Approximately 80 percent of the American population has stretch marks, and yet despite their prevalence, many people still feel self-conscious about them. Stretch marks are in no way hazardous to our health, but having been deemed unsightly, the demand for stretch mark removal is high. While complete removal is currently not possible, there is a laser combination making significant improvements in the texture and the appearance of these pesky lines.
What are stretch marks?
Stretch marks, also known as striae, are a type of scar that forms when the dermis is stretched or shrunk too quickly. The dermis is the middle layer of the skin that is responsible for maintaining the skin’s shape and elasticity. When the connective fibers within the dermis layer of skin are stretched beyond their limits, the dermis will rupture, which leads to collagen and elastin disruption and eventual scarring.
Many factors can cause the formation of this type of scarring including:
Stretch marks can form pretty much anywhere on the body, but the most common areas are your stomach, hips, breasts, buttocks and thighs. New stretch marks are typically red, purple, pink, reddish-brown, or dark brown and raised. People can experience itchiness in the area with new stretch marks. However, as they begin to heal, the color fades and the striations sink below the skin’s surface causing a slight depression. Most stretch marks can and do fade over time, but do not disappear completely.
It is very common that women develop stretch marks during and even after pregnancy. Due to the quickly expanding and contracting skin around the abdomen, hips, and thighs to support new life, nearly 90 percent of women will develop stretch marks during pregnancy.
What can help treat stretch marks?
The fact of the matter is, stretch marks are scars, and there is nothing currently on the market capable of getting rid of them altogether. There is an overabundance of lotions, oils and creams that have been touted as stretch mark removers, but there is little clinical evidence to support these claims.
The issue with these topical ointments is their inability to penetrate deep enough into the skin to affect the dermis. To really see a difference in the size and color of stretch marks, a combination of laser technologies has shown to be the most effective at improving the appearance of stretch marks.
Lasers such as Candela’s PicoWay® Resolve use short laser pulses to reach below the surface of the skin, targeting unwanted pigment and breaking it up into tiny particles. These types of picosecond lasers also help stimulate the production of collagen and elastin, without breaking the outermost layer of the skin.
Sublative lasers are unique in themselves as they use fractionated bipolar radiofrequency to deliver controlled pulses of light and heat into the skin for better texture, tone, and appearance. Combining these two technologies have helped to achieve optimal results in improving the appearance of stretch marks.
Reducing the appearance of stretch marks is unfortunately not as easy as getting them. The stretch marks that respond best to treatment are the newer ones appearing as purple or red and raised. Older stretch marks can be improved; however, the results may not be as noticeable. Most men and women who have laser stretch mark removal typically have 3 or more treatments spaced out 4 to 6 weeks apart.
It’s important for anyone seeking treatment for their stretch marks to have realistic goals. Find a practice with staff who are certified in administering these kinds of treatments and discuss your concerns as well as what you can expect.
Author Bio: Caroll has over a decade of experience in cosmetic surgery, laser treatments, and medical grade skincare services. She is passionately dedicated to providing excellent care and a full range of cosmetic options for her patients throughout Tampa. She’s also a national trainer for Syneron Candela Corporation, a global leader in aesthetic device development that specializes in laser-based technologies.