If you’re like 80% of women around the world, you’ve got stretch marks – and you’re not exactly fond of them. So, what can you do?
To start, stretch marks, or striae, are actually scarring of the skin. Two proteins that give skin its binding nature are collagen and elastin. These two proteins are the foundation of what keeps our skin supple. When there is extreme stretching of the skin combined with a lack of these two proteins, it will cause a tearing of the dermis of your skin.
Stretch marks can appear pretty much anywhere on the body, but the most common areas are your stomach, hips, breasts and thighs. When stretch marks are new, they have an off-color hue, often red or purple. However, as time goes by, stretch marks typically fade in color and will have more of a white/gray hue. Stretch marks can diminish but typically do not disappear completely.
Hormones do play a big part in causing stretch marks. This is why it is very common for teens to get them since their bodies and hormones are growing and changing. Another hormonal cause is glucocorticoid hormones. In fact, medications containing corticosteroids prevent fibroblasts from creating the collagen and elastin needed to keep the skin taut; it is very common to get stretch marks from steroid medications.
Understanding what causes stretch marks on an anatomical level can be almost comforting, but what about real solutions? There are all kinds of home remedies and creams that may help, but to really see a difference in the size and color, laser treatments are your best bet. Additionally, a prescription dose of vitamin A can also be effective. Tretinoin, another form of vitamin A, can help increase the production of collagen, reducing the appearance of stretch marks on the skin. The newer the stretch mark and the earlier you treat it, the better your end result.
There are all kinds of lasers that can be effective in lessening the appearance of your stretch marks. One type is the Pixel Wavelength Laser, which helps to promote the new growth of elastin and collagen. This fractional photothermolysis laser is safe and causes small fractional damage to targeted areas of the skin tissue, resulting in a greater production of collagen and elastin. The average number of treatments that is needed for this type of laser is typically four, spaced two to four weeks apart; this laser allows for faster healing of your skin.
Some other options would be the Harmony XL or the V Beam. These lasers help to re-pigment the skin by stimulating our melanin, the pigment that gives our skin its color. This results in stretch marks that become almost the same color as the rest of your skin. (The reason stretch marks are red when they first crop up is because blood vessels become more apparent when the dermis breaks and tears.) These lasers also require a series of treatments and there is some downtime.
Stretch marks are obviously easier to get than they are to get rid of. And remember: stretch marks are scars and banishing them completely just isn’t possible at this time. However, the good news is these laser treatments do successfully reduce redness, diminish the appearance of white marks, and improve the texture of the skin, making your stretch marks a whole lot less noticeable.