Skin Conditions: Stretch Marks

Last Editorial Review: 7/11/2012

Skin does not bounce back if it's been stretched by rapid growth due to pregnancy, weight gain, or extreme weight loss. Instead, it becomes decorated by a form of scarring called stretch marks, or striae. Stretch marks often start off as reddish or purplish in color and then become glossy skin that appears streaked in silver or white.

Stretch marks occur in the dermis, the elastic middle layer of skin that allows it to retain its shape. When constantly stretched, the dermis can break down leaving behind stretch marks.

Men and women can get stretch marks on several areas of their bodies, including the abdominal area, thighs, hips, breasts, upper arms or lower back.

What Can I Do About Stretch Marks?

There are some treatment options for stretch marks, none of which work very well. The degree of success with any treatment will be impacted by your age, your skin tone and even your diet. Treatment options include:

  • Prescription methods. Tretinoin cream or laser therapy can be used to address unwanted stretch marks.
  • Over-the-counter products. Over-the-counter stretch mark treatments are available but not particularly effective. Moisturizers can help with appearance and itchiness. Sunless tanning products can help mask stretch marks.

It's best to be in the care of a cosmetic surgeon or dermatologist. He or she can determine which treatment approach is best for you.

Does Insurance Cover Stretch Mark Treatment?

Insurance may not cover stretch mark treatment because it is a cosmetic procedure (even if the stretch marks are severe). Talk to your particular provider to see what is covered under your plan.

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American Academy of Dermatology.

Edited by Norman Levine, MD, on July 11, 2012