Stretch marks are a difficult condition to treat, and therefore a multi-modal approach is best for effective treatment.
It is important to determine what type of results you are looking for and to have realistic expectations. A consultation is recommended to discuss all your questions and concerns and to establish which treatment option will suit you best.
For modest improvements with less downtime, Dermapen (micro-needling) with Platelet Rich Plasma (PRP) may be a suitable option.
In severe instances of stretch marks, the most suitable option may be to surgically remove the skin via a Tummy Tuck, Arm Lift or Thigh Lift.
*Results may vary from patient to patient. **All photos are of patients from Cosmos Clinic, and all ‘after’ images are taken 6 weeks post operation.
What are stretch marks?
Medically known by the names of striae distensae, SD, striae, striae atrophicans and striae gravidarum, stretch marks are defined as dermal scars or lesions on the outermost layer of the skin. They present themselves as pink, red or purple lines (indented streaks) often on the hips, abdomen, breasts, upper arms, thighs or buttocks. Over time stretch marks tend to flatten and fade to translucent white or grey pale marks. While both men and women are affected by stretch marks, around 70 percent of adolescent girls develop the condition during puberty compared to 40 percent of boys. Those at higher risk of developing stretch marks include:
Adolescents during growth spurts or hormonal changes
Obese or overweight people
What causes stretch marks?
Stretch marks are formed is the areas of the body where the skin is subjected to continuous stretching. The skin is divided into three main layers: the subcutaneous or hypodermis (deepest layer), dermis (middle layer) and the epidermis (the outer layer). Stretch marks are formed within the dermis. The rapid stretching of the connective tissue due to sudden growth or weight gain damages the dermal tissue atrophy and causes thinning of the outer layer. This allows the deeper skin layers to be revealed, forming the unsightly streaks along the surface. When the body grows, the connecting fibres of the dermis naturally stretch slowly. However with rapid growth, these fibres are overstretched and tear. This inflammatory reaction within the skin is the responsible for the stretch mark’s red or purple tone (new stretch marks). When viewed under a microscope, the tissue affected by stretch marks resembles that of a scar due to the changes in the collagen fibre’s appearance.
Why is it so difficult to treat stretch marks?
The truth is that we don’t know what exactly causes stretch marks. The theories include genetic factors, increased levels of body steroids, and mechanical effects like pregnancy, obesity and weight lifting. When we look under a microscope stretch marks look like a scar. Therefore, the best way is to treat scars is with a multi-modal approach, and so we apply the same treatment plan to stretch marks.
What topical treatments for stretch marks are available?
Several other treatment methods that help mildly improve the appearance of stretch marks:
Vitamin A helps improve stretch marks when they are red
Trofolastin cream (centella asiatica extract) has been shown to help prevent stretch marks in pregnant women
Verum (Vitamin E, panthenol, elastin and methanol) has also been shown to help prevent stretch marks during pregnancy
It is worth noting that once stretch marks have formed, they need to be treated with procedures tailored for stretch marks.
How soon after pregnancy should I wait before treating my stretch marks?
We advise the treatment combination (of PRP with Dermapen) two months after delivery. The use of Laser Skin Tightening with PRP and Fractional Laser is advised after 6 months. It is important to be note that the sooner the stretch marks are treated after pregnancy the more likely they are to respond to the treatment.
When should I consider surgical excision of stretch marks?
If you have loose skin and want a complete removal of stretch marks, you will need to cut out the skin with a Tummy Tuck or Arm Lift.