Stretch marks, tiger stripes, striae, whatever you’d like to call them, are a common skin condition that affects many, though typically, they are more prevalent in women than men. They appear as long, narrow stripes on various parts of the body and can be either red or white in colour, depending on their age.
Newer stretch marks will appear red in tone, due to the exposure of blood vessels through the torn dermis, while older marks have faded and will then appear white. While stretch marks can be found all over the body, they most commonly appear on the abdomen, breasts, arms, back, and thighs. Stretch marks do not discriminate based on age, race, or size, contrary to popular belief.
But what causes these stretch marks? What are they, really, and why do they appear? Is there any way to prevent or heal them? Here, we’ll break down exactly what causes stretch marks, and the best ways to treat and prevent them once formed. Continue reading to learn more!
To put it simply, a stretch mark is a type of scar that is created when the skin is stretched or contracted quickly. This causes the collagen and elastin to rupture, and as the skin heals, these marks may appear. These tears occur in the dermis, the deepest layer of the skin, that helps your skin retain its shape. Your skin is, essentially, tearing apart and stitching itself back together, leaving scars of various sizes and shapes on the upper layers of your skin.
There are a few common causes of stretch marks, such as growth spurts (especially due to puberty), weight gain, pregnancy, and weight loss. During any of these events, your skin will fluctuate quickly, resulting in the appearance of stretch marks. Weight gain during training for sporting events may also cause stretch marks as well. Because of these factors, they typically affect more women than men. When these marks first appear, they may feel raised or itchy, and over time, will gradually reduce and become depressed. They may even become less prominent in appearance over time, especially in colour, turning white or silver as they heal.
While stretch marks aren’t harmful in any way and are completely natural, they can be a cause of self-consciousness or concern, especially when associated with rapid changes in your body shape. For that reason, cosmetic treatments for these are popular and many over the counter methods are advertised. There are no proven ways to completely remove stretch marks, but it is possible to reduce their appearance, especially for newer stretch marks using a variety of methods including lasers, creams, and other skin treatments, which we will evaluate below.
Before discussing how to treat stretch marks, it is important to consider how they can be prevented, if at all. While there are no tried and true ways and stretch marks due to puberty or pregnancy can’t be prevented, there are a few options to consider to reduce the instance of stretch marks in the future. Maintaining a balanced diet and healthy weight can help prevent stretch marks due to rapid gains or losses. At this time, while many products may claim to prevent stretch marks, none have been proven effective. Proposed remedies include creams with hyaluronic acid, vitamin E, and cocoa butter.
Much like prevention, there are no perfect ways to heal stretch marks once they have appeared, but there are ways to reduce their appearance if they are cause for concern. It is important to remember that these are completely natural and may still form later on, so no treatment lasts forever. However, if you would like to treat your stretch marks, there are a few methods that can help, both laser and non-laser.
A popular over the counter method for treating stretch marks is retinoid cream, which may help on new, red stretch marks. However, these should not be used during pregnancy as they may be harmful. Self-tanner is also a popular DIY method to camouflage stretch marks, though this doesn’t tackle the actual problem itself.
Microdermabrasion, a common dermatology technique, has been proven somewhat effective at helping to treat stretch marks, specifically newer marks. It works by removing a thin layer of skin, thus reducing the appearance of the marks in question, though it will need to be repeated regularly when new marks appear.
Another non-laser treatment combines microneedling and platelet-rich plasma. What does this mean? When performed together, they reduce the appearance of stretch marks by stimulating collagen production in the skin.
Dermatologists may also use chemical peels, radiofrequency and ultrasound to reduce the appearance of stretch marks. However, laser methods are generally regarded as the most effective at treating both old and new marks.
There are two main laser methods for treating stretch marks- one for older marks, and one for newer marks.
To treat older stretch marks, you can use a fractional laser. It is currently one of the only FDA approved devices for removing older scars and stretch marks. Fractional lasers work by penetrating light into the deepest layers of the skin, triggering their natural repair process and pushing new skin cells towards the surface.
By comparison, you can use a pulsed dye 595 lasers (PDL), to treat new stretch marks, that are still red in appearance. It is best to start treatment as soon as possible to be the most effective and involves little risk.
As mentioned above, stretch marks can be a cause of concern and self-consciousness for many, and there’s no shame in seeking treatment to reduce their appearance to help boost your self-confidence. Our team at Fairview Laser Clinic, led by the experienced Dr. Jain, can provide a free consultation to review your concerns and recommend the best treatment options, as well as develop a unique treatment plan for you.
Why not contact us today and book your free consultation to help address your unique skin concerns?
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