Imagine a balloon that's been blown up and then deflated. No matter how much you blow it up again, it's already lost much of its original elasticity and will never look quite the same. Stretch marks are similar, in that they don't ever go away entirely. The key, however, is finding ways to reduce their appearance. The earlier you begin treating stretch marks - when they are red or reddish brown - the more likely you are to diminish their appearance. Once these marks begin to flatten and fade they become less obvious and are more difficult to treat.
If caught in the early stages, stretch marks can be minimised with over-the-counter moisturising creams. Vitamin E oil, which assists in general skin healing and condition, can reduce the appearance of stretch marks. Vitamin A is also a good emollient, but it's not as effective as prescription Tretinoin, or Retin-A, which attaches itself to receptors on the skin cells and helps exfoliate the skin and form healthy new cells. Though these creams are effective in moisturising the outer skin layer, they can't always penetrate deep into the dermis where stretch marks occur. They also can't completely change a pre-existing skin condition, which is why they work best on stretch marks that are just forming.
Alpha hydroxy acids (AHAs)
AHAs are derived from certain plants, many of which are fruits, and so are sometimes called 'fruit acids'. AHA creams are said to help with stretch marks because they moisturise the outer layer of skin, making it more pliable. These products increase cell regeneration by 'burning off' the outer layer of skin cells. By removing the top layer of cells, healthier ones rise to the surface, improving skin texture and colour, and allowing moisturisers to be absorbed so the skin remains supple. While penetrating the skin's surface, the water-binding properties of AHAs increase the skin's flexibility and assist in stretch mark reduction. Though your skin may feel dry and flaky at first from the dead cells being sloughed away, after a few weeks, AHAs may make your skin feel and appear smoother - and visibly reduce stretch marks. If you stop using AHAs, the skin will return to its normal state since cell regeneration is no longer taking place.
Tretinoin, or Retin-A, helps to loosen the keratin in the outer layer of skin and remove dead cells. Although derived from vitamin A, Tretinoin cream is much more effective than the naturally occurring vitamin because it thins the outer layer of skin in order to penetrate the dermis where stretch marks occur, and it increases collagen production. The result is a 'plumping up effect', which helps improve the appearance and texture of skin, and can diminish the appearance of stretch marks. Your doctor will advise you on the correct amount to use, but be aware that stronger dosages, although more effective, may cause stinging, swelling and redness, and potentially a sensitivity to sunlight. Skin thickening is another possible side effect of using this kind of cream, as collagen production is increased. Tretinoin is most effective in stretch mark treatment when used early.
Tretinoin is not recommended for use in pregnancy or while nursing. Also, those taking Retin-A are advised not to take any Vitamin A supplements at the same time, as this can increase adverse effects.
Laser surgery is currently being developed for the treatment of stretch marks. This treatment doesn't remove stretch marks - it simply makes them fade. The laser responds to dark colours only, so in the early stages when stretch marks are dark red or brown, treatment will be most effective. Faded, flesh-coloured marks probably won't respond well to laser treatment because they are light in colour. A series of treatments might be required for visible results.
The Endermologie machine, developed in France over a decade ago, uses rollers and gentle suctioning to deeply massage stretch-marked areas, increasing the circulation by up to 200 per cent. At the same time, toxins and abnormal water build-up are expelled as connective fibres are stretched. The exfoliation in conjunction with the stretching of the fibres can be helpful in reducing the appearance of stretch marks. Expect to wear a body stocking as a technician runs the suctioning rollers over your body, concentrating on the affected areas. Each session lasts half an hour, but to see results, a series of treatments is recommended.
I hope that helps!