Stretch Mark Removal: What Really Works?
Stretch marks (also referred to as striae) are a common skin condition that often manifest as stripes with abnormal color and texture. Stretch marks are a natural response by the skin to a rapid expansion of a body mass, commonly seen with obesity or pregnancy. It is estimated that nearly 90% of all pregnant women will develop stretch marks during their pregnancy. Stretch marks are also genetic: if you’re immediate family has a history of stretch marks, it is likely that you are susceptible.
For many men and women, stretch marks can be a source of embarrassment, spurring a huge growth in products and treatments targeting stretch mark removal. We’ll take an in-depth look at stretch marks and discuss which stretch mark removal treatments have been proven to be effective.
What causes stretch marks?
Stretch marks can develop when the dermis (second layer of skin) is stretched over a prolonged period of time, leading to inflammation and subsequent breakdown of collagen fibers. Because of this inflammatory process, blood vessels in the area dilate, giving stretch marks a typical purple or red color early on. After a period of months, the destructive inflammatory process subsides and stretch marks appear white.
Can stretch marks ever fully disappear?
Bright red, very early stretch marks (within a few weeks of developing) may be completely reversible. Unfortunately, many patients seek treatment months to years following their development, after the inflammatory process within the stretch marks has had time to produce irreversible damage. Once stretch marks have turned white, they can be improved but will likely never completely vanish. Any product or treatment promising to completely get rid of white stretch marks should be looked at with skepticism. However, there are treatments that effectively minimize the visual appearance of stretch marks, specifically targeting their color and texture.
What stretch mark treatments really work?
Many of the products touted on late night infomercials promising to get rid of stretch marks are either completely ineffective or only provide minimal temporary improvement in their appearance. To date, no topical cream has been shown to be effective for the treatment of stretch marks.
However, there are clinical treatments available to improve the appearance of stretch marks. A V-Beam laser or intense pulsed light device can be utilized to decrease or eliminate the redness associate with new stretch marks. Resurfacing lasers, such as the Fraxel re:Store and ResurFX devices, are a safe and proven treatment option that impact both skin texture and pigmentation by rebuilding collagen in the treated area. Early stretch marks are best treated with combination therapy in order to reverse the inflammatory process and prevent collagen destruction.