Stretch Marks Overview
Stretch marks are a very common concern for patients of all ages and both sexes. Whether the stretch marks are related to growth, weight changes, increase in muscle mass, or pregnancy, they can lead to much distress. Stretch marks come in different colors including red, brown, and white or silvery (these are hypopigmented meaning loss of pigment and now appearing lighter than the natural skin tone), and can be textured as well.
What causes stretch marks?
Stretch marks are caused by damage to the dermis from over-stretching of the collagen and elastin fibers – causing a tear in the tissue. There is recent speculation that a change in hormonal levels may contribute to being more susceptible to stretch marks. Genetics also play a part in whether you will get stretch marks or not. Almost always, there is little you can do to prevent stretch marks from occurring.
Why would one person have stretch marks when another person within the same family does not?
No one knows the answer to this common question. Seems unfair, but there is nothing that you did or did not do that caused this condition. Some people are just more prone to developing stretch marks.
Are stretch marks permanent?
In some cases, yes. Anyone that claims they have a “cure” to get rid of stretch marks completely is often being unethical. Textured stretch marks can be improved with laser treatments and in some cases, the color can be dramatically improved, or resolved completely, with lasers.
Do creams and lotions help prevent or get rid of stretch marks?
No. Save your money if you are looking for a cure. However, some of these topical ointments may help minimize the appearance of the stretch marks by plumping the skin around the stretch marks if used consistently. Once you stop the product, the result is lost.
Why are some stretch marks brown, red, or white?
Stretch marks that are red in color are newer stretch marks and often fade slowly over time. There is a vascular component that gives the red appearance. These colored stretch marks are very concerning to patients. Stretch marks that are brown usually occur in darker skin types and may or may not fade with time. White (hypopigmented) stretch marks are usually older and present this way because these areas have actually lost pigmentation. These stretch marks are much more challenging.
Which color of stretch marks are treatable with lasers?
Red and brown stretch marks are treatable with lasers. Pulsed dye (red) and q-switched (brown) will often remove the color completely. White stretch marks need the opposite of red and brown. These marks need MORE color and lasers do not provide this type of result. Improving the texture of the stretch mark can often make the hypopigmentation less noticeable but will not bring color back to the skin.
Which lasers treat stretch marks?
At our facility, we successfully treat stretch marks using a combination of lasers. The Aramis Quantel is known for stimulating new collagen and remodeling existing collagen through the use of thermal (heat) energy. Collagen is the building blocks of our skin and tissue. Formation of collagen around the stretch marks will minimize the appearance and help reduce the size/width of the lesions. Keep in mind that these types of lasers do not actually change the texture of the stretch marks themselves (the shiny, smooth appearance, or crepe-like texture) but rather improves the skin surrounding these areas. We use a pulsed dye laser to effectively reduce or remove the redness. Another laser (Q-YAG V) helps to fade the brown color of stretch marks. Often, a patient will benefit from all three options. There are some practitioners that use fractionated, erbium, or plasma technology in combination with the above mentioned lasers but we have not seen better improvement with fractional lasers than the ones listed above that have no downtime.
What kind of expectations should I have for laser stretch mark removal?
REALISTIC… A reputable facility/practitioner will set forth realistic goals. Most patients with stretch marks will indicate that they would be satisfied with just improvement. If it sounds too good to be true…as the saying goes…then maybe it is.
What should I ask during a consultation for laser treatment of stretch marks?
Ask to see before and after photos of actual patients that represent the type of stretch marks you have. Be certain that the photos are not provided by the manufacturer of the laser. Share with the practice what your goals are and what concerns you the most. Ask which lasers are recommended to treat your stretch marks and why. Ask how long the recommended treatment plan will take and, most importantly, do your research and come prepared with a good knowledge base.
Are all skin types candidates for laser stretch marks treatment?
Yes. Most of the lasers mentioned previously are safe for all skin types. There is no downtime with the lasers we recommend to our patients.
How long do stretch mark laser treatments take?
Depending on how much of an area is being treated – generally, anywhere from 15 to 60 minutes per treatment.
Who is not a candidate for laser stretch mark removal?
Those who do not have realistic expectations. Those who plan to have future pregnancies, or expected changes in growth or weight. Those who would benefit more from abdominoplasty (surgical intervention aka: tummy tuck). Please keep in mind that many women are advised that they are NOT candidates for a tummy tuck when they do not present with enough skin/tissue to accomplish this.
How would I know if I would benefit more from surgical intervention?
Only a general or plastic surgeon may be able to appropriately answer this question. It is not unusual for stretch marks to extend beyond the umbilicus (belly button). In this situation, only a percentage of the stretch marks would be able to be surgically removed with a tummy tuck – approximately 50-60% at best. Also, as previously mentioned, if the patient does not have enough extra skin and tissue – they would not be a candidate.
When should I consider laser stretch marks tratment?
Current research suggests that the newer the stretch marks – the better potential for improved outcomes with lasers.