Striae, the medical term for stretch marks, are the result of the skin being stretched past the resiliency point. These unsightly lines are caused by tissue tearing underneath the skin. Stretch marks are not dangerous in any way, but they can make a person feel self-conscious about his or her appearance.
Stretch marks can occur on any body region, but the most common places are the belly, buttocks, breasts, and shoulders. New stretch marks appear as reddish or purplish lines on the skin’s surface. Over time, these lines fade and appear slivery, pink, or flesh-toned. Pregnancy is the leading cause of stretch marks, as the abdomen expands with a developing fetus. Many people develop stretch marks from rapid weight gain or weight loss. In addition, weightlifters can develop stretch marks across the arms and shoulders.
The physician can prescribe medicated creams and ointments to minimize the appearance of stretch marks. Tretinoin cream is known for its effectiveness in treating wrinkles and acne, but it also can improve the appearance of stretch marks. This drug works by rebuilding collagen in skin, so the body can repair itself.
Glycolic acid is a chemical peeling agent that is used for facial procedures. However, glycolic acid can be applied to stretch marks to induce collagen production and decrease the appearance of these lines. The agent is applied by the plastic surgeon or dermatologist. It may take 3-5 treatment sessions for noticeable results.
Also called micropigmentation, intradermal implantation of pigment into the skin can camouflage the stretch mark. This procedure involves using a rotary pen with tiny needles to place flesh-colored pigment into the whitish or silvery stretch mark. Several lines can be treated at a session. While many patients get results after only one treatment, several sessions may be required to get desired effects.
Radiofrequency Energy Treatment
Radiofrequency treatments involve applying heat an entire treatment area to eliminate stretch marks. This treatment enhances the strength and elasticity of the dermis by producing proteoglycans and proteins. It works by stimulating the extracellular matrix in the dermis to shrink the collagen triple helix and subsequently stimulate the production of new collagen and elastin. In a recent clinical study, this procedure had an 88% success rate, with noticeable visible changes of striae bands measured one month post-treatment.
A common procedure used to remove stretch marks is laser treatment. There are three types of lasers known to eliminate these lines:
In a randomized clinical trial of 92 participants, laser treatment was found to be superior to glycolic acid and tretinoin cream for the treatment of stretch marks.
Dover JS, Rothaus K, & Gold MH (2014).Evaluation of Safety and Patient Subjective Efficacy of Using Radiofrequency and Pulsed Magnetic Fields for the Treatment of Striae (Stretch Marks). J ClinAesthetDerm, 7(9), 30-33.
Naein FF &Soghrati M (2012). Fractional CO2 laser as an effective modality in treatment of striaealba in skin types III and IV. J Res Med Sci, 17(10), 928-933.