Red Stretch Marks: Why You Should Treat Them Differently
We are all familiar with those unsightly red stretch marks on the skin, that seem to come out of nowhere and never want to leave again.
We all want to remove our stretch marks, or prevent them from appearing in the first place.
Although there are plenty of options available to achieve this, what many people do not understand, there are actually several different types of stretch marks.
Knowing what type of stretch marks you have is important when finding a way to eliminate them.
One of the primary difference between red and white stretch marks is that they indicate a difference in the level of their severity.
Red stretch marks tend to appear in the early days of your stretch mark development which means that they require creams, oils and cosmetic products.
White stretch marks are usually older and some treatment alternatives such as laser stretch mark removal may be more suitable.
What Are Stretch Marks?
In order to talk about what the various types of stretch marks are, we must first define exactly what a stretch mark is.
In basic terms, stretch marks are the result of the middle layer of our skin tearing under rapid growth like weight gain, growth spurts, or pregnancy, which causes a discoloration to remain.
This is the basic characteristics of all stretch marks. The details of how the skin reacts to this tear, or what part of the skin is damaged is what differentiates them, and is what makes different treatments more or less effective depending on the cause.
What Are Striae?
Stria is the scientific or medical term for stretch marks.
Each of the different types of stretch marks will usually have the word striae in them, so it is important to know what this word means.
In Latin, striae simply means ‘streaks’.
What Causes Stretch Marks To Appear?
The main cause of stretch marks is weight gain or pregnancy.
This can involve both muscle gain, or fat gain. In these cases, especially with rapid weight gain, the skin is forced to stretch out to accommodate this extra mass underneath.
In most cases the skin can grow fast enough to accommodate this, but in some cases, or if the tissue beneath is growing faster than the skin can keep up, the skin will not be able to accommodate this growth. It will eventually tear under the pressure.
When this happens, it is actually only the middle layer that tears.
This causes it to appear red at first, which eventually fades to white as scar tissue and collagen buildup to repair the damage.
The Different Types Of Striae
There are actually several types of stretch marks, depending on the cause, and the portions of the skin responsible.
The two main categories are referred to as:
- Red stretch marks (Striae rubra)
- White stretch marks (Striae alba)
There are actually other types, which go into further detail about the specific causes of them. For the most part the treatments for these are the same, and it is more important to understand the stage they are in instead.
The red stage is the same in all kinds of stretch marks, and is the easiest to repair and treat.
White stretch marks will always form afterwards as the scar tissue is built up to repair the damage.
This type of stretch marks are caused by a loss of elastic fibers in the skin.
There are fibers in the skin that are made from a special protein that may stretch just like an elastic.
This is what gives your skin the ability to bounce back when it is stretched normally.
In some people, these elastin fibers will break down and allow the skin to tear easily.
This can happen from sudden weight gain or loss, and those on corticosteroid medications.
Striae distensae most often forms during puberty with the growth spurts that are common in this period of life.
They tend to appear mainly on the:
Striae gravidarum is pregnancy specific stretch marks.
Gravidarum is actually a Latin word that refers to pregnancy, which is what has lead to its name.
These are produced in a similar way as the other classifications, but is mainly found around the abdomen and can become severe in some individuals.
How To Treat Red Stretch Marks (Striae rubra)
Red stretch marks appear first, and are generally much easier to treat successfully.
This is the stage where the stretch marks have only recently formed, and have not yet build up much scar tissue.
There are multiple treatments that have been found effective during this stage.
Topical applications of Tretinoin to reduce the appearance of red stretch marks
This is a product with an active ingredient known as retinoic acid.
This has been shown in several studies to greatly reduce the appearance of stretchmarks in the Striae rubra phase (Source).
It should not be used by pregnant or breastfeeding women however.
Intensive Moisturisation to improve blood flow
By applying liberal amounts of moisturising creams and oils to the area, you can actually improve the blood flow and ability for the cells in the skin to divide and grow, thus filling in and replacing the damaged areas of the stretch marks.
