Treatments and drugs

By Mayo Clinic Staff

Although they may be a cosmetic concern, stretch marks are harmless and often fade over time. They don't require medical treatment. If you do seek treatment for stretch marks, know that treatments are only partially effective and won't remove the stretch marks completely.

The following treatments are among those available to help improve the appearance of stretch marks. None has been proved to be more consistently successful than the others.

  • Tretinoin cream. Some research has shown that tretinoin cream (Retin-A, Renova, Avita) may improve the appearance of recent stretch marks — those that are less than a few months old and still pink or red in color. If you're pregnant or nursing, your doctor may opt to delay topical retinoid therapy or choose an alternative treatment. Tretinoin, when it works, helps to rebuild collagen, making the stretch mark look more like your normal skin. Tretinoin can irritate your skin. This treatment isn't effective on older stretch marks.
  • Laser therapy. Laser therapies use intense wavelengths of light to stimulate the growth of collagen, elastin or melanin production in your skin. Your doctor can help you determine which type of laser technology is appropriate for you, depending on the age and location of your stretch marks and your skin color.
  • Microdermabrasion. This type of treatment involves a hand-held device that blows crystals onto skin. These crystals gently abrade, or "polish," the skin's surface. Then, a vacuum tube removes the crystals and skin cells. Microdermabrasion gently removes the skin's topmost layer, prompting the growth of new, more-elastic skin. This therapy is an option for older stretch marks.

Work with your doctor to choose the most appropriate treatment. Factors to consider include:

  • Age of the stretch marks
  • Convenience of treatment — therapies differ in length and frequency of sessions
  • Cost — these options are cosmetic and usually not covered by medical insurance
  • Your expectations — most treatments, at best, are only partially effective
Jan. 10, 2013