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Stretch Marks – Magical Solutions??

Stretch marks are scars that occur, usually as a result of pregnancy, when the skin stretches enough to cause tearing within the deepest layers of skin. New stretch marks are usually pink or red before they fade to white, though they never completely disappear. But some women are more prone, expecially those that gain weight rapidly and carry multiple or big babies.

Many women attribute a lack of post-pregnancy stretch marks to body cream. Whether used to ease the itching associated with stretching or in an effort to keep stretch marks at bay, moisturizers certainly feel good. But, medically speaking, there is no topical cream or anti-stretch mark product that has been proven to have any benefit, despite claims to effectiveness that are often wildly exaggerated and not substantiated by any scientific evidence. Despite unproven benefits, there is certainly no harm to using moisturizing as prevention. Balms that are blends of oils and butters keep skin supple as it stretches. Since it is being used in pregnant women, the topical agent should be composed of natural products that are unscented.

Once present, repairing stretch marks likewise remains an enigma. Many laser and light therapies are currently being investigated but none yet have been shown to be an effective treatment. One topical ointment, Retin-A, has been found to help reduce the appearance of stretch marks. Just like it does for facial wrinkles, it boosts collagen production and increases skin turnover to aid the creation of new skin. Since it contains a Vitamin A derivative (a proven cause of fetal birth defects), it should not be used until after delivery. But it is not a miracle stretch mark treatment and results should be expected to take time and be a modest improvement at best. There are a variety of laser treatments being used, including fractional laser resurfacing, and these appear to be the most promising at the present time.

Dr Barry Eppley
Indianapolis, Indiana

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