Stretch marks appear on your skin when the tissue below it grows so fast that the fibrous collagen and elastin in your skin cannot keep up with the rapid rate at which it is forced to expand. This is similar to the cracks you see in an elastic band when you stretch it too far and too fast.
How Stretch Mark Creams Work
The collagen and elastin are situated in your skin’s dermis (the middle layer just below the top one. These are the protein fibers that keep your skin strong and elastic. This is why stretch marks are so difficult to remove; they are situated below your skin’s top layer that you cannot reach easily.
To prevent stretch marks, your skin needs more collagen so that it is stronger and less likely to split and more elastin to give it more elasticity. A good stretch mark prevention cream can stimulate your fibroblast cells to produce more of both. This is the kind of cream you start using at the beginning of your pregnancy or weight training program to prevent stretch marks from appearing.
To remove stretch marks, your skin needs more collagen to seal the cracks in the existing collagen. With new stretch marks that are still red or purple, this is not too difficult, because your skin is still inflamed from the tearing and actively hunting for collagen to heal it. Once the inflammation is gone and a stretch mark has turned white, your skin is no longer in healing mode and is happy to leave the cracks in the collagen as they are. Then a stretch mark removal cream can still provide collagen and elastin, but it may need a bit of help from you to put your skin back in healing mode so your skin uses them to seal the cracks.
Best Stretch Mark Removal Cream
After hunting for a good stretch mark removal cream, I discovered that Revitol’s version had most of the ingredients that scientific studies have proved capable of producing collagen and elastin. I had some old stretch marks from my adolescent years and my 2001 pregnancy that I wanted to remove. My 14-year-old son is already taller than me and had collected some stretch marks on his thighs that he wanted to remove. He was lucky, because they were still new and purple.
Revitol Stretch Mark Cream contains squalene oil, vitamin A, aloe vera, vitamin D3, vitamin E, and grapefruit extract.
- Squalene oil is an omega-2 oil that occurs naturally in your skin, in olives, in palm oil, and especially abundantly in shark liver oil. One academic study found that it protected the skin from oxidative and sun damage, that it helped internal and external tissue heal, and that it moisturized the skin and made it more elastic. Another study concluded that it could decrease wrinkles and increase collagen production, exactly what we need to prevent and remove stretch marks.
- Vitamin A – also called retinol because it is the same substance as the yellow compound found in green and yellow vegetables – can also decrease wrinkles, fibroblast cell growth, increase collagen, and improve glycosaminoglycan, the part of the connective tissue that retains moisture. This was confirmed across all age groups from 18 to over 90.
- Aloe vera can stimulate the production of collagen and elastin fibers, and can thereby enable your skin to repair itself. Scientists have also proved that it facilitates wound healing in the skin, which is exactly what stretch marks are.
- Vitamin D3, when applied topically, has been confirmed to reduce wrinkles, hyperpigmented spots (dark spots), red blotchiness, and sallowness (yellowing). It also improves elasticity.
- Vitamin E is a great moisturizer and is your skin’s main antioxidant that protects it against son and other damage.
- Grapefruit extract is packed with vitamin C, essential for collagen production and protection against oxitive and inflammatory damage. A shortage of vitamin C causes scurvy, a condition in which your skin cracks and previously healed wounds open because there is too little collagen to keep the skin together. It also contains plenty of collagen-building vitamin A in the form of highly antioxidant carotenoids like lycopene.
Removing New Stretch Marks
With this scientific approach to stretch marks, it is not surprising that Revitol’s cream removed my son’s new marks. His skin was still in healing mode, so when this amazing collection of ingredients triggered collagen and elastin production, his skin immediately used it to fill in the cracks that were busy forming. The cream also moisturized his skin to help with elasticity.
Removing Old Stretch Marks
Old stretch marks are much harder to remove. Any company that claims that it is easy is lying. Revitol is certainly honest enough to admit that it’s cream is much better at preventing new ones from settling than it is at removing old ones that have been there for years. The oils in Revitol can stimulate your skin’s outer layer to produce pigment to turn the old white marks back to something close to your skin color. They can also produce collagen and elastin. But they cannot force your skin to use these to repair cracks in the dermis as your skin treats these cracks as old wounds that no longer need to be repaired.
I thought I would help the process along by doing two things:
- I caused the tiniest bit of inflammation in my dermis by using a derma roller with 0.5mm titanium micro-needles once a month to make microscopic punctures in my skin. I then stimulated blood flow to the area by massaging towards it. My skin went straight into healing mode, and used the new collagen from the Revitol cream to fill the cracks. You can buy a derma roller anywhere. The micro-needles do not hurt, by the way, they are much too short and thin. Many people use it on sensitive areas like their faces and scalps. If this sounds too terrible, just apply my second method and be patient. The Revitol cream will still lighten your old stretch marks, as testified by very many of its users.
