Stretch marks are very common and are a normal part of life, especially during adolescence and pregnancy.
They pose no health risks, and there is no medical need to get rid of them. However, some people dislike how stretch marks look and prefer to reduce their appearance using creams, light therapy, and medical procedures.
In this article, we explain what causes stretch marks on the thighs and the methods that people can use to try to remove them.
What do stretch marks look like?
Stretch marks often appear as raised streaks on the skin.
Stretch marks are a type of skin damage, or scar, that develops when the skin either stretches or shrinks quickly. The medical term for stretch marks is striae.
Stretch marks appear as long, thin scars on the skin, and they often change in color and prominence over time. Stretch marks form at a 90 degree angle to the direction in which the skin stretches.
On the thighs, stretch marks often first appear as raised pink or purple linear streaks on the skin. Over the next few months or years, these marks change to white or silver scars.
The location of stretch marks varies among individuals, with common areas including:
- the thighs, buttocks, and breasts in adolescent females
- the back in adolescent males
- the abdomen, breasts, and thighs during pregnancy
Some people may complain that their stretch marks are itchy, but most usually do not report any symptoms. People often consult a doctor to find a treatment to hide them or reduce their appearance.
People get stretch marks when the middle layer of the skin, called the dermis, becomes stretched. They appear on the thighs either when a person gains weight or muscle around the thighs or when they lose weight in this area. Growth spurts and pregnancy can also cause stretch marks on the thighs.
Common causes of stretch marks may include:
- growth spurts
- weight loss or gain
- exercises that increase muscle size
- certain medical conditions
- a side effect of some medications
Stretch marks are twice as common in females as in males and can occur in females between the ages of 5 and 50 years. People with a family history of stretch marks and those who smoke may also have a higher risk of developing stretch marks.
During pregnancy, young females have a higher risk than older females of developing stretch marks. Researchers have also shown that pregnant women who have a large abdominal circumference due to large fetal size are at an increased risk of stretch marks.
Other causes of stretch marks include:
- prolonged antibiotic therapy
- Cushing’s disease
- Marfan syndrome
- febrile illness
- chronic liver disease
Doctors classify stretch marks according to their appearance or cause. The following table lists the different types of stretch mark.
Treatments and home remedies
When stretch marks first appear on the skin, they will appear red, but over time, they change to white or silver.
When reducing red stretch marks, the aim is to minimize redness, skin swelling, and irritation. For white stretch marks, the objective is to increase the levels of collagen and elastic fiber in the skin, reduce inflammation, and hydrate the skin.
Topical remedies are popular for preventing and treating stretch marks. However, there is little evidence that over-the-counter ointments, creams, or gels are effective.
There is more evidence to suggest that laser and light therapies may reduce stretch marks. However, the studies tend to be of low quality, involving only a small number of participants, and the results are often difficult to interpret.
Topical creams and gels
The most common treatments for stretch marks are topical creams, ointments, and gels, some of which have evidence to support their use. The following sections cover these options.
Increasing collagen production at the site of the stretch mark may make the skin more elastic, thereby reducing the appearance of stretch marks.
Several products claim to stimulate collagen production. These include:
- Cussons Mum and Me Bump Stretch Marks Cream
- Clarins Stretch Marks Cream
- Apothederm Stretch Marks Cream
- Skinception Intensive Stretch Marks Therapy Cream
Many of these products have no published evidence supporting their effectiveness in stretch mark reduction.
Skin cell growth creams
Vitamin B-5 may help improve cell reproduction in the skin.
Some products claim to treat stretch marks by helping stimulate cell growth and reproduction. These include Thalgo Stretch Marks Cream and Liforma Stretch Marks Cream.
Thalgo Stretch Marks Cream contains an extract from the Centella asiatica plant, often called centella, which research has shown may help stimulate collagen production.
Researchers suggest that the vitamin B-5 in Liforma improves cell reproduction and helps decrease the appearance of stretch marks.
The manufacturers of SilDerm Stretch Mark Repair Cream claim that the ingredients help reduce the redness of stretch marks. However, they provide neither an explanation for how they tested this product nor any data.
Liforma Stretch Marks Cream also contains chamomile and vitamin E, which may have anti-inflammatory properties.
Palmers Cocoa Butter cream contains:
- cocoa butter
- vitamin E
Researchers suggest that this product can help prevent and reduce the appearance of stretch marks by increasing the skin’s elasticity and rehydrating the skin.
TriLASTIN-SR and RegimA Scar Repair and Anti-Stretch Complex are two other products available for stretch mark treatment and repair. There are no published trials to support their use.
The following ingredients are common in stretch mark creams with various levels of evidence:
- retinoic acid
- hyaluronic acid
- glycolic acid
- ascorbic acid
- cocoa butter
- coconut oil
People are increasingly interested in minimally invasive procedures that can help reduce the appearance of stretch marks. These techniques can increase collagen production, decrease the presence of blood vessels, and improve skin pigmentation.
Dermatologists can offer the following procedures:
- ablative lasers
- nonablative lasers
- copper bromide laser
- microneedle fractional radiofrequency
- platelet-rich plasma dermal injections
- microneedling therapy
- intense pulsed light
- light based therapies, including UVB, IR light, chemical peeling, galvanopuncture, and carboxytherapy
Certain products may help a person reduce the appearance of stretch marks.
According to the authors of a review article, while many products purport to prevent stretch marks on the thighs, there is little research to back up many of the claims. However, certain types may work for some people.
The manufacturers of Cussons Mum and Me Bump Stretch Marks Cream claim that the active ingredient, lupin seed extract, increases collagen in the skin. However, there are no published clinical trials to confirm this fact.
Many stretch mark products contain centella, which increases cell reproduction. According to some research, women rated Liforma Stretch Mark Day Gel and Night Cream, which contains centella, as more effective than other products.
Trofolastin also contains centella, along with tocopherol and collagen-elastin hydrolysates. These ingredients led to a lower incidence of stretch mark formation in women using the product than in those using a placebo.
The researchers also noted that women using Trofolastin with a history of stretch marks during puberty had 100% prevention of stretch marks compared with 89% prevention in the placebo group.
People also use Alphastria, Thalgo Stretch Marks Cream, and Palmers Cocoa Butter cream to prevent stretch marks, but researchers have not yet confirmed how well they work.
Researchers have tested various home remedies for stretch marks, including olive, coconut, and almond oil. They noticed that the application of almond oil led to a significant difference in the percentage of people who developed stretch marks.
About 20% of people who used almond oil with massage techniques developed stretch marks, compared with 38.8% of the participants who just used almond oil and 41.2% of those in the control group.
Stretch marks on the thighs are common, especially in females during adolescence and pregnancy. They are harmless and tend to fade over time, though some people use creams or medical procedures to try to minimize their appearance.
Doctors may recommend a combination of products to help reduce the appearance of stretch marks on the thighs. Further research is necessary to confirm the effectiveness of any treatment for stretch marks.
To offer the best treatment, dermatologists must thoroughly examine the stretch marks and determine the person’s skin type. They will also need to take a full medical history to ensure that they make the correct choice.