When skin gets stretched too fast, as it can when you gain weight quickly, such as during pregnancy, or if you went through a growth spurt as a teenager, “the collagen and elastin fibers in the dermis rupture,” says clinical professor Richard G. Glogau. The result is scars deep within the skin―stretch marks. New ones are red or dark brown, because the skin becomes inflamed when the fibers break. (You might also notice a change in texture, as if your skin has little divots in it.) With time, most stretch marks lighten in color.
- Pulse dye laser (for newer stretch marks): The light from this laser is absorbed by the pigment in the irritated area, which heats the blood vessels and makes the vessel walls collapse, says dermatologist David Goldberg. The color is reduced significantly, so marks are much less obvious. (But divoting will still be apparent.) You’ll need about five treatments, spaced one month apart.
Cost: $500 to $800 per treatment, depending on the size of the affected area.
- Excimer laser (for older marks): The beam “increases pigment production, so eventually the silver or white lines become the color of the rest of your skin,” says Goldberg. This type of laser requires 10 to 20 treatments, spaced about two weeks apart.
Cost: $200 to $700 per treatment.
What Doesn’t Work
Over-the-counter stretch mark creams, which claim to rebuild collagen but don’t.
A self-tanner “helps minimize the look of both new and older marks,” says makeup artist Lusine. For the most even coverage, exfoliate the area before applying.