Stretch marks, also called striae, happen when your skin changes shape rapidly due to growth or weight gain. They usually aren’t a sign that anything is wrong with your health.
Anyone can get stretch marks, regardless of gender. Pregnancy and puberty are the two most common times in life to get them.
At first, a stretch mark will appear as a thin red or purple line of a different texture than the skin around it. Most stretch marks will fade on their own over time.
They may become less noticeable after fading. Faded stretch marks usually look lighter in color than the surrounding skin and a little shiny, like a scar.
Research tells us there is no secret cure-all ingredient for stretch marks — at least not yet. However, some home remedies can help minimize the appearance of stretch marks and could help them fade more quickly.
Newer stretch marks are more likely to respond to treatment.
1. Vitamin A
Vitamin A in skin care products is referred to as a retinoid. Retinoids can make skin appear smoother and more youthful. They’re used in most over-the-counter (OTC) cosmetic creams.
Vitamin A products can sometimes irritate the skin, so it’s best to follow instructions carefully if you try this ingredient. Because there are known risks to using retinoids during pregnancy, you should not use them if you are:
- trying to become pregnant
2. Hyaluronic acid
Hyaluronic acid is a powerful ingredient for moisturizing and skin healing. It’s often used in creams, lotions, and serums.
The visible appearance of stretch marks comes along with invisible changes to your skin. These changes make skin less elastic, in part because collagen isn’t doing its usual job of strengthening the skin.
Hyaluronic acid could have the potential to affect skin elasticity, according to a 2014 study Trusted Source.
In fact, some research from 2017 suggests that hyaluronic acid can improve the appearance of stretch marks, though more research is needed to be sure. To try it, apply a hyaluronic acid product to the affected area each day.
Centella asiatica is an herb that’s a popular ingredient in Korean beauty (K-beauty) products.
Known as cica creams, products containing centella are sometimes used as scar treatments or to help calm and repair sensitive skin. Cica creams are growing in popularity in the United States, but they can be pricey.
Centella helps reduce inflammation and promote collagen production. Research from 2015Trusted Source suggested that creams containing centella may help prevent stretch marks during pregnancy and improve how they look. But the researchers cautioned that more evidence is still needed.
Sugar is a popular exfoliator. The small crystals gently scrub away dead skin and leave you feeling smoother.
Microdermabrasion performed by a dermatologist is one of the few clinically proven methods to make stretch marks fade. So, this home remedy for exfoliation seems worth a try. You might already have the ingredients at home.
To make a sugar scrub:
- Combine 1/2 cup sugar with a softening agent, like almond oil or coconut oil. Mix the oil into the sugar, a little at a time. Your scrub is ready when it looks like wet beach sand. You may need to add up to 1/2 cup oil in total.
- Gently rub the mixture over the part of your body where the stretch marks are.
- Repeat 2 or 3 times per week while in the shower or bath. Rinse with warm water.
Make small batches of the scrub as needed. You can store your sugar scrub in a sealed container for a short time, but if it starts to look or smell off, start fresh with a new batch.
5. Aloe vera
Aloe vera has a long history as a natural skin treatment. The jelly from inside the leaves of the aloe vera plant can be applied directly to the skin to soothe and moisturize.
Research from 2018 suggests that aloe vera helps skin heal from burns and wounds. Because stretch marks are a type of scarring from damaged skin, aloe’s skin-repairing properties might help with stretch mark prevention or fading.
While little clinical evidence exists for aloe vera as a stretch mark cure, pure aloe vera may be worth trying because it can soften and heal skin.
Apply pure aloe vera from a plant or an OTC product to your stretch marks daily after your shower.
6. Coconut oil
Virgin coconut oil has some known benefits for the skin. It can help maintain your skin’s protective barrier.
There’s not a lot of evidence to promote the use of coconut oil for stretch marks. Research on other plant oils (olive oil, almond oil, and cocoa butter) hasn’t shown any improvement from their use.
