Here’s what really happens when you try to tan away stretch marks.
Before the bliss of summertime hits, many people scramble and do everything they can to achieve a “beach body.” They hit the gym, diet, wax, tan, and find ways to cover certain aspects of their bodies that they deem unfit for beach time fun.
For some, this might mean masking the presence of cellulite (PS: cellulite is VERY common and normal—about 90 percent of women have it), and for others it might mean trying to get rid of stretch marks.
What Are Stretch Marks Anyway?
Stretch mark are scars. They develop when the skin stretches or shrinks quickly, such as during puberty, pregnancy, or rapid weight loss or gain.
The abrupt change causes collagen and elastin—fibers that support our skin—to rupture. Like other scars, stretch marks may appear as the skin begins to heal.
The Myth About Tanning and Stretch Marks
It’s a common misconception that tanning in a tanning bed will erase stretch marks. The truth is, nothing can get rid of stretch marks completely. Like any scar, stretch marks are permanent. In fact, tanning can actually make them *more* noticeable because the stretch marks themselves don’t tan.
But tanning to erase your stretch marks is not just counterproductive: It’s actually dangerous. Tanning increases your risk of melanoma, a deadly form of skin cancer.
How to Reduce the Appearance of Stretch Marks
Even though you can’t get rid of stretch marks completely, there are ways to treat them and make them less noticeable:
- Sunless tanner. Still aching for that summer glow? Save your skin and try sunless tanner instead. Self-tanner may help camouflage stretch marks.
- Specialized stretch mark lotions. Stretch mark lotions *may* help—if you use them correctly. Apply the lotion on early stretch marks (treatment has little effect on mature stretch marks) and massage it into the skin every day for weeks.
- Prescription skin medicines. Prescriptions medications, like hyaluronic acid, tretinoin, and retinol may help make stretch marks less noticeable or keep early stretch marks from growing.
Note: If you’re pregnant, talk to your doctor before using stretch mark creams. Some ingredients, like retinol, may be harmful for your baby.
Stretch marks: Why they appear and how to get rid of them. American Academy of Dermatology. (Accessed on January 30, 2022 at https://www.aad.org/public/skin-hair-nails/skin-care/stretch-marks)
Sunburn Protection (Beyond the Basics). UpToDate. (Accessed on January 30, 2022 at https://www.uptodate.com/contents/sunburn-prevention-beyond-the-basics)
Stretch marks. Dermnet NZ. (Accessed on January 30, 2022 at https://www.dermnetnz.org/topics/stretch-marks-striae)
Hague A and Bayat A. “Therapeutic targets in the management of striae distensae: A systematic review.” J Am Acad Dermatol. 2017;77(3):559-68.
Stier MF and Hirsch RJ. “Rejuvenation of scars and striae.” In: Hirsch RJ, et al. Aesthetic rejuvenation. McGraw Hill Medical, China, 2009:224-9.
Ud‐Din S, McGeorge D, et al. “Topical management of striae distensae (stretch marks): prevention and therapy of striae rubrae and albae. J Eur Acad Dermatol Venereol. 2016; 30(2): 211–22.