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Stretch marks can appear on the breasts as a person’s body changes shape due to pregnancy or other events. Stretch marks are common and do not pose a health risk, but some people seek to remove them.
Home therapies and medications may help remove stretch marks, but there is little evidence to show that many of them work. Treatments aim to do this in various ways,
- stimulating collagen production
- increasing pigmentation and decreasing redness by reducing vascularization
- improving elasticity
- managing inflammation
In this article, learn about why stretch marks occur and get some tips on removing them.
Some terms for
- striae gravidarum: pregnancy-related marks
- striae distensae: marks due to stretched skin
- striae atrophicans: marks due to thinned skin
Others describe their appearance:
- striae rubrae: red
- striae albae: white
- striae nigra: black
- striae caerulea: dark blue
Most stretch marks have a veiny or branched pattern. In the earliest stage, marks often look red, pink, or purple, but in time they may change to become thin and pale.
The way stretch marks appear depends partly on the person’s skin color. For example, on darker skin, stretch marks may appear as dark or light streaks compared with the surrounding skin.
Why do breasts get stretch marks?
Stretch marks develop when the skin stretches. These changes cause the connective tissues, such as collagen and elastin fibers, to break and leave marks. They often affect the breasts, thighs, and abdomen, which are areas that change shape more quickly than other parts of the body.
The breasts are particularly prone for the following reasons:
- Hormonal events, including pregnancy and puberty, cause changes in shape.
- Breast surgery, for example, to reduce breast size or remove cancer, can lead to stretch marks.
- Changes in weight can affect breast size.
When these changes happen, the skin may need to adjust quickly, and stretch marks can develop.
Some at-home therapies may help reduce the visibility of stretch marks, although they rarely disappear completely. Here are some home remedies that may help.
Massage may help reduce stretch marks on the breasts by boosting circulation in the breast tissue and stimulating cell and tissue growth.
To massage the breast:
- use the fingertips
- apply gentle pressure in a repetitive, circular motion
- repeat daily
Therapy, including topical treatments,
- increase the production of elastic fibers and collagen
- reduce inflammation in pale streaks
- reduce redness, swelling, and irritation in red streaks
- improve hydration
Home-use products that researchers have investigated include:
- cocoa butter
- olive oil
- silicon gel
- vitamin E
Many products on the market combine these and other ingredients, but there is no scientific evidence to support their use.
The American Academy of Dermatology (AAD) gives the following tips that may improve the effectiveness of products:
- Use them early, as older stretch marks may not respond as well.
- Massage the product into the skin, as this may improve its effectiveness.
- Use the product every day for several weeks, as it can take time for improvements to show.
A range of stretch mark products can be found online here. But it is worth noting that there is not enough research to show that any of these remedies are effective.
Some people use exfoliating products to remove layers of damaged skin and encourage the regrowth of healthy tissue. There is no evidence that this makes a difference.
What about tanning?
The AAD notes that tanning will not remove stretch marks and may make them more visible, as they do not tan. Tanning can cause skin damage. A tanning cream may camouflage the marks temporarily.
In some cases, a doctor may recommend or prescribe medicated products to help with stretch marks.
In one study, tretinoin creams with concentrations greater than 0.05% reduced pregnancy-related stretch marks by up to 47%. Tretinoin is a retinoid. Another retinoid, retinol, may also help reduce the visibility of marks.
Other ointments and creams that may help include:
- silicon or collagen-based gels
- creams containing hyaluronic acid
- creams with at least 20% glycolic acid
- creams with at least 10% ascorbic acid
Topical products aim to stimulate collagen production and cell growth and improve skin elasticity and hydration. Side effects may include minor skin irritation and increased light sensitivity.
Laser therapy is one treatment that evidence suggests may work. In studies, laser therapy has consistently reduced the visibility of stretch marks by 50–75%. Laser therapy uses beams of light to break up scar tissue and stimulate damaged tissues.
It aims to:
- improve blood flow to the area
- energize surrounding cells, including collagen-producing cells
- stimulate the immune system
- improve lymphatic drainage to reduce inflammation and pain
One type of laser therapy, laser lipolysis,
The American Society for Dermatologic Surgery estimates that a person will need up to 20 sessions of laser therapy over several weeks to see a 20–60% reduction in the appearance of stretch marks. Costs can vary widely, and insurance does not usually cover it, according to stretchmarks.org.
A 2016 review found that laser and light therapies were effective in reducing early scars and promoting collagen and elastin production in older scars.
There is some evidence that microdermabrasion and microneedling may help remove stretch marks not related to pregnancy.
In microdermabrasion, a specialist uses equipment that blows and then vacuums abrasive substances onto an area of skin.
Microneedling involves damaging skin in order to trigger a healing response that will produce new collagen and elastin.
A 2020 study reviewed the effectiveness of up to 3 monthly treatments of microneedling on stretch marks in 25 people, some with light and some with dark skin. After 1.8 treatments, the marks reduced by
Other treatments a dermatologist may provide
- collagen injections
- radiofrequency techniques
- acid peel treatments
A person should speak with a doctor or dermatologist about any treatment they are considering, and only accept medical treatment from a qualified and registered professional.
In 2013, 16 people underwent treatment involving radiofrequency techniques followed by a combination of 0.05% retinoic acid cream and ultrasound (to increase absorption of the cream). Of the participants,
Stretch marks are common. Statistics suggest that
Risk factors include:
- pregnancy, puberty, and menopause
- some health conditions, such as anorexia nervosa and chronic liver disease
- weight changes
- the use of treatments such as steroids, some antibiotics, birth control, and treatments for epilepsy
- endocrine disorders such as Cushing’s syndrome and Marfan syndrome, which involve hormone changes
- a family history of stretch marks or conditions that cause them
- a younger age during pregnancy
- treatment with steroids
- rapid muscle development due to sports training
Some prescription and home treatments claim to reduce the risk of developing breast stretch marks, but there is currently not enough scientific evidence to show they work.
A 2013 study concluded that a combination of hydroxyprolisilane C, rosehip oil, Centella asiatica extract, and vitamin E reduced the risk of breast stretch marks during pregnancy by
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 skin care products for stretch marks is also available for purchase online.
Stretch marks can appear on the breasts during puberty and pregnancy, when a person’s body shape changes, or as the result of various health conditions and treatments.
There is no guaranteed way of removing stretch marks, although some therapies may reduce their visibility. Many treatments sold for use at home do not have scientific evidence to support their use.
Anyone who has concerns about stretch marks should speak to a doctor or dermatologist who can offer suitable advice about safe and effective treatment options.