Stretch marks: are they forever?

One of the small ailments that our skin meets, especially that of women , with bodily changes is that of the appearance of stretch marks . Victoriano Morales, a dermatologist at the Hospital Universitario Quirónsalud Madrid , defines stretch marks as ” marks on the skin, normally linear and ranging from pink to off-white .”

Its diagnosis is simple. ” A dermatological examination in consultation serves to identify it, ” says Morales. They are produced by a distension of the skin, which breaks the elastic fibers.

“They consist of linear atrophic plaques , often located on the breasts, abdomen, hips, and thighs. They can occur in numerous clinical situations, including pregnancy, and are the result of continuous and progressive stretching of the skin ”, points out Elena de las Heras, a dermatologist member of the Spanish Academy of Dermatology and Venereology (AEDV).

At what point are they most prone?

In addition to pregnancy , these types of marks are associated with prolonged periods of skin changes such as weight gain or loss in patients who visit the gym, after bariatric surgery or after breast augmentation.

The Quirónsalud specialist gives concrete figures: “Genetic predisposition as well as hormonal changes are involved in the development of stretch marks , but during pregnancy between 75% and 90% of patients develop them in the third trimester.”

They are more frequent in women than in men , and most cases occur during pregnancy and puberty. However, they can also appear in males. According to the AEDV spokeswoman, they can appear on boys’ backs during puberty. ” They are frequent due to the physical narrowing of the skin, ” he says.

Morales adds: “ Sometimes they are associated with some diseases such as Cushing’s Syndrome, Marfan’s Syndrome or other genetic diseases. Even with the long-term continued use of systemic or topical corticosteroids. ”

Can they be prevented?

Despite the fact that there are many products on the market that are sold with a preventive effect on stretch marks, the sources consulted are clear in this regard. Both agree that currently there is not enough scientific evidence to demonstrate its prevention or disappearance .

“Only tretinoin , a retinoid, applied as a cream has some scientific basis . The to CEITE coconut, gotu kola and olive oil have been used without having demonstrated a big difference versus placebo , “explains Morales.

However, they are usually advised to prevent them . The AEDV specialist advises the use of gotu kola extract, rosehip oil and ammonium lactate; as well as dexpanthenol and hyaluronic acid.

In the case of pregnant women, the scenario changes : “The Cochrane Library analyzes a study in which it has been shown that the use of a cream with centella asiatica extract, alpha tocopherol and hydrolyzed collagen and elastin can decrease the appearance of stretch marks during the pregnancy , if it is applied from the third month of the pregnancy and with massage ”, points out.

If they appear, can they be removed?

Once stretch marks appear, they are difficult to remove. ” When they are white, there is little to do, ” says de las Heras. Although it gives some hope: “In the case of white stretch marks, 15% glycolic acid and / or retinoic acid would be valid alternatives , improving efficacy if used together.”

The specialist refers to a study published by the journal Dermatologic Surgery from 1998. “The efficacy of 20% glycolic acid combined with 0.05% retinoic acid on white stretch marks on the abdomen or thighs was analyzed . Both creams were applied daily for three months , showing an improvement in the appearance of stretch marks, as well as an increase in the elastin content in the dermis, but all these treatments must be prescribed by a dermatologist and cannot be used in pregnant women ”.

Regarding red streaks, specialists are more optimistic : “There are several works on the use of retinoic acid in initial streaks, red, which are favorable,” says de las Heras. “The pulsed dye laser has also been used with success,” adds Morales.

In any case, both the specialist at the Quirónsalud Hospital and De las Heras agree that the only dermatological problem associated with stretch marks is purely cosmetic .