Stretch marks, or singular striae, as they are medically known, are a form of scarring caused be a tearing of the dermis. Stretch marks can affect anyone who has experienced a rapid stretching of the skin, such as pregnancy, a growth spurt or significant change in weight.
Stretch marks are the result of collagen loss in the second, deeper layer of the skin and often appear first on the skin surface as reddish or purple lines. These lines usually fade gradually to a lighter, silver or white color. They are most likely to appear in places where a higher concentration of fat is stored, such as the abdomen, breasts, back, thighs, hips and buttocks.
Although the exact combination of factors that will lead to stretch marks is unknown, they are thought to be genetic. Stretch marks may also appear during periods of rapid hormonal changes such as puberty, pregnancy, bodybuilding and hormone replacement therapy.
Stretch marks are common and striae gravidarum (pregnancy-related stretch marks) have been reported as occurring from 50% to 90% of pregnancies. These lines pose no health risk on their own, and do not compromise the body’s ability to function normally or repair itself. However many people find them unsightly and seek treatment to minimize their appearance.
Treating Stretch Marks
In the early stages, when the stretch marks are new and still a purple or reddish color, they are more easily treated. Older stretch marks which have faded to a silvery color, can be more difficult to treat.
At the Asarch Center, we often use a combination of topical tretinoin (Retin A™), Intense Pulsed Light (IPL) treatments, and Fractional Laser Resurfacing to minimize the unwanted appearance of stretch marks.
Retin-A: This prescription retinoid can help reduce the visibility of stretch marks that are new and are still red or purple in color. Retin-A works by rebuilding collagen in the skin, which improves the scar tissue’s elasticity and makes the damaged skin blend in better with the rest of your skin.
IPL (Intense Pulsed Light) use a specific wavelength of light to fade the reddish discoloration of stretch marks and also help to stimulate collagen to plump the skin. A series of IPL treatments can improve the appearance of pink or red stretch marks. IPL does not work for stretch marks that have faded with age to silver or white. For this we offer Fractional Laser Treatment.
Fractional Laser Resurfacing-For older, silvery or white stretch marks, a fractional laser may be your best choice. Fractional Laser Resurfacing regenerates skin cells and stimulates collagen to create a more uniform skin surface. Clinical evaluations have shown up to a 75% improvement in treated stretch marks three months after the last treatment. Fractional Skin Surfacing is a non-ablative laser, meaning the overlying skin is left intact.
Although technology has brought us many innovative treatment options, most stretch marks cannot be erased completely. It is important to discuss treatment options with your doctor to learn the best option for achieving optimal and realistic results.