Some people consider long, narrow lines, streaks and stripes on their abdomen to be a badge of courage, honouring the weight they’ve gained and lost, often during pregnancy. Others are eager to have them erased by whatever means possible, including surgery.

Costhetics wants everyone to know there is no such thing as stretch mark removal surgery per se. (We’ll explain why in a minute.) There is, on the other hand, a growing menu of aesthetic interventions that can minimise their appearance.

Before we get to the solution, however, let’s start with understanding the problem.

Who Gets Stretch Marks?

Stretch marks (or striae distensae, as doctors like to call them) are a totally normal and common occurrence.

  • 90% of pregnant women get stretch marks
  • 70% of women who are not mothers have stretch marks
  • Men get stretch marks
  • Teenagers get stretch marks

You may be surprised to learn that supermodels like Chrissy Tiegen frequently have stretch marks, too. “You don’t get six feet tall during puberty without having stretch marks,” a professional photoshopper explained to Refinery29.

Though ubiquitous, stretch marks do pass over some people. Why? Fluctuating hormone levels may be a factor. You may also have a higher risk if people you have a family history of stretch marks.

Why Do I have Stretch Marks?

Stretch marks can appear due to life changes including:

  • Puberty
  • Pregnancy
  • Adolescent growth spurt
  • Topical steroid use
  • Weight loss
  • Weight gain

When you experience a dramatic change in your weight or height, the collagen that gives skin its structure can’t be produced fast enough to provide the support your new, growing skin needs. At first, stretch marks are quite colourful, presenting in a range of tones from red to purple, pink, reddish brown, and dark brown. They may also be raised and feel itchy.

Over time, the colours disappear, and the raised banks of skin sink back. It stretches in linear and/or patchy ways, becoming thin and more translucent. The translucency highlights irregularities in colour, texture and integrity between the stretched skin and non-stretched skin.

The result are the visible lines we call stretch marks or as Parents Magazine dubbed them, “permanent scars under the skin.”

See Your Doctor for Stretch Mark Relief

You can’t remove a scar by creating a scar, which is what would happen if you approached stretch marks surgically. What is possible is to:

  • Return colour to the background of the skin
  • Promote collagen growth and reduce the appearance of the stretch mark

The aisles of Woolies and other stores are filled with stretch mark creams, exfoliants, and serums. Whether or not they work for you is a matter of trial and error. It can be an expensive process. As an alternative, Costhetics recommends that you visit a doctor. A professional can assess your problem and let you know whether an over-the-counter product should be sufficient for your needs or if a more advanced treatment is a better option.

Unlike the advice you get from a salesperson, the aesthetic treatment your doctor recommends will be predicated on your unique skin type and stretch marks. In some cases, they may suggest you combine treatments for optimal success. Options include:

To borrow briefly from The Rolling Stones: “You can’t always get what you want,” when it comes to reducing the appearance of visible stretch marks. But if you try sometime (and ask a doctor) you just may find, you get what you need.”

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