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Stretch marks in pregnancy:

Up to 90% of women develop stretch marks during pregnancy – as the abdomen expands in size causing stretching of the skin.
By Dr Kristie
Date: November 18 2011
Editor Rating:

Although stretch marks are most common in pregnant women, they can be a problem for anyone who experiences a rapid change in weight. Understandably, most women would like to see those ugly red lines disappear so they can wear a two-piece again. Are there ways to safely remove stretch marks after pregnancy?

What Causes Stretch Marks?

The official name for stretch marks is striae distensae - and the marks are sometimes called skin striae. The exact cause of skin striae isn’t known – although it probably involves damage to the collagen and elastin fibers in the dermis that support the skin and give it its resiliency. In pregnant women, a combination of pregnancy hormones and stretching as the abdomen expands contributes to the damage that leads to stretch marks or striae.

Can You Remove Stretch Marks After Pregnancy?

Many women use creams that contain cocoa butter or vitamin E oil to treat skin striae – but there’s not a lot of evidence that these treatments work. The most effective way to remove stretch marks after pregnancy is to use prescription strength retinoids such as Retin-A. In a study, a one percent Tretinoin cream not only improved the appearance of stretch marks, but also increased elastin production in the dermal layer of the skin.

Using Retin-A to Treat Stretch Marks

For Retina-A to be effective for treating stretch marks, it needs to be used immediately after pregnancy before the stretch mark has time to mature. The success rate drops significantly once the stretch mark changes in color from pink to white - which is usually within the first three months. Prescription retinoid creams such as Retin-A are one of the only topical treatments that have been shown to work – although creams containing glycolic acid and vitamin C also have some potential for treating skin striae.

A Final Way to Remove Stretch Marks after Pregnancy

If all else fails, dermabrasion or laser treatments may lighten skin striae – but it may take more than one session. It’s risky to do laser treatments on people with deeply pigmented skin since it can lead to skin discoloration.

The Bottom Line?

Retin-A may be the best option for lightening stretch marks, but it’s important to use it before the stretch mark fully matures to get good results. If retinoids don’t solve the problem, laser treatments are an option for lighter skinned people, although they can be expensive.


Cosmetic Dermatology: Principles and Practices. Leslie Baumann M.D. page 140.

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