How to Keep Stretch Marks From Itching
Stretch marks, technically called straie, are a form of scarring caused by tears in a layer of the skin called the dermis. Stretch marks are often caused when skin stretches quickly, as during pregnancy, growth spurts and periods of rapid weight gain. The resulting marks are usually pink, red, or purple at first and then fade with time to a silvery white. There is no known cure for stretch marks, which often cause itching.
Fill a bathtub with water, enough to come into contact with the stretch marks. Adjust water temperature to be as cool as you can tolerate. Add the contents of one packet of colloidal oatmeal, such as Aveeno, to the bathwater. Soak in the tub for 15 to 30 minutes, exposing stretch marks to the water. Gently pat skin to dry and avoid rubbing.
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Apply a liberal amount of a natural, non-irritating lotion, such as Eucerin or Aquaphor, to the skin, concentrating on areas where stretch marks appear. Avoid scratching the skin. When dressing, avoid wearing synthetic fabric next to itchy skin.
Apply an ice pack to the area of stretch marks for a few minutes if itching persists. This may have a soothing, numbing effect on the itching. Cooling the affected areas helps to reduce related inflammation. Avoid scratching or rubbing the skin.
Bathing in hot or warm water can enhance blood flow and exacerbate itching. Avoid purchasing products that claim to prevent or cure striae. Avoid significant rapid weight gain, as doing so commonly precipitates stretch marks. Other variables, such as hormones, can also play a part in the development of stretch marks.
Stretch marks accompanied by a rash, especially during pregnancy, can indicate an underlying problem. If this occurs, consult your doctor. According to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, pregnant women and women who may be pregnant should never use isotretinoin, sold under the brand name Accutane. Isotretinoin is sometimes prescribed to reduce the appearance of existing stretch marks and is known to cause serious birth defects. Prolonged or excessive use of some topical anti-itch steroid creams may exacerbate stretch marks.
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- Food and Drug Administration: Isotretinoin
- National Center for Biotechnology Information: Striae and Their Relation to Topical Steroid Therapy
- Farahnik B, Park K, Kroumpouzos G, Murase J. Striae gravidarum: Risk factors, prevention, and management. Int J Womens Dermatol. 2017;3(2):77-85. doi:10.1016/j.ijwd.2016.11.001
- Wollina U, Goldman A. Management of stretch marks (with a focus on striae rubrae). J Cutan Aesthet Surg. 2017;10(3):124-129. doi:10.4103/JCAS.JCAS_118_17
Based in Princeton, N.J., Elizabeth Moore has written health-related patient education materials since 1992. She is a registered nurse with more than 15 years of clinical experience. Moore earned an Associate of Applied Science in nursing from Phillips Beth Israel School of Nursing.