including white!), so most people can find a good match. Available at Boots, Look Fantastic, MAC Cosmetics and Ulta
  • Exercise: When your body is toned, skin looks smoother and less bumpy. It doesn’t really matter what type of exercise you do. Dance, running, tennis… Just get that body moving, baby!

I know, I wish there were better options, too! But the best thing you can do is to accept your stretch marks. Almost every woman has them – even Angelina Jolie! Remember: you are NOT your stretch marks. You’re so much more than that. You’re smart. You’re funny. You’re kind. You’re caring. You’re an unique human being with skills, passions, and traits no one else has. Celebrate ALL that you are. Stretch marks or not, you ARE beautiful.

Will Stretch Marks Fade?

Stretch marks will fade colour overtime. But there’s no cure for them or any treatment that will prevent them for sure. The best you can do is keep your skin toned and moisturised and embrace your stretch marks for what they are: an annoying fact of life that aren’t worth thinking about.

The Bottom Line

Once your stretch marks appear, you can’t remove them completely. You can use microdermabrasion, lasers, peels, and prescription Tretinoin to help reduce their appearance, and concealer and exercise to make them look less visible. Whatever you do, love your body the way it is. You are beautiful, stretch marks or not.