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Stretch marks are a part of life—that, I've accepted. And now that some brands have decided to stop Photoshopping them out of their ad campaigns and celebrities have shown them off on Instagram, we can all begin to accept their place on our bodies. It's certainly not embarrassing to possess a feature you have no control over. We are humans, and our bodies do what they must to keep us living.
I've grown used to my stretch marks, barely noticing them when I dress or undress, and the shame that came with them during my teenage years has generally subsided. I like my body, and I'm not worried about the stigma still attached to stretch marks. That being said, feeling compassion toward your body (all its curves and edges) and wanting to reduce the appearance of stretch marks don't have to be conflicting schools of thought. I can feel good about my body positivity and still try to treat my stretch marks if I so choose. So that's exactly what I did: derma-rolled my stretch marks in the hopes that they'd lighten up.
I also spoke to two experts—Scott Wells, MD, a New York–based plastic surgeon and cosmetic dermatologist Sejal Shah, MD, FAAD, founder of New York's SmarterSkin Dermatology—for more on stretch marks and micro-needling.
Read on for more about the experience, along with what dermatologists have to say about derma-rolling.
What Is Derma-Rolling?
A derma-roller is a tool comprised of many tiny needles which, when rolled against your skin, create micro-injuries. This, in turn, sends collagen and elastin production into overdrive to compensate as it heals—leaving your skin tighter and plumper than it was beforehand. And don't worry—it doesn't hurt. But it does resurface the top layer of your skin by encouraging your body's natural healing process.
It's helpful to know exactly what a stretch mark is before considering how derma-rolling might help combat it. To be clear, "a stretch mark is a tear in the collagen fabric of the dermis that occurs whenever the skin is stretched beyond its tensile limits," explains Wells. "This is visible as a lighter-appearing linear wrinkling under the skin. This will happen in the abdominal region during pregnancy or in the hips and leg region with rapid weight gain—this can happen any time but is most common during adolescence due to the hormonal alteration in the skin to accommodate growth."
Earlier this year, a Reddit user, nct1234, shared a before-and-after photo (see below) showing the difference pre– and post–stretch mark treatment. She treated just one leg to gauge efficacy—and the results were startling. I knew I had to try it, if not purely as research due to the unprecedented results. My stretch marks reside in the exact same place as hers, along the inside of my upper thighs.
So what did she do? She derma-rolled the skin on her thighs using a one-and-a-half-millimeter roller and applied hyaluronic acid serum before she began.
Benefits of Derma-Rolling Stretch Marks
- Enhances texture of skin
- Stimulates collagen production
- Can help reduce scars and hyperpigmentation
In a consumer study, participants used the GloPro derma-roller three times per week and 97 percent reported improvement in skin's firmness, 93 percent saw improvement in the evenness of their skin tone, and 100 percent felt it helped stimulate their skin's natural collagen after just 30 days. I like those odds.
That being said, since my stretch marks are from years ago, they're more stubborn than newly formed ones. "New stretch marks are usually red while older ones are white," says Shah. "They can both be challenging to treat, but I find that newer ones are easier. While treatment options can be very effective in some, it may not be able to completely remove them regardless of whether they are old or new." I had to remember to keep my expectations in check.
How to Prepare for Derma-Rolling
Before starting on my derma-roller vs. stretch marks mission, I needed to find two things: a tool and my choice of product. My methodology was this: Use a derma-roller on my thighs (like I would my face) three times a week along with my favorite hyaluronic acid serum—SkinCeuticals Hydrating B5 Gel ($83)—for two months. Then, record the results and try to prove once and for all if this phenomenon really works. As it stands now, there is plenty of anecdotal evidence that this practice leads to results. However, research into its benefits as an effective long-term strategy for beating stretch marks is fairly limited. Let's see if we can change that, at least in our own anecdotal way.
The first step in preparation is locking down your products.
This particular kit comes with heads for the face, eyes, and body (as well as prep pads, power cords, and instructions). To start, I focused on the GloPro Body MicroTip attachment head. The product's description reads: "For use on uneven, crepey, saggy, or dimply skin on the body including thighs, buttocks, abdomen, knees, and arms."
The difference, though, between this micro-needling device and others is that it also offers red LED light therapy and VibroTactile stimulation to enhance the tightening, stretch mark–healing benefits. Red light is most commonly used to promote circulation, so it's helpful for healing post-punctures.
SkinCeuticals' Hydrating B5 Gel is the perfect texture—thin enough to remain lightweight and absorb quickly, yet robust enough to keep things slippery and hydrated. Once applied, the formula restores and binds moisture to the skin.
What to Expect When Derma-Rolling
I began the first session after thoroughly cleansing my skin and applying one of the GlowPro prep pads. Then I applied hyaluronic acid for some extra cushion. With gentle pressure (remember: this shouldn't hurt), I rolled the derma-roller over my inner thighs about 10 times, changing direction with each pass. I continued for a minute and watched my inner thighs turn pink and flushed from the irritation. It's normal and sounds much worse than it is. Then, I applied more hyaluronic acid serum and a firming body lotion. I went to bed anxiously awaiting my results come morning.
It's recommended to reapply your hydrating serum and lotion within 60 seconds after the use of the derma-roller for maximum absorption.
Once the sun rose, I hopped out of bed and inspected my stretch marks. I didn't see any reduction of texture or color, but I did notice the skin on my thighs seemed tighter and more toned. The results looked exactly like they do when I use a derma-roller on my face—visible but not life-changing.
The Final Takeaway
As the weeks went on, I diligently kept up this practice. I rolled three times a week for two months. After the first 30 days, I started to notice an actual difference. The silvery-white color of the stretch marks was still there, but they were no longer raised. My thighs looked far smoother than they had since puberty. I relished in the results, kept rolling away, and haven't looked back.
For more cost-effective derma-rollers, check out our top picks below.
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Hou A, Cohen B, Haimovic A, Elbuluk N. Microneedling: a comprehensive review. Dermatol Surg. 2017;43(3):321-339. doi:10.1097/DSS.0000000000000924
Ramaut L, Hoeksema H, Pirayesh A, Stillaert F, Monstrey S. Microneedling: Where do we stand now? A systematic review of the literature. J Plast Reconstr Aesthet Surg. 2018;71(1):1‐14. doi:10.1016/j.bjps.2017.06.006