Stretch marks are a type of skin scarring. Almost everyone has them. These scars do not pose any health risks, but they are a cause for concern for many people as they do not look great. The color of stretch marks depends on how old they are, and white stretch marks are the older ones. You cannot get rid of white stretch marks, but you can try to reduce their appearance. In this article, we have discussed everything you need to know about white stretch marks and ways to manage their appearance.
Table Of Contents
What Are White Stretch Marks?
In their initial stage, stretch marks have a reddish or purple tinge. However, once they start to get old, they turn white. You can tell how old your stretch marks are from the change in their color.
When stretch marks are newly formed, they are red. This is because of the visible blood vessels right below your skin’s surface. Red stretch marks respond to treatment quickly and heal easily.
White stretch marks or (striae alba) are older. With time, the blood vessels under the stretched skin become narrower and less responsive to treatment. They no longer stimulate collagen production to cover the scars. That is why white stretch marks are tough to treat. It is nearly impossible to get rid of them completely. However, they may fade a bit with regular treatment.
There are several factors responsible for your stretch marks. Check them out below.
What Are The Causes Of White Stretch Marks?
You get stretch marks when your skin stretches rapidly. When your skin stretches, the network of elastic fibers in your dermis (the middle layer of skin) is disrupted. Elastic fibers give your skin the elasticity to snap back into its previous form after being stretched. When you get stretch marks, your skin automatically tries to repair the damaged elastic fibers. However, your body may not heal them completely, and the marks stay. Several factors may cause your skin to stretch and leave marks:
- Pregnancy: During pregnancy, the skin stretches to make room for the baby.
- Weight Loss or Weight Gain: You may develop stretch marks when you gain or lose weight quickly. Teenagers who grow quickly may also get stretch marks.
- Bodybuilding: The rapid increase in the size of your muscle tissue can leave stretch marks.
- Corticosteroids: Application of corticosteroids on the skin for a long time can decrease your skin’s ability to stretch and cause stretch marks.
- Breast Implants: This type of surgery can stretch the skin and leave marks.
- Adrenal Gland Disorders: If you have Marfan’s syndrome, Cushing’s Syndrome, or Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome, you may see stretch marks on your skin.
- Genetics: If stretch marks run in your family, you may also develop them.
If you leave fresh stretch marks untreated, they may turn white and become difficult to treat.
So, is it possible to get rid of white stretch marks? Maybe. This is because most of the available treatments focus on early stretch marks, which are easier to treat. Check out the next section to find what you can do to fade the appearance of white stretch marks.
How To Treat White Stretch Marks
Evidence for treatments of white stretch marks is minimal and have contradictory results. The treatment methods that work on early stretch marks may not produce similar results on late stretch marks (striae alba). However, you can still try the following treatment options.
Common Medical Treatment Options
This is a painless procedure where the healthcare expert uses a wand-like device with a tip containing tiny crystals. This wand is gently rubbed on the skin to exfoliate it, remove the dead skin cells, and stimulate collagen production. You need to undergo multiple sessions to get the desired results.
Several studies have found microdermabrasion to be effective in improving the appearance of early (red) stretch marks (1). Therefore, you may try this treatment on your white stretch marks. You may need to undergo multiple sessions to see some results.
In this process, a wand-like device with tiny needles is used. The needles are poked into the area to be treated to boost collagen production. This helps cover up the scars and improve the appearance of your skin.
In a study involving Korean women, microneedling was found to be effective in treating early and late stretch marks (2). In fact, microneedling has been found to be more effective than microdermabrasion in the treatment of stretch marks (1).
3. Laser Therapy
Laser therapy is often used for minimizing the appearance of scars and marks. There are different types of lasers that are used depending on the severity of your scars and your skin condition.
In a study, ten women (Fitzpatrick skin types III-V) with white stretch marks received treatment with non-ablative1540-nm fractional laser for four times at 4-week intervals. There was a 1% to 24% improvement in the appearance of their stretch marks. Only one woman experienced post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation after treatment (1).
Fractional CO2 laser (10,600-nm) was also found to be effective in improving the appearance of white stretch marks in patients with Fitzpatrick skin types III and IV). A combination of Pulsed Dye Laser and Fractional CO2 laser was also found to be beneficial (1).
4. Topical Treatment
There are no studies that have proven the efficacy of topical treatments (ointments and home remedies like almond oil, cocoa butter, etc.) on stretch marks. Topical treatments may have a mild effect on stretch marks not because of their ingredients but because of the moisturization effect (1).
