Stretch marks, called striae, typically appear on the upper arms, abdomen, breasts, buttocks and thighs. They are caused when the skin is stretched over a short period of time, such as by gaining or losing a large amount of weight or during pregnancy. UCLA Health Systems reports that stretch marks can appear in obese children and during puberty.
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Tretinoin cream, a derivative of vitamin A, is known to help reduce the appearance of stretch marks, according to the Mayo Clinic. Tretinoin is a prescription cream sold as Retin-A or Renova.
The ointment is most effective on new stretch marks, those that are no more than six weeks old and are still red. It is believed that tretinoin works by rebuilding collagen, which causes the color of stretch marks to fade into the surrounding skin.
Because tretinoin is a prescription cream, with insurance the price can be manageable.
Dr. Eric F. Bernstein, a clinical associate professor at the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine in Philadelphia, suggests using a cream with alpha-hydroxy acid for improving the appearance of stretch marks.
Alpha-hydroxy acid, commonly known for treating acne and other conditions associated with aging, is also used in higher concentrations in chemical peels. Alpha-hydroxy acids cause exfoliation, which can help fade stretch marks.
Creams containing alpha-hydroxy acid can be purchased both over the counter and as a prescription. Because stretch marks that are new have a greater chance of fading, people concerned with the appearance of their skin should discuss their options with their doctor rather than taking a "wait and see" approach.
Bio-Oil is a product containing essential oils and vitamins that was developed to eliminate stretch marks. The ingredients include calendula, for clarifying skin; and vitamin A, which in high concentrations is a proven treatment for minimizing the appearance of stretch marks. The manufacturers of Bio-Oil claim that the product is proven to reduce redness and will improve elasticity of skin.
A study published in the 2009 issue of South Africa Family Practice indicates that Bio-Oil significantly improved the appearance of stretch marks on a group of 20 healthy women. The women applied Bio-Oil to one half of the abdomen and their normal skin cream to the other half for 12 weeks. Results were determined by using the Patient and Observer Scar Assessment Scale. Bio-Oil is moderately priced.