By Southeastern Medicine Solutions
The skin is our largest organ and one that, from birth through adulthood, is expected to expand and contract. The stretchiness of the skin is supported by ample amounts of collagen and elastin. In most situations, the skin is also stretched slowly and progressively. When this occurs too quickly, the tissues that support smooth skin can be damaged. This results in the visible marks called stria, or stretch marks. Though stretch marks are not physically uncomfortable, they are visible and can cause a person to feel self-conscious or dissatisfied with their appearance. We are pleased to offer our clients a proven option for stretch mark removal.
What causes stretch marks?
Stretch marks occur when an area of skin is stretched too much, too quickly. This could occur during a growth spurt in adolescence, during pregnancy, or by gaining a significant amount of weight. In such instances, the collagen strands that make up the middle layer of the skin can break. Stretched, broken collagen strands allow underlying blood vessels to show, which is why young stretch marks often look purple or red. Over time, they fade to silver or white, but they rarely disappear completely.
What do stretch marks look like?
The streaky lines on the skin formed by broken collagen may appear red, purple, or pink at first. Over time, they fade to a lighter color but may still look blue, purple, or silver. These rippled streaks may be seen on various areas of the body, including the:
How are Stretch Marks Treated?
Every patient has different degrees of stretch marks.
We will carefully determine what treatment option(s) will be the best for you. In most cases, we will use a combination of treatment modalities to retexturize, bring back color, and improve the overall improvement of the area. The number of treatment sessions depends on the individual and typically varies between 4 & 8 treatments, every 4 to 6 weeks.
Treatment Options for Stretch Marks
People have sought successful treatment options for stretch marks for many years. Techniques for improving the appearance of the skin range from prevention strategies to surgery.
- Some topical products, such as cocoa butter and various oils, have been used to prevent stretch marks during pregnancy. Though pampering to the skin, these products have not been proven effective at their goal. This is because stretch marks originate in the middle layer of the skin, where topical products cannot reach.
- Medical grade skin creams such as Retin-A have been used to reduce the appearance of stretch marks. Retin-A contains a small percentage of tretinoin (retinoic acid), which is an exfoliant. This treatment was found to slightly improve the appearance of early stretch marks in one study but has not shown efficacy in older stretch marks or more severe striation.
- Body lift surgeries like a tummy tuck or thigh lift can improve or eliminate stretch marks. This technique works by trimming the excess skin that has stretched during pregnancy or other life events. There is no guarantee that surgery can completely remove stretch marks, but lift procedures have achieved very nice results in many patients.
- Laser stretch mark treatments are a newer innovation in aesthetic medicine, falling between topical solutions and surgery. Laser treatments permeate the uppermost layer of the skin to reach the depth at which collagen has been damaged. Studies have shown that, because laser energy heats the dermis, treatments stimulate the production of healthy new collagen to repair damage and reduce concerns like stretch marks.
How effective are stretch mark removal treatments?
When it comes to laser stretch mark treatments, heating is healing. Delivering precise wavelengths of light beyond the epidermis stimulates two repair responses. Initially, heat causes the damaged, stretched collagen matrix in the middle layer of skin to contract. This tightening can reduce the appearance of stretch marks. The influx of new collagen continues to rebuild the middle layer of skin, replacing the visible stretched scars with more resilient skin cells.
Streatch Mark Treatment Before and After
Are stretch mark treatments painful?
Comfort is a priority during all laser and light treatments. For small areas of stretch marks, treatment may be completed in just a few minutes with sensations like tiny pinpricks or tingling. The skin may also feel warm. In some areas or where there are many stretch marks to treat, a numbing cream may be applied beforehand. This needs to remain on the skin for approximately half an hour to desensitize nerves and minimize sensations for the duration of the treatment.
How long will my results last?
The results of professional stretch mark removal are expected to be permanent. This may require a series of treatments or occasional touch-ups depending on the condition of the skin.
Recovery After Stretch Mark Treatment
There is no need for downtime after stretch mark treatment. Patients can expect mild to moderate redness along with warmth or stinging, similar to a sunburn, for a few hours after laser or light therapy. This is because energy has been absorbed in the middle layer of the skin. If this becomes uncomfortable, cool compresses can be applied. Mild swelling can also occur but is not painful. If swelling develops, it should fade within a few days. No lotion or other products should be applied to the treated area until all redness and stinging have resolved.