You love your baby. You really, really do. But when you look down and see those pale wriggly bands stretching across your belly that came courtesy of your pregnancy, it’s hard not to get dramatic, wailing, “Why, why, why?” Or you love the weight that you finally took off after months of hard work and hard starving, but absolutely LOATHE the stretch marks that are working their way down your formerly chunky arms. What to do, what to do? You’d think after all these years of people having babies and losing weight, someone would have come up with the perfect cure-all for stretch marks. They haven’t. That’s annoying for any woman, but doubly so for women of color. Any kind of scar or mark is difficult to get rid of on dark skin, and some of the most popular options available may not work on darker skin tones. If you’re suffering from stretch marks, and are looking to check out some remedies, there are some things that you can do both before and after you get them.
What They Are
Stretch marks form because increased levels of glucocorticoids (the hormone released by the adrenal glands) are released during events in life that result in growth spurts like pregnancy, weight gain and adolescence. When this hormone is released, it prevents the fibroblasts in your skin’s dermis from producing the elastin and collagen that your skin needs to keep the skin that’s being stretched nice and smooth, leaving you with stretched and “crepe-y” skin.
Can You Prevent Them?
Not if your mama had them! Ok, it’s not a foolproof scientific fact, but chances are if your mother had stretch marks, you’ll probably get them, too. You’ve no doubt heard that rubbing creams and oils like shea or cocoa butter directly onto your tummy when you’re pregnant can help prevent stretch marks. The jury’s still out on whether that’s true across the board. There are some that believe that the women who have success oiling their tummies during their pregnancies wouldn’t have gotten stretch marks anyway. If you’re using a cream, remember that your goal is to use something that will ostensibly aid in collagen production. Choose moisturizers, oils or creams that contain collagen builders like Vitamin A and E. Ultimately, who gets stretch marks and who doesn’t will depend on individual hormone levels, skin and body type.
What If The Stretch Marks Are Already Here??
If you’re already stricken with the dreaded marks, there are a few options you can look into.
Microdermabrasion: With microdermabrasion, blasts of small crystals are shot onto your skin, creating a deep, exfoliating effect that removes the top layer of dead cells from your skin. You’ll generally need about 6 treatments for stretch mark removal. Microdermabrasion seems to be the most effective on stubborn, older stretch marks, and is safe for use on dark skin tones.
Lasers: Laser use is tricky on dark skin. The wrong type of laser can cause discoloration and scarring on darker skin tones. One of the most frequently used lasers for stretch mark removal on dark skin is the excimer laser, which works by stimulating melanin production in light colored stretch marks so that they grow darker and match the skin around them. Doctors will also use longwave lasers like the YAG laser on darker skinned patients, since the melanin in our skin interferes with the shortwave lasers used by many doctors and clinics to remove stretch marks. Choose your practitioner wisely, and ask a million questions, and demand before and after pics of their patients. [pullquote_right]Choose your practitioner wisely, and ask a million questions, and demand before and after pics of their patients.[/pullquote_right]
Creams: Many creams formulated to remove stretch marks are topical Vitamin A creams like Retina-A, which are formulated to increase collagen production in the affected area. These tend to work best on recent stretch marks vs. older ones, and there’s a high risk of developing skin sensitivity issues. Tretinoin, the acidic form of Vitamin A, has been shown to help some patients by rebuilding collagen to even out the appearance of your skin. It can cause hyper-pigmentation if applied incorrectly, so make sure you use it under a doctor’s guidance. Popular creams include Strivectin and Bio-Oil.
When in doubt, cut it out
The only permanent way to remove stretch marks is to cut them out via surgery, usually with a tummy tuck. This method is usually recommended for women who are finished having children so that there’s less of a chance of the skin being re-stretched.
Stretch Marks: Causes and Treatments
Does Microdermabrasion Have Additional Risks for Dark Skin Types? Doctor Answers, Tips