The application of tretinoin (a derivative of vitamin A) showed conflicting results. In four clinical trials, tretinoin was found to be effective in improving early stretch marks but was ineffective on white stretch marks. Some other studies that evaluated the effect of tretinoin on stretch marks (type not specified) found that it was effective in improving their appearance (3).
5. Cosmetic Surgery
Going under the knife is yet another option to improve the appearance of stretch marks. Having cosmetic surgery as an option depends on the part of the body where you have stretch marks. It is expensive, and the surgery itself can leave fresh scars of its own.
We have already said that natural and home remedies may only have a mild effect on stretch marks due to their moisturizing effects. So, keeping the area well moisturized may be a way to improve the appearance of stretch marks. Here are a few options that you can try.
Home Remedies To Treat White Stretch Marks
Note: There is no scientific evidence that these home remedies treat white stretch marks.
1. Bitter Almond oil
During pregnancy, massaging your tummy with bitter almond oil for 15 minutes daily may reduce the development of stretch marks. The study conducted that the massaging action – not the application of almond oil – was responsible for the results (4)However, there is no evidence that it can treat white (late) stretch marks. Regardless, almond oil has moisturizing properties, so you can moisturize the marks with almond oil regularly to improve the appearance of stretch marks.
2. Hyaluronic Acid
Hyaluronic acid has moisturizing properties and is often used to prevent skin aging (5). This moisturizing property of hyaluronic acid may help you in reducing the appearance of your stretch marks.
3. Virgin Coconut Oil
A study conducted by the University of Kerala on rats found that virgin coconut oil helps heal excision wounds by promoting collagen production (6). It also has anti-inflammatory properties (3). Therefore, it may help keep your skin moisturized and improve the appearance of white stretch marks.
4. Aloe Vera
Aloe vera has moisturizing properties and helps keep your skin soft and healthy. It also stimulates the production of collagen and elastin, making your skin more elastic and preventing the signs of aging (7). This makes it a potentially ideal ingredient for treating white stretch marks.
5. Cocoa Butter
Though research has found that cocoa butter is not effective in treating white stretch marks, it helps keep your skin moisturized and reduces hyperpigmentation (3). These properties can keep your skin soft and reduce itching around the white stretch marks.
No medical procedure, prescription medicine, or home remedy can make your stretch marks disappear completely. Many of the studies evaluating the efficacy of the possible treatment methods are not conclusive and have contradicting results. The best possible way to prevent white stretch marks is to treat them during the initial stages. This may not prevent them entirely, but it can reduce their appearance to a great extent.
If you are pregnant or starting a weight loss program, discuss all the possibilities of avoiding stretch marks beforehand. Be patient and consistent with any of the treatments mentioned in this article and consult a doctor to discuss all your options. They may also be able to tell you about the latest treatments available.
Frequently Asked Questions
Do all stretch marks turn white?
Yes. As the stretch marks get older, they turn white.
What’s the difference between white and red stretch marks?
Fresh stretch marks are usually red because of the visible blood vessels under the skin. As they get older, they turn white as the blood vessels become narrower.
Do white stretch marks go away?
Not really. With proper treatment, they might fade a bit, but they don’t go away completely.
How long does it take for stretch marks to fade?
It depends on how your skin is healing and how it is regaining the original shape after it was stretched. With proper treatment, you can expect your stretch marks to fade in 6 to 12 months.
- Management of stretch marks (with a focus on striae rubrae), Journal of Cutaneous and Aesthetic Surgery, US National Library of Medicine, National Institutes of Health.
- Treatment of striae distensae using needling therapy: a pilot study, Dermatologic Surgery, US National Library of Medicine, National Institutes of Health.
- Topical management of striae distensae (stretch marks): prevention and therapy of striae rubrae and albae, Journal of the European Academy of Dermatology and Venereology, US National Library of Medicine, National Institutes of Health.
- The effect of bitter almond oil and massaging on striae gravidarum in primiparaous women, Journal of Clinical Nursing, US National Library of Medicine, National Institutes of Health.
- Hyaluronic acid: A key molecule in skin aging, Dermato-endocrinology, US National Library of Medicine, National Institutes of Health.
- Effect of topical application of virgin coconut oil on skin components and antioxidant status during dermal wound healing in young rats, Skin Pharmacology and Physiology, US National Library of Medicine, National Institutes of Health.
- Aloe vera: a short review, Indian Journal of Dermatology, US National Library of Medicine, National Institutes of Health.
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