If you’re one of the millions of people with stretch marks on their skin, you may be wondering if yours will get worse as time goes on. The answer, unfortunately, is possibly. But don’t stress – there may be something you can do about it.

Those reddish or white streaks appear when skin experiences rapid growth, due to puberty, pregnancy, or weight gain. Though stretch marks and their intensity are largely dependent on hormonal shifts, if you have stretch marks now, there is a chance you may continue to see more pop up. But don’t let that thought scare you – there are things you can do to lessen your stretch marks and reduce them as time goes on.

The Best Time to Treat

According to Dr. Eric Bernstein, Clinical Associate Professor at the University of Pennsylvania, stretch marks are not only from stretching. “They’re also from hormonal changes in our skin that may accompany times when we’re stretching (such as a large weight gain). “Since stretch marks come from hormonal influences, of course you can make more.” Stretch marks usually start out pink, reddish brown, brown, or dark brown, depending on your skin tone.

The best time is thus to start early, and do what you can to prevent them.

What to Do

To try to help prevent stretch marks from appearing, read more about prevention here.

For treatment, there are a few options. Fractionated laser treatment, such as Fraxel®, is an option within a doctor’s office. “In the right hands, fractionated lasers can produce some improvement on skin-colored stretch marks, but this can be harder to accomplish,” says Bernstein. These treatments take between one to two hours each time and are performed in an in-office setting under the care of a doctor. Most patients describe an increased sensation of heat and pain during the treatment, in which pulses of laser light coagulate the affected area and trigger healthy new tissue to form in the skin. Fractional treatment can be pricey (try our Treatment Cost Calculator to estimate your cost) and can take multiple treatments over a period of time.

As a more cost-effective alternative, there are topical creams and lotions that can also help: Try a daily cream to diminish the marks’ appearance and help improve the texture of the area.