Treating stretch marks 

Stretch marks often aren't noticeable and usually fade over time.

If you have stretch marks that affect a large area of your body, or if you're worried they look unsightly, there are a few treatment options available.

However, there isn't much medical evidence to show that these treatments work.

Camouflage

Cosmetic camouflage (make-up) is available over-the-counter at pharmacies and can be used for small areas of skin affected by stretch marks. Some types are waterproof and can stay in place for two to three days.

Creams, gels and lotions

The manufacturers of creams, gels and lotions often claim that they can remove stretch marks.

These products are essentially skin moisturisers and are available from pharmacies, supermarkets, and health and beauty shops.

It's recommended that you apply these products when your stretch marks are still red or purple. However, it's unlikely that these treatments can prevent stretch marks occurring, or make them fade any more significantly than they will with time alone.

Read more about preventing stretch marks.

Laser therapy

Laser therapy can't completely remove stretch marks, but it may help fade them and make them less noticeable.

Several different types of laser therapy are used to treat stretch marks.

Pulsed dye laser treatment is one type of laser treatment available. It's painless and can be used at an early stage, while your stretch marks are still red or purple.

The energy from the laser is absorbed by the blood vessels underneath your stretch marks. The blood vessels collapse and the red or purple colour either disappears completely or turns white. 

Laser therapy for stretch marks isn't available on the NHS and is usually expensive. You will probably need a few treatments to obtain visible results. The exact number will depend on your skin colour and type.

Cosmetic surgery

Cosmetic surgery for stretch marks is expensive and rarely recommended.

If you have stretch marks on your tummy (abdomen) and a large amount of loose skin, it may be possible to have an operation known as an abdominoplasty or tummy tuck.

The procedure removes excess fat and skin from your abdomen, and also gets rid of stretch marks below your belly button.

As this type of surgery is carried out for cosmetic reasons (to improve appearance), it isn't available on the NHS. It also carries a number of associated risks and can cause considerable scarring.

Read more about cosmetic surgery.


Page last reviewed: 17/07/2014

Next review due: 17/07/2016