If you have ever been pregnant or lost significant weight, you may have encountered your share of stretch marks. (And no matter how much you love your body, you still might want them gone.) If you're searching the internet far and wide for a solution, one common remedy you’ll find on the mom and pregnancy boards is Vicks VapoRub. Many women claim that it can help reduce the appearance of stretch marks, but can you get rid of stretch marks with Vicks, or is it just another myth?
The first thing to know is what causes those awful marks in the first place. Dr. Carolyn Kassabian of Providence Holy Cross Medical Center, tells Romper that stretch marks occur when your skin is stretched rapidly. The American Pregnancy Association (APA) explained that during pregnancy, your skin stretches faster than it has time to adjust and it can tear and scar, resulting in a stretch mark. Some experts believe that increasing hormones during pregnancy attract more water to the skin, which can relax its bonded collagen fibers, making it more susceptible to tearing and stretch marks.
So is Vicks the quick fix? “There is no evidence that Vicks VapoRub helps to improve or prevent stretch marks," says Kassabian, and most professionals agree with her.
Dr. Adrienne Zertuche, OB-GYN at Atlanta Women's Healthcare Specialists tells Romper that despite a number of studies conducted on stretch mark prevention in pregnant women, as of yet, there is no high-quality evidence to support the use of any particular creams, ointments, oils, or garments.
Kassabian says that hydration is key in the prevention of stretch marks. “Hydrating the skin will minimize the chance of stretch marks from developing,” she explains, “therefore it is recommended that women apply moisturizer to their growing belly while pregnant or if they have a sudden increase in weight.” She notes, however, that it is plausible that Vicks, which is an ointment containing petrolatum and natural oils, is hydrating the skin and thus minimizing any further stretching of the skin. So while Vicks may not get rid of stretch marks, it’s hydrating qualities could help prevent them.
There are also some other recommended methods you can use to prevent stretch marks. Zertuche suggests, if possible, limiting weight gain during pregnancy. “Limiting weight gain in pregnancy to 25 to 35 pounds, or less if you are overweight or obese, is the best way to minimize stretch marks," she says, adding that the most promising preventive method may be a cream called Trofolastin, which contains Centella asiatica extract, alpha tocopherol (vitamin E), and collagen-elastin hydrolase, but she says that further investigation is needed before this product can be recommended.
To reduce the appearance of stretch marks, Kassabian and Zertuche both suggest using topical retinoids, but only after your baby is born, because they can cause birth defects during pregnancy. “Gels containing silicone help reduce redness in scars,” suggests Kassabian, “and Retin-A (by prescription) has also been shown to help improve newly formed stretch marks.”
Before using any topical creams, Kassabian suggests you speak to your dermatologist. If you are pregnant, make sure to talk to your OB-GYN about any creams you want to use to make sure that they are safe for you and your baby. In the meantime, you can keep your skin hydrated with oils or natural butters, like cocoa butter and shea butter.
And if you are postpartum, you can try all the creams you want, but eventually you may just have to get used to your stretch marks. I’m nine years postpartum, and have learned to accept that my stretch marks are here to stay. If you dig deep inside, you’ll know that it’s who you are that really matters, and no matter how it looks, you should be comfortable in your own skin.
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