Does Vicks VapoRub get rid of stretch marks?

This definitely sounds too good to be true but you never know unless you go to a professional, right? Is there any truth to the claim that Vicks VapoRub can erase stretch marks?


F, 43, Minnesota

Tags:woman age 35-44 stretch marks cream home treatment

Stretch marks are a form of scarring caused when the dermis layer of the skin is stretched beyond its elastic maximum. Stretch marks commonly form during periods of rapid weight change (either weight gain or weight loss) or rapid growth. It's also common to see stretch marks form as a result of hormonal changes which can occur during adolescence and pregnancy.

If you do an Internet search for home remedies which purport to get rid of stretch marks, you will find dozens: Vitamin E, tea tree oil, egg white, baking soda, eucalyptus oil, coconut oil, and other common ingredients are often touted as topical agents that can treat stretch marks. None of these have been scientifically shown to have any effect.

Vicks products contain menthol, which is an organic compound commonly found in mint-flavored products. Menthol is also used in cough drops to relieve throat irritation and it has some local anesthetic qualities as well. It is also added to skin creams as a topical analgesic and an antipruritic to stop itching.

Because of these properties, Vicks VapoRub can 'feel' like it's working when it's applied to the skin. Unfortunately, the cooling sensation of menthol does nothing to actually repair the scars that form from overly stretched skin.

Once we stretch beyond the limits of skin elasticity it's extremely difficult to heal the resulting scars. If you have stretch marks, the best that any non-surgical treatment can hope to achieve is a slight reduction in their visibility. Unless your stretch marks are extremely minor and difficult to see, there is really no way to remove them completely without surgery.

If your stretch marks are on your lower abdomen, below the belly button, it may be possible to remove them with a tummy tuck. If that describes you, and you're interested in pursuing surgical options to remove your stretch marks, I encourage you to contact a board-certified plastic surgeon with extensive abdominoplasty experience.

The blogosphere has always been filled with posts asking "How to get rid of stretch marks?" and offering up home remedies like shea butter, aloe vera, vitamin C, and natural oils. While these remedies may help to moisturize the skin, there's no indication that they fade stretch marks. The latest of these popular remedies is is the Vicks VapoRub treatment.

According to countless blogs, all one has to do is rub Vicks in circular motions over the affected area and your stretch marks will slowly fade.

It isn't true.

Stretch marks, also called "striae," are actually subsurface scars which form in the dermal layer of the skin. Our skin has natural elastic properties that allow it to stretch and contract. In periods of extreme stretching, like pregnancy, weight gain, or extreme exercise, the skin can be stretched beyond its natural limit. When this happens, the stretched skin tears below the surface. When these tears first appear they expose thousands of capillaries on deeper layers of skin. These capillaries give new stretch marks their bright red color. Over time, scar tissue forms and the color of stretch marks gradually changes from their bright red to a pale or silvery color.

The original tear in the dermis and the resulting scar both exist beneath the surface of the skin. No amount of topical creams -- including Vicks VapoRub -- is going to have any effect on subsurface scarring caused by overly stretched skin.

It's always tempting to believe that there's an easy, DIY non-surgical treatment to make stretch marks vanish. Unfortunately, removing stretch marks is extremely difficult to do non-surgically. The best therapy we have to-date is laser therapy for stretch mark removal.

Laser therapy with vascular lasers can be used on newer stretch marks that are still red in color. If your stretch marks are older and paler, we can use fractional lasers to reduce their visibility and encourage collagen growth.

Laser therapy for the treatment of stretch marks is FDA-approved, but it isn't a silver bullet. When discussing stretch mark treatment with patients, it's important to set expectations correctly: Even after the recommended four to six treatments, the best we can usually hope for is to make the marks "less visible." There is no non-surgical method currently available for removing stretch marks completely.

If you're interested in pursuing laser therapy to help reduce the visibility of your stretch marks, I suggest finding a board-certified dermatologist in your area who has extensive experience in laser therapy for stretch marks. 

Stretch marks, or striae, are a form of scarring which occur when the skin stretches rapidly. They form when the dermis, or the middle layer of skin which maintains the skin's shape and elasticity, expands more than it can tolerate. The connective fibres in the skin ultimately break, which interferes with collagen production. Stretch marks are often associated with pregnancy, obesity, puberty and sudden weight gain from physical activities such as bodybuilding. They have an appearance similar to tiger stripes on the skin.


Vicks VapoRub is a product formulated to help alleviate cough and cold symptoms. It is not designed to treat skin issues, but does contain oils that may both moisturize and help stretched skin feel softer. Some individuals rub Vicks into their skin, then wrap the affected area in cling wrap, in the belief that it will eliminate stretch marks. There is, however, no evidence suggesting it’s possible to reduce the appearance of stretch marks by using Vicks, nor do the makers of Vicks claim any such benefit.

There are many anecdotes about how certain home remedies constitute effective treatments for stretch marks and skin conditions. Baking soda added to water, vitamin E, coconut oil, lemon juice, egg whites, castor oil and argan oil have all been touted as successful topical agents that can be massaged onto the skin to reduce stretch marks.

However, a scientific inquiry published in the British Journal of Dermatology in 2014 concluded that there is no evidence that regular application of a topical agent successfully prevents or reduces the appearance of stretch marks. While you are unlikely to harm your skin by using any of these products, it’s highly improbable you will see any dramatic improvement by rubbing these creams or oils into the affected area.

If you wish to pursue a clinically proven method of stretch mark removal, consider booking a consultation with a dermatologist. Laser surgery is a highly effective stretch mark treatment, and in some cases, will eradicate stretch marks entirely. A successful treatment largely depends on factors such as the prevalence and age of the marks in question--older stretch marks are usually more challenging to treat. Each case is unique, however, so some patients may require more laser surgery sessions than others.