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Stretch marks develop when the top layer of the skin expands or contracts faster than the layer beneath. These changes cause the connective tissues, such as collagen and elastin fibers, to break and leave stretch marks.
Most stretch marks have a veiny or branched pattern, exposing the areas where the skin has thinned, and tissues have been damaged.
The skin covering the breasts is thinner than it is in many other parts of the body, making it more vulnerable to fine tears.
Striae rubra is the earliest stage of the condition when a stretch mark looks red, pink, or purple. As stretch marks age, they become thin, white scars called striae alba.
Stretch marks associated with pregnancy are called striae gravidarum.
Why do breasts get stretch marks?
Hormonal events, including pregnancy and puberty, cause the breast tissues to expand quickly.
Many people undergo breast surgeries, either for cosmetic reasons or as part of treatments for cancer and other conditions.
Breast surgeries often change the shape of the breast suddenly, forcing the skin to adjust quickly and increasing the risk of new scaring.
Even after years of therapy most stretch marks are only reduced or made less noticeable, not completely erased.
At-home therapies are recommended as the first line of treatment for stretch marks because more aggressive options increase the risk of further scarring.
Common home remedies to help lessen the appearance of breast stretch marks include the following:
Massage is one of the most scientifically proven and effective ways to reduce stretch marks on the breast.
Massage helps promote blood flow and circulation in the damage breast tissues, promoting healing and movement.
Using the fingertips, a person should gently apply pressure in repetitive, circular motions to the stretch mark for a few minutes several times a day. It will take months or even years to see a noticeable improvement.
To properly heal, body tissues must be hydrated. When tissues and cells are dehydrated, they also shrivel and shrink, which can increase the extent of stretch marks.
Using simple at-home exfoliation mixtures, such as olive oil and white sugar, can help to slowly remove the layers of damaged skin and encourage the regrowth of healthy tissue.
Some herbal extracts and essential oils are also considered to help reduce the appearance of breast stretch marks when applied to the skin.
Common natural remedies for stretch marks include:
- almond oil
- castor oil
- vitamin E
- vitamin C oil, extracts, and foods
- olive oil
- cocoa, coconut or shea butter or oil
- rosehip oil
- Centella asiatica extract
- marine collagen and elastin
- grapeseed oil
- egg whites
- aloe vera
- wheat germ oil
A wide variety of over-the-counter stretch mark creams exist. The most popular, and tested, stretch creams often contain a mixture of the ingredients listed above. A range of stretch mark products can be found online here.
Prescription creams and gels are usually the second recommended line of treatment for stretch marks.
Topical or oral tretinoin, a form of synthetic vitamin A, is one of the most commonly prescribed medications for dark stretch marks. Tretinoin creams with concentrations greater than 0.05 percent have been shown to improve striae gravidarum stretch marks by as much as 47 percent.
Additional ointments and creams include:
- silicon or collagen-based gels
- hyaluronic acid-containing creams
- creams with at least 20 percent glycolic acid
- creams with at least 10 percent ascorbic acid
- creams with at least 0.05 percent retinoic acid
Topical products work by stimulating collagen production and cell growth, as well as improving skin elasticity and hydration. These products are considered safe, the only notable side effect being minor skin irritation and increased light sensitivity.
Commonly used surgical techniques used to treat breast stretch marks include:
Laser therapy is the only treatment proven to reduce the appearance of stretch marks significantly. Laser therapy uses beams of light to break up scar tissue and stimulate damaged tissues.
Laser benefits include:
- improves blood flow to the area
- energizes surrounding cells, including collagen-producing cells
- stimulates the immune system
- improves lymphatic drainage to reduce inflammation and pain
A 2016 review concluded that laser and light therapies were most effective in reducing early scars and promoting collagen and elastin production in older scars.
In many instances, insurance companies will not cover the procedure, considering it cosmetic surgery.
The cost of laser therapy ranges from $200 to $500 per session. It normally takes up to 20 sessions, over several weeks, for individuals to see a 20 to 60 percent reduction in the appearance of stretch marks.
Additional treatments for stretch marks on the breast include:
- collagen injection
- advanced radiofrequency techniques
- acid peel treatments
- cosmetic surgery to remove or replace scars with new skin
A 2017 review found that some 55 to 90 percent of pregnant women experienced stretch marks.
Risk factors for breast stretch marks include:
- pregnancy at a younger age
- breasts that develop very quickly or grow large during puberty
- endocrine disorders that disrupt regular hormone flow
- family history of stretch marks or conditions that cause them
- pre-delivery weight gain
- increased birth weight of child or gestational period
- long-term dehydration
- rapid weight gain or loss
- conditions that weaken the skin or immune system
- alcohol use
- Cushing’s syndrome
- ethnicity with more cases in African American women than Caucasian women
- chronic steroid use
- lighter, olive-toned skin color
Several prescription medications and home remedies are considered, potentially, to reduce the risk of developing breast stretch marks. Currently, however, none have been completely proven scientifically.
A 2013 study found that a formula containing hydroxyprolisilane C, rosehip oil, Centella asiatica extract, and vitamin E reduced the risk of breast stretch marks during pregnancy by 30 percent in women without a history of the condition. And women in the study who received the treatment and did develop stretch marks experienced less severe scarring.
Additional preventative options with some clinical evidence include regular use of:
- cocoa, shea, or coconut butter or oil
- olive oil
- bitter almond oil
- vitamin E oil
A range of skincare products for stretch marks is available for purchase online.