Stretch marks don't usually need to be diagnosed. Your health care provider might examine your skin and review your medical history. If your health care provider suspects an increase in your level of the hormone cortisol, you might be offered more tests.
Stretch marks don't require treatment. They are harmless and often fade over time. Treatment can make them fade, but they may never completely disappear.
The following treatments are among those available to help improve the appearance and texture of stretch marks. None has been proved to be more consistently successful than the others.
Retinoid cream. Derived from vitamin A, retinoids — such as tretinoin (Retin-A, Renova, Avita) — that you apply to your skin may improve the appearance of stretch marks less than a few months old. Tretinoin, when it works, helps to rebuild a protein in the skin called collagen, making the stretch marks look more like your normal skin. Tretinoin can irritate your skin.
If you're pregnant or nursing, talk with your health care provider about other treatment options, because possible side effects of retinoid cream may affect the baby.
- Light and laser therapies. A variety of light and laser therapies are available that might stimulate growth of collagen or promote elasticity. Your health care provider can help you determine which technique is right for you.
- Microneedling. This treatment involves a hand-held device with tiny needles that stimulate collagen growth. This technique has less risk of skin color changes than does laser therapy so is the preferred first approach for people with darker skin.
Work with your health care provider to choose the right treatment or combination of treatments for you. Factors to consider include:
- How long you've had the stretch marks
- Your skin type
- Convenience, as some therapies require repeated visits to the clinic
- Cost, as treatments to improve how the skin looks (cosmetic therapies) often aren't covered by medical insurance
- What you expect your skin to look like after treatment
Many creams, ointments and other products claim to prevent or treat stretch marks. These include products made of cocoa butter, vitamin E and glycolic acid. They aren't harmful, but they probably won't help much either.
Stretch marks usually fade over time and don't need self-care or home therapy.
The idea that you can prevent or treat stretch marks by rubbing creams, oils or lotions on your skin is not supported by strong evidence.
If you're pregnant, check with your health care provider before using alternative products that claim to treat or prevent stretch marks.
Preparing for your appointment
If you seek treatment for stretch marks, prepare for your appointment by listing some basic questions to ask your health care provider, including:
- What is likely causing my stretch marks?
- Other than the most likely cause, what are other possible causes for my symptoms?
- What are my treatment options and the pros and cons for each?
- What results can I expect?
Your health care provider is likely to ask you several questions, such as:
- When did you first notice the stretch marks?
- Do you have other symptoms?
- What medicines are you taking?
- Do you regularly use cortisone skin creams?
Jan 12, 2023
- Kang S, et al., eds. Skin changes and diseases in pregnancy. In: Fitzpatrick's Dermatology. 9th ed. McGraw Hill; 2019. https://accessmedicine.mhmedical.com. Accessed Nov. 10, 2020.
- Ferri FF, et al., eds. Striae (stretch marks). In: Ferri's Fast Facts in Dermatology: A Practical Guide to Skin Diseases and Disorders. 2nd ed. Elsevier; 2019. https://www.clinicalkey.com. Accessed Nov. 10, 2020.
- Landon MB, et al., eds. Skin disease and pregnancy. In: Gabbe's Obstetrics: Normal and Problem Pregnancies. 8th ed. Elsevier; 2021. https://www.clinicalkey.com. Accessed Nov. 10, 2020.
- Wick MJ, ed. Month 8: Weeks 29 to 32. In: Mayo Clinic Guide to a Healthy Pregnancy. 2nd ed. Mayo Clinic; 2018.
- Kutlubay Z, et al. The color of skin: Brown diseases of the skin, nails, and mucosa. Clinics in Dermatology. 2019; doi.org/10.1016/j.clindermatol.2019.07.007.
- MacGregor JL, et al. Striae distensae (stretch marks). https://www.uptodate.com/contents/search. Accessed Dec. 2, 2020.