The University of Manchester would have you believe that the death knoll for stretch marks is as simple as green tea - or the tea's chemicals at least, which have just found their way into the latest wonder cream that promises to stop those unsightly shiny body markings from happening. The makers of said wonderstuff, Solution for Stretch Mark, promise “that it works on a deeper level” than other treatments.
The good news is that for the eight out of ten expectant mothers who will develop stretch marks this could be their preventative hope in a jar (though we'll reserve judgment until we see the stats). But for women who already have existing pink markings, can anything be done?
What are stretch marks?
Referred to as 'striae' by the professionals, stretch marks are a form of scarring caused by thinning skin and a loss of elasticity in the deeper levels of your skin. From fresh red streaks to the older, purplish, shiny flecks, stretch marks commonly effect pregnant women and adolescent girls during growth spurts. So what can they do?
Laser treatments can remove stretch marks
There are rumours of technologically advanced lasers making their way over from the US. Until then the NHS relies on red pulse dye lasers to help fade stretch marks, while private clinics would almost certainly opt for resurfacing co2 lasers. Remember though, neither can remove marks completely.
"Stretch marks are essentially little scars in the tissue and are a very stubborn condition to treat. As with any scar, it’s likely that they won’t disappear completely with treatment. However, in more than 80% of patients we can reduce the stretch mark width and make them significantly less obvious," says Dr Stefanie Williams, founder of EUDELO. "We treat stretch marks with carboxytherapy. That means that we superficially inject tiny amounts of carbon dioxide gas (CO2) directly into the stretch mark with a tiny needle. The injected medical CO2 gas makes your skin ‘think’ there is an oxygen deficit and it responds by increasing blood flow to the skin and regeneration of tiny blood vessels in the skin. This will with time allow more oxygen and nutrients to reach the skin, which leads to improved elasticity, skin regeneration and tissue remodeling.
"Carboxytherapy sessions can be alternated with Growth Factor or PRP (latelet rich plasma) Needling. A sterile needle pen is used to create microscopic punctures in the skin. These intentional ‘injuries’ induce thousands of tiny, controlled wound-healing responses, which lead to further collagen production and tissue remodeling.
"In order to further enhance the benefits of the medical needling, we combine the procedure with infusion of an advanced growth factor solution or PRP (platelet rich plasma, which is also very high in growth factors – derived from your own blood)."
Taking supplements can minimise your risk of getting more
Stretch marks are often symptomatic of a zinc deficiency - the mineral associated with the repair and regeneration of skin cells. Not easily found in foods, oysters and venison are the richest sources, your best bet for minimising the risk of stretch marks is a good supplement. Try Biocare's Zinc Citrate, £7.40.
Creams can help fade them
With peptides, collagen boosters and anti-oxidants Strivectin body cream, £70, was, and still is, the gold standard cream to fade stretch marks in the UK, with clinical results to prove it.
Retinol works to remove stretch marks
"If you're going down the topical route it's all about resurfacing the skin, which means looking for a high strength vitamin A retinol (try Avene Ysthéal Emulsion, £15) and peel, and possibly needling designed to stimulate collagen," says Dr. Rabia Malik, specialist in aesthetic medicine. "You categorically can't get rid of stretch marks, but you can improve them."
"Needling," adds Dr Sabrina Shah-Desai, consultant ophthalmologist & ocuplastic surgeon, " also improve the skin condition and reduce the appearance of the stretch marks and also improve the penetration of cosmeceutical grade actives if they are applied post treatment."
Is there a natural cure?
There is apparently no end to the beauty uses found in the humble coconut. Its oil, rich in fatty acids namely lauric acid, feeds skin so that it repairs itself better without the need to stretch and weaken. Combine with vitamin E capsules for an added collagen boosting, moisturising effect. We love Swanson Organic Coconut Oil, £10.50.
Or opt for a cosmetic solution
"A cosmeceutical grade glycolic wash or home use scrub to increase the skin cell turnover and improve the general appearance of the skin in this area definitely helps," says Shah-Desai. "Quite often this is an effective way to 'fade' or reduce the appearance of stretch marks. "