- I mixed uncooked oats and water to use as a scrub to remove the cells in my top skin layer to convince my skin to replace the cells and produce new properly skin-colored pigment to cover the new collagen. This is not painful either, it’s no different from using a facial scrub.
Ineffective Stretch Mark Removal Creams
Revitol definitely is the best stretch mark cream. Many other popular options simply do not work as well.
- Glycolic acid. Creams based on it remove your skin’s top layer and can, thus, treat dry skin and surface colored spots. The solutions available over-the-counter for home use are not strong enough to enter the dermis, so are not of much use for stretch marks. I also do not like putting industrial chemicals on my skin because I cannot see how it can be healthy. While you can possibly buy stronger solutions from unregistered companies somewhere on the Internet, using an acid from an unauthorized source that is strong enough to dissolve skin at home is incredibly unwise. Moreover, such strong concentrations may cause scarring because it burns deep into your skin.
- Enzyme or peptide-based cream. Enzymes are proteins that regulate the chemical reactions in your body, including whether enough collagen is produced. Coenzyme Q10 is often targeted with specialist CoQ10 creams. Aloe vera contains plenty of enzymes that, as we saw above, can heal stretch marks. Specialist enzyme cream without all the other benefits of Revitol seems pretty second-best.
- Olive oil. When olive oil was given to pregnant study participants, it could not even prevent new stretch marks from occurring, let alone keep them under control once they did. While olive oil does contain squalene oil, it is at a much too low concentration. Squalene oil works, olive oil doesn’t.
- Tretinoin creams. Tretinoin is a derivative of vitamin A which, as we have seen, is effective. Tretinoin, however, is so strong that it leads to birth defects if you apply it while pregnant, and it can irritate your skin. Because it is so strong, most such creams require prescriptions from a dermatologist and you can qualify for a prescription only if you have passed two pregnancy tests and are placed onto two contraceptives. You may just as well stick to Revitol for the benefits of vitamin A, it’s simpler and cheaper, and there is no evidence that tretinoin is more effective.
- Coconut oil or cocoa butter. I am an enthusiastic user of coconut oil, but it does not work for stretch marks. In one study where pregnant women massaged with it daily, it failed to prevent new stretch marks or control them once they were there.
- Bitter almond oil. Creams based on bitter almond oil do not prevent new stretch marks either. In one study where pregnant woman applied it to their abdomens, it failed, although if they massaged rather than just apply it, it had some success at preventing new ones.
- Essential oils. There is no research that shows that essential oils prevent stretch marks, most probably because the researchers are too scared to give them to women who are pregnant. These oils are powerful and can promote bleeding, and possibly hemorrhaging, together with other effects of the medical community does not understand yet. Dermatologists have been so unenthusiastic about the potential of essential oils to remove stretch marks that they have not even studied it. I most certainly did not feel like spending hundreds or thousands of dollars to test those untested oils for myself while a proven solution was available.
- Rosehip oil. This is actually a cold pressed oil rather than an essential oil, and it pops up in almost all new aging skin products these days (I sometimes use it on my face too). One research team found it to be effective in combination with other substances, but they could not confirm which of the substances was responsible for the effect. The product they tested also contained hydroxyprolisilane-C (a protein not dissimilar from Aloe Vera), centella asiatica (a plant with a triterpene probably weaker than its fellow triterpene squalene), and vitamin E. This blend prevented some new stretch marks from forming, and relieved some old ones, but it is not clear which substance was responsible for the effect.
- Moomiyo. Popular in Central Asia for both stretch marks and sports performance, this substance starts off as bat droppings and, through complex interactions with the environment, turns into a sticky dark substance a bit like tar. If you are not grossed out by smeering bat doo-doo all over yourself, you can go ahead, but there is no evidence that shows that it prevents or relieves stretch marks.
- collagen-elastin hydrolisates. While this sounds impressive, it is no more than the same type of enzyme as Aloe Vera.
- A-tocopherol. This is no more than the same simple vitamin E that appears in Revitol.
While I cannot rule out that there are other stretch mark creams that work, my research and experience have led me to one that certainly does. If you want to make it easy for yourself, skip all the research, and save all the money on potentially unsuccessful experiments, give it a go. If your scars are really old, you must be patient. These are deep scars. They will not disappear after only one or two months. Nothing works that fast – not even surgery.