What Are Stretch Marks?
Stretch marks are thin pink or red lines that manifest when the skin stretches more than it can tolerate. Stretch marks are a form of scarring associated with pregnancy, obesity, puberty, body building, corticosteroids, short-term weight gain, genetics and ethnicity. Stretch marks will eventually fade to a silvery color.
How Do Stretch Marks Happen?
Stretch marks form in the middle layer of skin called the dermis. The dermis maintains the shape and elasticity of the skin. When the skin expands and stretches to its limit it causes tiny tears in the dermis, but leaves the outer layer of skin (called the epidermis) intact. Connective fibers breakdown, disrupt collagen production and cause stretch marks.
Who Gets Stretch Marks?
- Pregnancy: Stretch marks are very common in pregnancy. About 75% of pregnant women will suffer from stretch marks on the abdomen, legs, and hips, thighs, buttocks, lower back, arms and chest. Not only weight gain but also hormone changes during pregnancy can cause stretch marks.
- Puberty: growth spurts often cause stretch marks.
- Body building: rapid development of muscle mass can stretch the skin beyond its limits.
- Corticosteroids: Heavy or long term use can lead to stretch marks.
- Ethnicity: People of color are less likely to develop stretch marks.
- Hormone altering diseases: Cushings and adrenal gland diseases impact hormones to cause the marks.
Stretch Mark Removal
There is no easy way to remove stretch marks, but their appearance can be improved. Though stretch marks fade over time, many people become self conscious about the appearance of their skin. Because stretch marks are not dangerous, they are usually considered to be cosmetic, and insurance will rarely pay for stretch mark treatments.
Conservative treatment to remove stretch marks includes creams, lotions, and recommendations for regular diet and exercise. However, these methods often fail to produce satisfactory results. These products are most effective for fresh stretch marks.
Cosmetic dermatologists have a variety of non-surgical treatments for stretch marks including chemical peels, microdermabrasion and blue light therapy. All are most effective on newer scars. Mature stretch marks may require surgery for total removal.
Laser Stretch Mark Removal
The purpose of laser stretch mark removal is to allow the skin to regenerate healthy tissue, including stimulating collagen growth and healthy skin cells. Several types of lasers are used for this purpose. The most common lasers used for stretch marks are the fractional laser and the pulsed dye laser.
Fractional laser removal has proven to be the most effective means to diminish stretch marks. The laser light breaks down scar tissue and stimulates collagen and elastin growth. It is the first and only treatment clinically proven to improve the appearance of stretch marks. Clinical studies have shown that the fractional laser improved the appearance of stretch marks between 50% and 75%.
The best laser depends on the age and location of the stretch marks and your skin color.
The excimer laser procedure removes thin layers of skin around the marks, using high energy ultraviolet light. This disrupts the bonds in skin tissue, causing the tissue to disintegrate. After treatment, new layers of healthy skin will form. Patient satisfaction is high.
The best way to address stretch marks is prevention. In pregnant women the key is to maintain a healthy weight during pregnancy.
Surgical Stretch Mark Removal
Surgical removal of stretch marks is the only way to completely and permanently eliminate the marks. In the alternative, abdominoplasty is effective for surgical removal of stretch marks.
To find out the type of treatment that is best for you, schedule a consultation with Dr. Mehr who will discuss your options. At Pure Dermatology & Cosmetic Center we believe that each patient is unique and we will create a treatment plan just for you to accomplish your goals.