What Are They
Stretch marks are slightly off-color “streaks or stripes” on the skin that have men and women all over (but mostly women) feeling self-conscious when heading to the beach or engaging in any activity that requires baring skin.
They s are so named because they are the scar marks left after the skin has stretched. The skin has three layers, the hypodermis (inner layer), the dermis (middle layer) and the epidermis (outer layer.)
The scarring occurs because the dermis level of the skin is ripped permanently due to stretching beyond its elastic capability. The abrupt stretching causes the dermis to tear which allows deeper skin layers to show through, forming these marks.
They can form anywhere on the body but they tend to form around the stomach, love handles, thighs, buttocks, breasts, and arms.
What Causes Stretchmarks
Anything that causes your skin to stretch usually leads to these marks.
They are most likely to appear during rapid weight gain or weight loss, pregnancy and puberty (growth spurt). They can also be genetic, so if your mum had them, the likelihood is that you probably will too.
While these are the main causes, other causes are:
- a) Excessive bodybuilding which stretches the skin beyond its limit.
- b) Long-term use of steroids or corticosteroids.
- c) Illnesses like Cushing syndrome or Marfan syndrome.
Many people ask how to prevent striae as they are alternatively known. Unfortunately, there is no sure proof way to prevent them from happening. They will happen when they will. Other than eating well and exercising frequently (basically, maintaining your weight,) there is little you can do.
Secondly, it is not easy to get rid of stretchmarks; once they are there, they never completely go away, although they do fade with time. So, disregard all the miracle procedures you’ve read about and all the magic products you’ve heard about that promise to get rid of them.
The good news
With tons of home remedies and even medical options that promise miracles but can’t deliver, it’s easy to give up hope. Being realistic though, there are some things you can do to reduce their appearance.
When stretch marks are new, they are easier to treat. This is before 6 months when they are wide, deep and have pigmentation. Over time, however, they fade to thin, white-like lines that are far harder to treat. These are called “striae alba.”
So, it’s best to attempt treatment options as soon as possible.
Stretch mark removal
Microdermabrasion is a cosmetic procedure uses fine crystals to exfoliate the outer layer of the skin, removing the layer of dead skin cells. It is supposed to help to reduce their appearance. However, it is not certain that this treatment is effective. It is mostly used to treat acne, age spots, and mild scarring.
It is possible to get at-home treatments, spa treatments or medical treatment. The most effective is naturally medical treatment. One may need a few treatments, but there is little recovery time. Treatment can cost anywhere from $75 to $500
Although these are mostly used to treat age-related problems such as age spots or wrinkles; they have been found somewhat helpful in improving the appearance of stretch marks- provided they are not too pronounced.
The procedure includes using a chemical solution to peel off the dead or damaged skin at the top layers. Thereafter it promotes the production of new skin cells. The types and strength of chemicals depend on skin type and needs of the patient- based on these, more than one treatment may be necessary.
The cost is anywhere between $75 and $600
Fractional Laser Therapy
Laser stretch mark removal works to resurface small areas by creating wounds that need healing. As the healing happens, the skin produces new collagen. Some lasers remove top layers of the skin and another target below the skin surface without harm to the outer layer. The latter seems to work more consistently.
Again, treatment varies depending on their severity and the age of the patient. 3-10 sessions are usually necessary to reduce the visibility of stretch marks, though in some cases, they have been found to be successful in getting rid of them.
Treatment costs between $200 per treatment though it can be much higher than that depending on where one goes. During healing, patients are required to stay out of the sun for a few days.
Platelet-rich plasma micro-needling
This is a combination of PRP injections and micro needling. PRP is where doctors use your own blood to treat you, injecting the plasma into your stretch marks. However, this works best when a healing response is triggered in your body. This is where micro needling comes in, where holes are punched into both the epidermis and dermis layer of these marks. Immediately after a gel of concentrated PRP is massaged in to promote healing. This triggers the production of collagen which replaces the dead skin cells, which means there is now fresh skin in the stretch marks making it shrink in size.
It’s all a bit technical but it is the most promising treatment for reduction and eradication. Treatment costs $600 or more. One treatment is usually enough but that’s dependent on your skin. Recovery time is within a couple of days.
This is a surgical option for those wanting to get rid of stretch marks almost completely. However, these are only for those on the stomach.
A tummy tuck procedure removes excess skin and fat while restoring deteriorated and separated muscles.
When doing a tummy tuck for stretch marks, it is important to note that the surgery can only remove certain parts of the skin, such as the areas below the belly button. However, there are some areas that won’t be removed- such as those above the belly button. If those areas have them, they will still be there although significantly improved in appearance.
This is an expensive procedure starting from $3000 with a recovery time of 2-6 weeks. It is, therefore, best for people who want to also get rid of excess fat.