When we think of stretch marks, the image that often comes to mind is deep, streak-like lines found on the buttocks and thigh area. However, stretch marks can occur wherever your skin has the ability to stretch, and the breasts are no exception.
Plastic surgeon Emily Kirby explained to HuffPost that stretch marks in the breast area form the same way as stretch marks found in other areas. “It begins with our skin’s collagen and elastin, the proteins that keep our skin firm, and give it the elastic quality that allows it to expand and contract in response to moderate fluctuations in shape and size,” she said. “During periods of rapid growth or stretching, the inner layer of skin (the dermis) may not be able to produce collagen and elastin as quickly as our skin is stretched, resulting in very small tears. These tears eventually heal into the linear and indented scars we know as stretch marks.”
Kirby explained there are a number of reasons stretch marks can occur on the breasts: “Breasts are a common area to see a rapid change in size, due to puberty, weight gain, weight loss and childbearing,” she added. Genetics can also play a big role in determining who develops stretch marks, as well as hormonal conditions such as Cushing’s syndrome, which causes the body to produce too much cortisol, according to dermatologist Anna Karp. Similarly, “individuals with larger breasts are also more prone to stretch marks due to the skin being stretched further than that of those with smaller cup size”, said aesthetic doctor Amy Watson.
A supportive bra in the correct size can be helpful in preventing stretch marks — Karp told HuffPost that “going braless, as well as working out without a sports bra, for long periods of time only increases your risk for stretch marks.”
If you want to prevent stretch marks from forming or even worsening, there are things you can do to take good care of your skin. “Certain lifestyle habits, such as smoking and UV exposure, have a negative impact on your skin’s elasticity, making it more likely that stretch marks will form,” Kirby said. “If you want to prevent stretch marks (and skin aging in general), avoid smoking and always wear protective clothing — or sunscreen — on any exposed areas.”
If you’ve already got stretch marks and you’d like them to fade, keep in mind that topical treatments can be helpful in lessening the appearance of the stretch marks, but they won’t make them completely disappear. “While topical applications may help stretch marks to fade in color and also smooth their texture, they will not completely erase stretch marks,” Kirby said. “Patients looking to significantly fade stretch marks are best served with collagen-stimulating skin treatments, such as microneedling or lasers, or surgery that involves skin excision.”
But if you’re not interested in going that far, here are seven dermatologist-approved skin care favorites for treating stretch marks.
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Bio-Oil Skincare Oil (Natural)
“This popular body oil contains plant oils and extracts with antioxidants and anti-inflammatory factors that help to prevent and reduce the appearance of stretch marks,” Karp said. “It also contains vitamins A, C and E, which are beneficial in helping with prevention as well as treating the appearance of stretch marks. However, consistency is important, so this product should be used daily for best results.” Get it from Amazon starting at $12.51.
EltaMD UV Clear Facial Sunscreen Broad-Spectrum SPF46
“If your stretch marks are exposed to the sun, mineral sunscreen can be helpful in minimizing discoloration,” Karp explained. “I love this sunscreen, because it goes on sheer and is lightweight. It’s also safe to use on skin that is prone to acne, rosacea and hyperpigmentation.” Get it from Amazon for $37.
Neutrogena Rapid Wrinkle Repair Retinol Anti-Wrinkle Oil
“Stretch marks can be cosmetically displeasing, more so during the summer months,” said dermatologist Rina Allawh
. “Applying a nightly retinol cream or oil on dark stretch marks nightly may help even out the skin tone and hyperpigmentation.” Get it from Amazon starting at $13.57.
Burt’s Bees Mama Belly Butter
“This product contains hydrating and moisturizing shea butter, coconut oil, cocoa butter and jojoba butter, as well as sweet almond oil and sunflower seed oil, which are rich in fatty acids and antioxidants to support and protect the skin,” dermatologist Hadley King
told HuffPost. “These ingredients keep the skin soft and supple so it can stretch more easily. However, studies have shown that taking the time to massage the product into the skin may make it more effective, so be sure to remember the massage!” Get it from Amazon for $12.79.
Mederma Stretch Marks Removal Cream
“This stretch mark removal cream contains cica, an antioxidant-rich herb that has been used for centuries in traditional Chinese and Ayurvedic medicine,” King said. “Cica has been reported to be helpful for skin inflammation, burns, wounds, scars, ulcers, venous insufficiency, infection, post-surgical healing and psoriasis. Studies have shown that the cica extract is an effective wound-healing agent, and has also been documented to be effective in the treatment of keloids, phlebitis, cellulitis, slow-healing wounds and stretch marks.” Get it from Amazon for $28.32.
Mustela Maternity Stretch Marks Cream
“The shea and sunflower seed oil ingredients inside this cream help moisturize and support the skin barrier, which may help improve elasticity,” King explained. “This cream is also fragrance-free and EWG-verified, meaning it’s free of the Environmental Working Group’s chemicals of concern.” Get it from Amazon for $21.99.
Alastin Transform Body Treatment
“This isn’t specifically marketed for stretch mark treatment, but it does contain peptides, which stimulate the production of new collagen and elastin, which, in return, helps improve the appearance of stretch marks.” said dermatologist Emily Wood
. “Overall, this is a great product that I personally use every day to stimulate new collagen and elastin in my skin.”Get it from Alastin for $195.