Stretch marks, or striae, are a defect in connective tissue caused by rapid changes in skin tension, usually weight loss or weight gain. They are a lot like scars, devoid of hair and other skin appendages that normal skin has.

There isn’t one good treatment for stretch marks, and studies looking at this problem are usually small in size, although some treatments show promise. The topical treatment that has shown the most potential is a retinol or prescription retinoid cream, as these creams can increase collagen production in skin. They are found in over the counter anti-wrinkle creams, as well as in combination acne and anti-wrinkle prescriptions medications. Unfortunately, since stretch marks are often a relatively deep defect in connective tissue, these creams will most likely result in only a modest benefit.

Laser technology shows the most promise for treatment of stretch marks. The fractional CO2 laser, such as the Mixto, has shown great promise as a stretch mark treatment. It creates a controlled injury to the skin in micro-columns. As the columns heal, new connective tissue is generated, resulting in thinner, shallower stretch marks. Because the treatment itself is a controlled injury to the skin after care is needed to assure proper healing. Much in the same way, medical microneedling, which also produces a controlled micro-column of injury to the skin, is also a promising treatment for stretch marks. These options may not be suitable for everyone and haven’t been tested in large trials yet.

If you do notice an alarming number of new stretch marks, it could be the sign of a hormonal abnormality and you should seek your doctor’s advice.