Stretch marks or striae are indented or slightly depressed stripes that form on the skin over the abdomen, breasts, hips, or buttocks, and other parts of the body. These marks manifest as parallel bands of light and dark toned skin alternating with each other. While their color ranges from purple to a bright pink or even a light gray, the bands are slightly sunken or feel indented to the touch.
These striated marks develop when the skin stretches so much that the supporting elastic tissues break down, causing it to rupture. This usually occurs due to a rapid expansion or contraction of the skin. As the skin heals, the ruptured dermis from the stretched skin then causes stretch marks to appear.
If you have them, you’re in good company. Statistics have shown that around 95 percent of pregnant women develop stretch marks – either in the latter part of the second trimester, or the beginning of their third trimester. Apart from this, adolescent girls and young women experiencing sudden and drastic weight gain can end up with stretch marks on the body. This is also experienced by men as well. However, the proportion of men with stretch marks is relatively low in contrast.
Common situations that result in development of stretch marks
During pregnancy, hormones soften the fibers of the skin, making it more prone to stretch marks. As the pregnancy progresses in the second and third trimesters, the skin stretches to accommodate the growing fetus, and stretch marks then develop as a result of the ruptured dermal tissues.
Drastic weight gain:
Girls battling with weight issues especially during adolescence, usually experience stretch marks with frequent fluctuations in body weight.
When our adrenal glands produce excess cortisone, it adversely affects the skin’s elasticity and can result in stretch marks. Similarly, regular or extended usage of corticosteroid creams and lotions can also reduce the elasticity of the skin over time.
Several glandular conditions, usually involving the adrenal glands, also cause cortisone imbalances in the body and lead to formation of stretch marks. These medical conditions include Marfan’s syndrome, Ehlers-Danlos syndrome as well as Cushing’s syndrome.
Treatment for Stretch Marks
From over-the-counter medications to prescription creams and energy-based devices, there’s an entire inventory of treatments to help clear your stretch marks.
Doctors usually prescribe medications derived from vitamin A which enhances and treats the skin affected by stretch marks. Known as retinoids, these topical ointments aid in the regeneration of collagen which is a building-block for healthy and supple skin.
Some of the popular retinoid creams include Retin-A, Renova as well as Avita. Bearing in mind the possible side-effects of retinoids that could have on the baby in the womb, doctors usually discourage pregnant women from using retinoids. There are also other prescription medications available such as glycolic acid, or hyaluronic acid based topical creams.
However, there is a limit to the efficacy of these creams. Topical creams can never erase the stretch marks entirely, only partial removal is possible.
Energy-based devices Treatment
Laser devices are a popular mode of treating stretch marks. In this treatment, laser beams of specific wavelengths are used to generate heat, which in turn, promotes the regeneration of collagen and significantly reduces the stretch marks. There are two types of laser technologies available for treating stretch marks.
This type of laser removes the epidermis or thin outer skin layer of skin; this can also promote collagen regrowth in the dermis. As the epidermis recovers, the targeted skin zone acquires a smoother and tighter appearance. Fractionated laser devices are commonly used in this procedure. Typical ablative treatments include variants such as the fractionated carbon dioxide (CO2) laser as well as the erbium laser devices. Erbium laser treatments require less downtime and reduces the risk of post-hyperpigmentation problems.
This is a non-invasive type of laser that passes through the outer skin layer directly targets the dermal layers. These lasers are most effective when the stretch marks are treated in the formative stage, which is when the marks are red or purple colored. As a result, the regenerated collagen growth gradually assists in enhancing the tone and texture of the skin. Usually, yellow lasers or long-pulsed Nd YAG lasers are used in these procedures.
Radio Frequency Procedures:
These devices are used to remodel the collagen fibers, and boost production of collagen and elastin in the skin areas affected by stretch marks. The radiofrequency energy generated by the device penetrates the deeper dermis layer which triggers collagen production. The generation of fresh, healthy collagen and skin cells, results in skin that is smoother and diminishes stretch marks over time.
Ablative Radio Frequency:
Radio frequency energy is applied on the surface of the affected area to promote the production of collagen and elastin. This is a non-surgical treatment that boosts collagen production. This helps the skin to regenerate to reveal smoother and tighter skin.
Radio Frequency Micro-needling:
The device is fitted with multiple miniscule needles through which radio frequency energy is passed into the skin surface. This method promotes collagen and elastin production in a concentrated manner at the micro-level.
Let the Experts Help Minimize Your Stretch Marks
Yes, there is hope. Stretch marks do fade over time and topical applications do help in reducing their appearance. If you are looking to improve the appearance of your stretch marks, consulting a specialist skin doctor is your best bet.
Following a detailed examination at Ensoul Body Medical Clinic, you can discuss the specifics of your stretch marks. Depending upon factors such as your skin type, the severity and duration of the condition, Dr Thean will recommend the appropriate treatment for you. With the help of experts, get ready to kiss your stretch marks goodbye.