My stomach is a roadmap of motherhood. Honestly, I think I measure longitude and latitude by them. They're no longer an angry red, but they're noticeable. With all the hype surrounding creams that claim to make those stretch marks disappear, it's no wonder that companies like It Works! are jumping in, too. Your high school friends are selling it on Facebook, but does It Works stretch mark cream work? Because if it does, I'll slather that stuff on like butter on a biscuit.
A recent study documenting the efficacy of stretch mark cream featured on BioMed Central found that 46 percent of women ended up with what is medically referred to as striae gravidarum or, stretch marks. I call mine claw marks, but, whatever. That's dang near half of all women who get pregnant. For those of us who get the cat scratches of pregnancy, they can be really depressing. I look down at my belly and cringe. Yes, my body did an amazing thing by growing and nurturing and birthing my beautiful children, but that doesn't mean I have to love what happened to it while it was busy being all miraculous and crap. And I don't. I hate the stretch marks. (Some women love theirs and that's absolutely OK, too.)
I'll admit, I didn't give much credence to the claims of stretch mark creams, so I've never tried them, but one look at the before and after photos of people using this cream makes me curious. Does the It Works! stretch mark cream really work?
A recent study by the University of Michigan, spearheaded by Dr. Frank Wang, found that at best, most stretch mark creams were ineffective at treating stretch marks, but may aid in the prevention of stretch marks, and at worst, they're completely useless. According to Wang, these creams aim to treat the disrupted elastic fiber networks created by the rapid stretching of the skin. However, while some of the creams do work at growing some new fibrils in the affected areas, it wasn't significant or structured enough to show any improvement.
However, an even more recent study in the Journal of Cosmetics, Dermatological Sciences and Applications showed that topical creams containing carbocisteine, a drug typically used to assist people suffering from pulmonary diseases to cough up sputum, do work well enough to show significant healing of stretch marks. (Although its safety for use during pregnancy has not yet been established.) But what about It Works!?
The ingredients in It Works! were precisely the ingredients studied by Wang's team. Centella, aloe, and a slew of various moisturizers go into the making of the pricey product. According to Wang, these ingredients aren't going to do anything after the stretch marks have formed, however, centella, one of the first ingredients listed, is noted as a possible preventative option for stretch marks.
For what it's worth, I've tried dozens of stretch mark and scar creams from Mederma to vitamin extracts to fancy wraps at spas, all to no avail. According to Mayo Clinic, when your body experiences a disruption in the production of cortisone, combined with other factors such as rapid growth or weight gain, the fibers simply cannot handle the strain and they become weak and damaged, forming what is essentially a patch of skin that, much like a scar, doesn't have the same ability it once had to remain elastic and pliable. Instead, that skin is thin and almost rubbery, and when it is initially formed, it's brightly hued. Some women are more likely to produce them than others, but getting rid of them via a topical cream really isn't likely to happen, at least with our current science.
Where does that leave you? An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure in most cases. In this case, an ounce of prevention is worth about $10.48. Yeah, the It Works! stretch mark cream is over $10 per ounce. So, if you're willing to shell out the coin to make it happen, it's worth a try. Just know that there are way cheaper options out there with just as much centella oil for your cents.
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