Though they may tell the tale of a wonderful pregnancy, or lend as a roadmap other notable events in our lives, stretch marks are never a sign we want left behind.
What are stretch marks & why do we get them?
Stretch marks are very common. Ninety percent of women and ten percent of men have them. They are actually scars caused by the thinning of the upper and middle layers of the skin coupled with a decrease in the collagen and elastin support tissue deep within the skin structure.
The most common cause of stretch marks are injury or trauma caused to the skin including weight gain, weight loss, and even rapid growth, which is why they are so prevalent in pregnancy. Stretch marks can occur anywhere, the most common areas being the stomach, thighs, breasts, armpits, knees and elbows. Men commonly get stretch marks on their armpits and backs.
What are the types of stretch marks?
There are two types of stretch marks, red and white:
Red Stretch Marks: denote an early, younger stretch mark. They are fresh and easier to treat.
White Stretch Marks: older, neglected stretch marks; these are harder to treat.
What are the treatment options?
- Red stretch marks: can be treated with a combination of Vitamin A (Retinoic Acid or Retinol) to promote collagen production and cell turnover along with ablative and non-ablative lasers to remodel the tissue structure.
- White stretch marks: the key to treating white, older stretch marks is to trick them into making them “think” they are younger. Treatments first focus on inducing inflammation in the area with mechanical exfoliants such as skin polishes and scrubs. Acids such as glycolic acid or salicylic acid may also be employed along with retinoids. These treatments increase blood flow and also attempt to convince the body to replace the collagen and elastin tissue. Lasers and other light sources are once again employed to restructure the tissue as well.
Unfortunately, there is nothing that can be done to prevent the formation of stretch marks. The lotions, potions and jellies pregnant women use will do nothing but leave her with a well moisturized stomach. The road to treating stretch marks takes a commitment. Along with the daily topical preparations it will usually take 12 laser sessions spaced 6-8 weeks apart to see a good result, but that may be a small price to pay to have the skin you always desired. The best course of action is to see a dermatologist early on to receive the best results.