Pregnancy and Motherhood

How Long Does it Take for Stretch Marks to Fade?

In this post we’re going to find out how long it takes for stretch marks to fade, and why they are so stubborn to begin with. They do fade, you read that right, it just takes longer than you’d hope for considering how unpleasant they can be!

You should know you’re not alone in this; stretch marks are incredibly common, appearing in up to 90 percent of pregnancies and in lots of people who’ve gained weight quick for any reason, whether that’s puberty, pregnancy, weightlifting or obesity, and they fade in every one of these situations once you control the weight you’re gaining.

How long does it take for stretch marks to fade? We’re going to find out.

What Causes Stretch Marks?

Stretch marks are common on the belly, butt, thighs, upper arms and breasts. Basically, any area where weight gain is most exaggerated. Stretch marks are largely predetermined by genetics and occur during rapid weight gain when the skin stretches faster than your skin’s natural elasticity permits.

Rapid weight gain can happen for a variety of reasons:

  • Puberty
  • Pregnancy
  • Bodybuilding
  • Breast augmentation
  • Obesity
  • Weight gain

You don’t have to be obese to gain weight rapidly, which is why I made separate bullet points for each. Being obese means having a higher amount of body fat than being ‘overweight’, medically speaking.

Be wary of any product insisting it can prevent stretch marks in pregnancy. There are limited data to back up these claims. [1] Instead, monitor your weight as you or your baby grow and put on pounds at an even pace. This is the most probable prevention method.

Stretch marks from rapid weight gain, known medically as Striae Distensae, show up as the skin stretches, causing thin and uneven purple or red lines. Over time, these lines fade to a lighter color. Stretch marks found early (these early stretch marks are known specifically as Striae Rubrae), generally respond better to treatments than older lesions. [2]

Different creams or treatments can help reduce the appearance of marks that have already formed, which I’ll expand on later in this post.

How Long Does it Take for Stretch Marks to Fade?

Marks fade from their raised, purple or red-colored state to a more scar-like, white appearance between a few months to years. Sometimes stretch marks fade on their own, but other times they may not. If rapid weight changes are common then you may not give your skin time to heal.

How long do stretch marks last?

It’s hard to provide an estimate of when newer marks will fade. In general, you shouldn’t expect to notice any fading until at least three to six months from when the marks appeared according to Quick Look Nursing: Maternal and Newborn Health by Janet Arenson and Patricia Drake. It’s possible the marks may go away completely. That’s the best case scenario and likely a genetic factor.

For some, fading stretch marks entirely may just be a dream, though you can increase the probability of their appearance diminishing with topical treatments and surgical procedures. I discuss stretch mark treatments and good habits for getting rid of stretch marks in depth below.

Are Stretch Marks Permanent?

The truth is that stretch marks might not go away; oftentimes stretch marks are permanent in their white or silver state.

While some stretch marks do fade over time, there are a couple of ways you can make your stretch marks less noticeable now.

  • Makeup
  • Self-tanner
  • Clothing coverage

These may seem obvious, especially if you’re a woman who’s done any of the above for acne or any other skin condition. And they may not be the miracle remedies you were hoping for. But what you need if you have fresh stretch marks is at least three to six months to let them fade at a minimum.

I know it can be frustrating to wait and see how much your stretch marks disappear six, 12, or even 24 months from now, but medical studies have shown that there are ways to help reduce their appearance over time, as we’ll learn about now.

Treatments for Getting Rid of Stretch Marks

Among the most easily accessible treatments to fade Striae Distensae are topical creams. Luckily you can review an example of how the ointment worked out for others by browsing online customer reviews before buying. Check some out. See if the reviews speak to your situation.

The tricky thing about stretch marks is that for some people stretch marks go away, and for others, they stay forever, even after expensive stretch marks treatments like cosmetic surgery. What is known medically, however, is that some topical treatments have been shown to increase the probability that marks become less noticeable, especially in early stretch marks.

The greatest thing about topical remedies is that they’re not too expensive. If you find one that isn’t working, move on to the next.

Ointments with the chemical Tretinoin were shown to reduce the severity of stretch marks when applied to newly formed stretch marks. There was a limited effect on older marks. Studies haven’t shown whether the chemical can pass through breast milk, however so if your stretch marks are pregnancy-related and you’re currently breastfeeding, you might want to search for natural alternatives.

Tretinoin is a synthetic version of vitamin A available with a prescription. It’s designed to promote cell turnover quicker than natural forms of vitamin A. That said, natural vitamin A will still get the job done. Rose hip, carrot, and papaya are all loaded with it. Look for topical blends that include oils from these and other plant sources high in vitamin A for stretch mark treatment.

If you’ve tried over the counter products with no luck, given a Tretinoin blend a shot to no avail and still want to get rid of your stretch marks, speak with a dermatologist about laser treatment, microdermabrasion or cosmetic surgery. These procedures will not likely be covered by insurance, however.

How to Prevent Stretch Marks in the Future

There is no exact science to prevent stretch marks. It may be tempting to try some home treatments like olive oil, almond oil or coconut butter, but studies have proven that these remedies do nothing. [3][4]

A much-referenced 1991 study on 80 pregnant women showed that a cream containing Centella Asiatica, or Gotu Kola, reduced the chance of stretch marks developing. Daily applications on breasts, belly, buttocks, and hips began 12 weeks into pregnancy and continued until labor.

While this sounds promising, other researchers point out that the effectiveness of the treatment in this study is limited. [5][6] The simple act of massaging patients who received said cream may have been unaccounted for in this and other studies. More research needs to be carried out on the success of both Centella Asiatica and massages in reducing stretch marks from forming. There is limited evidence showing how habits like massaging the belly and elsewhere affect the skin.

So, How Long Does it Take for Stretch Marks to Fade?

In the best case, you can expect to see stretch marks fade from red or purple to their scar-like white or silver color in three to six months. In some cases, they will fade away entirely. Use a topical cream high in vitamin A to speed up the process.

About Robert Cutler, D.O.

Dr. Robert Cutler has performed duties as a specialist in the field of Proctology over 30 years as a practicing physician. Over this time, he has had great success integrating patient care from both an efficiency standpoint and as a practical approach to holistic and preventative medicine.

Dr. Cutler also performs FDA approved Clinical Trials and has had formal research training in Human Subject Assurance Training, OHRP/NIH and Good Clinical Practice for Investigators, Quintiles. Dr. Cutler continues to work on creating more affordable solutions to help people who are affected by ano-rectal problems as well as various chronic or acute skin issues.

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