Whether due to pregnancy, bodybuilding or a sudden increase in weight gain, stretch marks or “striae” can appear on body areas such as the abdomen, thighs, hips, breasts, upper arms or back. A sudden increase in tension on the skin associated with body hormonal changes can cause a ‘tearing’ of the connective tissue (collagen and elastin) in the dermis which initially appears as reddish or purplish streaks and then later on as fading, more whitish colored scar lines. Although there are no health hazards associated with stretch marks, they leave aesthetically unpleasing marks on the surface of the skin that are difficult to treat.
Treating Stretch Marks
Although there are a growing number of new and effective treatments available to make stretch marks fade and look better, there isn’t one perfect solution that will make the skin totally return to normal. Here is a brief overview of what’s available.
‘An Ounce of Prevention’
Ranked at the one of the best treatments is good prevention. Maintaining healthy skin with foods rich in zinc, Vitamins A, C and D, high protein and water intake and routine exercise help to keep the skin elastic and thus prevent the formation of stretch marks.
Once stretch marks appear, there are a variety of topical skin creams and ointments available with and without prescription that help with stimulating new collagen and elastin synthesis. You may need to be patient for some of these creams to work, but in time the scars may decrease in appearance. Chemical peels are also another option available at your dermatologist that can help remove the top layer of skin and help with stimulating new collagen production.
Over recent years, there has been explosive growth in the development of different types of lasers for use in medical treatment. One of the major applications is for the treatment of stretch marks. Heat energy transmitted deep into the dermis of the skin stimulates the entire skin to remodel itself. This means an initial coagulation or skin tightening effect together with the stimulation of the body’s natural healing process to produce new collagen and elastin. The appearance of stretch marks literally just fade away as the skin heals itself over from the dermis outwards. Common lasers in use today for the effective treatment of stretch marks include the pulsating dye laser(PDL), which is effective in decreasing the initial redness or purplish color of stretch marks seen early on. Fractional laser (ablative), which drills micro ‘holes’ in your skin to stimulate remodeling also gives a great skin tightening effect and produces new collagen and elastin. SkinTyte (non-ablative) and Matisse laser also effectively permeate heat energy into the deep layers of the skin to cause tightening and new collagen.
The treatment of choice not only depends upon the severity of the stretch marks you have but also your budget. Treatments can vary significantly in cost and the best way to choose is to ask your dermatologist about what’s best for you.
Brought to you by Dr. Randy Simor of Meditours Hungary