Stretch marks are not
a health concern
Visit us for Stretch Marks /
Stretch Marks, (also called striae distensae) are mildly indented streaks, on the skin, of the tummy, breasts, thighs and buttocks.
Although it is true that women are more prone to stretch marks than men, they can be seen in the both the sexes. It is common for stretch marks to fade over time but they will often still be visible and cause many people who have them distress. Stretch marks are not a health concern, since they are not in any way harmful or painful but many patients dislike them because they feel they look unflattering. In my office, I find that female patients who are pregnant are particularly concerned with stretch mark prevention and stretch mark treatment.
Stretch marks are not dangerous and do not require medical attention, however, stretch marks are an indicator of other potential problems in the body including an increase in cortisol levels. Seeing your physician to discuss your medical history and complete additional testing is not a bad idea if you start noticing stretch marks that are occurring fast and without a known reason.
Why Do I Get Stretch Marks?/
Not all stretch marks look the same; the can vary based on your body type and skin type.
Many people have stretch marks that are indented streaks and are only slightly discoloured. Others can have pink or bluish stretch marks, especially if their skin is already fair. Most people that I see with stretch marks usually aquire them during a cycle of weight gain and then weight loss where the skin will be stretched quickly but does not have enough collagen and elastin to handle the rapid expansion. The dermis, or middle layer of the skin is damaged by this rapid expansion and forms scars. This can also be seen during pregnancy in younger women. For men, I treat stretch marks on the arms, chest and legs, again based on weight gain and loss. I also see men who have gained muscle mass or lost muscle mass and the process has given them stretch marks due to reduced elastin and collagen content in the skin. When young people go through rapid growth spurts during the teen years, it is not uncommon for them to develop stretch marks.
The severity of stretch marks that you have and their colour is dependent on a number of factors including your genetic makeup, the amount of stress on your skin, your age and your cortisol levels. Cortisol, (stress hormone) has the tendency to weaken the elastic fibers within the skin and contributes to stretch mark formation.
Stretch Mark Prevention/
There is no proven method of preventing stretch marks but we do know that limiting rapid weight loss and gain will disallow these lesions from showing up
For patients who are experiencing hormone changes like adolescents, or pregnant women I do recommend using a topical moisturizer a few times daily directly in the areas that will experience stretching or volume loss. Moisturizers help because they seal moisture in place underneath the skin and this moisture causes the skin to be better hydrated and more elastic. Try products that contain cocoa better, Shea butter or coconut oils for the best results.
Professional Treatment for Stretch Marks/
There are a number of professional treatment paths for stretch marks, some work better than others, and a combination of treatments is recommended for optimal results.
Retinoid creams are all derived from vitamin A, their pharmaceutical names include Tretinoin, Renova, Avita and Retin-A. Retinoids have demonstrated in numerous clinical studies that they are relatively effective in the treatment of stretch marks. This is because Retinoids are known to promote both elastin and collagen production. I recommend to my patients that they massage 0.1% Tretinoin into the lesioned area nightly but need to consult with them first to ensure that my recommendations are appropriate for their skin tone and where they fall on the Fitzpatrick Skin Type, (skin colour). The creams I recommend work best on stretch marks that are recent. They can help to rebuild collagen but can be irritating to the skin and should not be used if pregnant or breast feeding. Be sure to check with your physician before applying these professional grade products to your skin. In our clinic, we can also use retinoid acid peels; please book a consultation to discuss this option.
Chemical Peels in the Treatment of Stretch Marks
At Dr. Bector Cosmetics we can administer a glycolic acid treatment in higher doses than those purchased as an over the counter cream. I will usually administer 3 to 4 peels over the course of a few months to produce significant changes in the width, length and colour/intensity of the stretch marks. Glycolic Acid peels should be administered in a medical office where staff understand the Fitzpatrick Scale and use the appropriate concentrations depending on skin colour. Retiniods and glycolic peels can be used in combination to achieve stronger results.
Laser and Lights in the Treatment of Stretch Marks
There are many lasers on the market that are able to stimulate the formation of collagen and elastin in your skin. Vascular lasers (acting on the vessels in the body) offer some incredible outcomes when used for the treatment of stretch marks that are newly formed and still red, pink or purple. Over time these stretch marks will become white and will flatten out and at this stage a vascular laser will not be as effective. To treat stretch marks that have turned into a white colour a Fractional laser may give great improvements. White stretch marks however are often difficult to completely eradicate.
PRP and Microneedling
Platelet Rich Plasma, (PRP - a product made from your own blood) combined with micro needling into the area affected by stretch marks is an effective way to lighten the area of scarring in stretch marks. PRP is rich in growth factors and promotes the formation of new collagen and elastin as well as decreasing inflammation and the micro needling causes micro injury which promotes cell turnover and renewal of the skin. I have a preference for this treatment because there is low risk of side effects as the PRP is produced from your own blood and is neutral in terms of skin colour. The treatment with PRP and micro needling is followed up with 2 to 3 more sessions of micro needling alone, spaced 1 month apart.
Best At Home Treatment for Stretch Marks /
The best chance that you have of getting rid of stretch marks is identifying them early.
If they are pink, red or purple they are still fresh and will respond better to treatment than when they turn a whitish silver colour. Fresh stretch marks have been shown to respond well to various over-the-counter (OTC) creams that contain glycolic acid, (which contains alpha hydroxy acid or AHA), because of its ability to simulate collagen production and generate cellular turnover in the area. Look for OTC brands with the highest glycolic acid concentration for best results. Topical and oral vitamin C may also help with the treatment and reduction of stretch marks and should be used in conduction with other treatments and with your physician’s advice.
If you are looking for OTC Retinoid products, I recommend Neutrogena Healthy Skin to my patients who wish to treat their stretch marks at home with a milder product.
Final Recommendations /
Taking steps to prevent stretch marks is best, as once they have formed they are difficult to completely eradicate. Once you have developed stretch marks, the earlier they are treated the better the outcome. Consult with me to choose the best combination of treatments, given your individual needs. I tend to take an approach that incorporates multiple types of treatment as most studies show that this will give the best results.