This works best for stretch marks in the Striae rubra (red stretch marks) phase.
Vitamin C helps cells to grow
Vitamin C is an antioxidant, and is necessary for cells to grow and divide.
In a similar way as intensive moisturising, vitamin C can improve the skin cells’ ability to grow and divide.
This gives them a much better chance at replacing the developing scar tissue with new, healthy cells.
Avoid Rapid Weight Loss or Gain
By avoiding rapid weight loss or gain, you can actually reduce the chances of developing red stretch marks in the first place, and can assist the repair of existing striae rubra by preventing any further damage.
This is especially true for those in the high risk category like adolescents and pregnant women.
Relastin Topical Cream stimulates skin resistance
This product was originally designed as an eye cream, however, it has started to become popular as a treatment option for especially for red stretch marks.
This is because it stimulates the elastin, responsible for the stretch resistance of the skin.
By improving the elastin concentrations in the skin it has been reported that the appearance of stretch marks can be reduced.
This only appears to work with Striae rubra and not with the white stretch marks.
Aloe vera supports skin repair
Aloe is a great treatment for stretch marks in the red stage.
This is because it has chemicals in it that directly support the dermis layer of skin repair itself.
This means the damage caused by the skin stretching and tearing can be repaired effectively before it reaches the white stage which leaves that hard to remove scar tissue behind.
How To Treat White Stretch Marks (Striae alba)
White stretch marks are the result of collagen buildup in the damaged area.
This is also what we would refer to as scar tissue.
This collagen is a tough and sticky protein, that forms hard clumps that are hard to remove.
They leave the skin looking white, and are immune to tanning or darkening with normal measures.
White stretch marks are much harder to get rid of than red stretch marks.
There are, however, some options available that can reduce their appearance, and remove them slowly over time.
Laser treatments helps recolor white stretch marks
Treatment options involving technology like lasers and UV-B radiation have been shown to recolor white stretch marks by stimulating the pigment cells in the skin (Source).
This reduces the sharp white color they produce, and allows them to match your skin color more closely.
This minimizes their appearance, and makes them less noticeable.
Lemon Juice promotes collagen growth
Lemon juice contains a high amount of alpha-hydroxy acids which are well known to support collagen growth and formation in the body.
This can be useful long term as a means of reducing the white stretch marks in the dermal layer of the skin.
It is by no means an instant fix, but over time can gradually reduce the visibility of stretch marks.
Calendula supports skin’s natural ability to repair itself
Calendula is useful during both the red stage, and the white stage of stretch mark formation.
They are especially useful in this stage, however, because they stimulate the skin’s innate ability to repair itself.
This can happen by stimulating certain parts of the cell that cause it to reproduce, and replace the damaged cells with new ones.
Gradually these new cells weed out the damaged ones and the visible stretch mark scarring will begin to fade.
It also promotes the production of collagen and elastin, to further prevent new damage and new stretch markings from appearing.
Beyond the basic, red or white stretch marks there are actually some more specific definitions of stretch marks.
Once you can identify the type of stretch marks you have, treatment options can be directed for that specific type.
Making treatment more effective, and saving you from wasting your time on options that don’t work with your specific condition.
Q: How are stretch marks caused?
A: Stretch marks are caused by rapid weight gain, weight loss or growth spurs, as well as changes in hormones.
Q: What places stretch marks appear the most?
A: Hips, lower and upper arms, lower legs, thighs and abdomen.
Q: What are the most common stretch mark types?
A: Red stretch marks (striae rubra) and white stretch marks (striae alba).
Q: How to treat red stretch marks?
A: Provide topical application of tretioin to reduce the appearance of red stretch marks.
Q: How to treat white stretch marks?
A: Laser treatment helps recolor white stretch marks; lemon juice promotes collagen growth; calendula supports the skin’s natural regeneration.