stretch marks
Photo: Harper’s BAZAAR

Question: What causes stretch marks and how do you prevent and erase them?

Answer: According to dermatologist Dr. Macrene Alexaides-Armenakas, stretch marks, superficial scars that can develop any time the dermis layer of the skin is torn, are most often associated with the rapid growth spurts (muscle or weight related) and high hormonal levels that occur during pregnancy (about 90% of women will get them sometime after their sixth or seventh month of pregnancy), puberty and bodybuilding.

When it comes to preventing stretch marks, there are a few approaches—gain weight consistently rather than abruptly and avoid excessive exercise and quick bulking up of the muscles, eat a diet complete with the components necessary for wound healing (fatty acids, protein and all vitamins) and apply vitamin E cream to the skin daily—but unfortunately, “we do not have good science to substantiate them,” says Dr. Macrene.

While stretch mark creams and lotions won’t erase existing scars, they can deliver key ingredients that stimulate collagen synthesis and may make scarring less noticeable over time. Look for ones with vitamin C, proline, copper-peptides and ATP. However, your best bet for treating red, or active, stretch marks is with in-office treatments using a pulsed dye laser. “It won’t work if the marks are old and no longer red,” says Dr. Macrene, “but if you catch stretch marks early, you can completely reverse them and prevent scarring or permanence in one to three monthly treatments usually.”

From: Harper’s BAZAAR US