What are stretch marks?
Stretch marks are long, narrow streaks or lines that show themselves on the skin and are a different hue than the surrounding skin. Men and women can develop stretch marks for many reasons, which are listed below. For women, stretch marks are most common after pregnancy. Around 90 percent of women develop stretch marks after their sixth or seventh month of pregnancy. While it’s nearly impossible to fully get rid of your stretch marks, at the Skin & Laser Surgery Center of New England, our treatments make stretch marks far less visible.
Common Areas for Stretch Marks
Stretch marks form in the dermis, the lower layer of the skin. They form when the skin is stretched or pulled, and as we age, we have less collagen and elastin. Meaning there are many areas on the body where stretch marks can form. While it is not common to get these marks on your elbow for instance, it is very common to find them on your stomach. As the stomach remains a problem area for both men and women.
The most common areas:
- Stomach area
- Upper arms
- Lower back.
What causes stretch marks?
Stretch marks are the result of a sudden stretching of the skin; your body grows faster than your skin can keep up with it. When there is constant stretching from pregnancy or sudden weight gain, it creates tears in the skin. This type of scarring happens when the skin cannot bounce back after a period of rapid growth. Basically, the connecting fibers in the dermis overstretch and break. Our skin is elastic to an extant, which is why some many people have stretch marks. Stretch marks are red or purple when they first appear due to blood vessels showing through the tears in the dermis. They eventually fade to a silvery, white, or glossy appearance.
- Rapidly gaining and losing weight
Laser Treatment for Stretch Marks
While there isn’t a treatment out there that completely removes stretch marks, laser treatments can vastly diminish their appearance. At the Skin & Laser Surgery Center of New England, we use our pulsed dye laser on the red stretch marks that are relatively new. On older, white stretch marks we use fractional lasers. Our lasers work on most skin types, including dark and light pigments. Dr. Khatri will verify if you are a candidate for laser treatment, but the odds are you will be.
- Pulsed dye laser treatment — For pink and red stretch marks, we use pulsed dye lasers. The laser energy is absorbed by the blood vessels of the new, red stretch marks. This heat energy helps resolve the redness. For the first 3-4 days after treatment, your stretch marks will actually become redder, but then will begin to fade. Pulsed dye lasers also trigger new collagen development as we describe below with fractional laser treatment.
- Fractional laser treatment — When the laser light energy penetrates the epidermis it converts to heat and it triggers a remodeling of the collagen, the skin’s support protein that gives the skin its underlying support structure. The body perceives this as a wound and responds by removing older, damaged tissue and producing new collagen and elastin. The new collagen gives the skin a smoother texture and improves the skin tone, lessening the appearance of the stretch marks.
Before & After – Stretch Marks Treatment
How many treatments will it take?
The best results occur when your stretch marks are relatively new, within a few weeks after delivery. At this time, the stretch marks are a pink/red color. It takes multiple laser treatments to actively improve the collagen remodeling. We’ve found that from three to five treatments usually achieves the best results. Treatments are spaced from 6-8 weeks apart for optimal results.
How long is the stretch mark treatment?
Treatment is quick, usually taking less than 30 minutes. There is no need for local anesthesia, as the procedure is basically pain-free. Patients equate the feeling of the laser pulses to a rubber band lightly snapping on their skin. There is no recovery. You can return to your normal activities immediately after your treatment.