That said, it’s possible that the action of gently massaging an oil onto your skin could prevent stretch marks. A gentle daily massage of your stretch marks with coconut oil might help, and it’s not likely to cause harm.
Of course, if you’re allergic to coconut, you’ll want to avoid this ingredient.
Keep in mind that any skin care treatment can occasionally cause allergies or sensitivities. This includes home remedies and natural approaches. So, if you notice a reaction, stop using the ingredient.
Other Medical treatments for stretch marks:
Medical procedures for stretch marks are delivered in-office by trained professionals. You will likely be treated by a doctor — a dermatologist, cosmetic surgeon, or plastic surgeon — or a licensed professional, depending on what state you’re located in, the procedure, and the possible risks.
It’s best to have realistic expectations about the results. Even medical treatments can’t fully erase or prevent stretch marks.
7. Laser therapy
Lasers deliver focused light to the skin. Depending on what kind of laser is used, treatment could have the potential to increase collagen production and help stretch marks fade to blend in with the surrounding skin, 2017 research suggestsTrusted Source. Some laser treatments require multiple sessions before you’ll see effects.
Microdermabrasion involves exfoliating the skin in a way that at-home remedies can’t. Using a handheld wand, a professional applies an abrasive substance to your skin to gently scrub away dead skin cells.
Research on microdermabrasion for stretch marks is limited, but a 2017 research review Trusted Source suggests it may reduce the severity of the marks.
Microneedling uses a device that creates tiny pricks in the skin. This treatment causes the skin to produce collagen and elastin, which could help loose skin appear tighter.
Unlike at-home tools, in-office microneedling goes deeper into your skin to target the skin’s healing function more effectively and more safely, according to the Food and Drug Administration (FDA)Trusted Source.
Microneedling is a minimally invasive way to treat the texture of stretch marks, even older ones, and may help to even out skin tone.
10. Radiofrequency therapy
Radiofrequency treatments send energy waves into your skin that stimulate collagen production. The result can be firmer skin.
Recently, radiofrequency treatments have been combined with microneedling treatments in order to send the energy waves even deeper into the skin. The needle penetrates the skin and releases radiofrequency into the channels, stimulating deeper layers of collagen, per 2019 researchTrusted Source.
Additional research from 2019Trusted Source indicates that radiofrequency therapy may improve the look of stretch marks, but more studies are still needed to understand how it compares to other available treatments.
11. Chemical peel
Chemical peels involve the application of an acid, such as glycolic acid, to the skin’s surface. Professional chemical peels are more powerful than at-home versions and are applied in-office.
Peels provide a deep exfoliation of the skin and promote collagen production, per a 2018 reviewTrusted Source. This may help make stretch marks look smaller, but the available evidence is limited.
In general, clinical procedures are more effective than home remedies for stretch marks. But these procedures aren’t typically covered by insurance, and they can be costly.
Not all options are appropriate for all skin types, so it’s important to consult a dermatologist to find out which one is right for you.
Stretch marks can happen to anyone, but some people are more likely than others to get them. Genetics is one of the strongest predictors. If people you’re related to have stretch marks, you’re likely to develop them, too.
Pregnancy is a common cause of stretch marks. Research published in 2015 suggests that up to 90 percentTrusted Source of pregnant people will develop stretch marks.
Other risk factors include:
- using a corticosteroid medication
- losing or gaining weight rapidly
- having breast enlargement surgery
- increasing muscle size rapidly, for example through bodybuilding
Remember that stretch marks are common. The changes that can cause stretch marks — such as growth spurts, weight changes, and pregnancy — happen to many people.
There is no perfect home remedy, but topical treatments can help with hydration and can promote your skin’s healing processes. For both natural treatments and medical procedures, more research is needed to clarify what’s most effective and who they are most likely to help.
If you’re treating stretch marks due to pregnancy, it’s always best to check with your doctor to ensure the treatment is safe to use.
Almost all stretch marks will fade over time, even if you don’t treat them. Rarely will stretch marks stay as prominent as when they first appear.