Laser Therapy for Stretch Marks
Stretch marks can occur on various parts of the body, including the abdomen, thighs, hips, breasts, arms, flanks and low back. Men and women can develop these stretch marks at any age.
Stretch marks can present differently depending on the skin type. They can range in color from white to silvery to pink, reddish purple or dark brown. Stretch marks usually appear more pink and red in the early stages and as time goes by, they become more white or silvery and appear indented.
For many years clinicians believed that rapid stretching of the skin alone was the cause of stretch marks. It is now believed that an increase in cortisone, a hormone produced by the adrenal glands, contributes to the development of these unsightly parallel linear patterns. Elastic fibers in the skin may be weakened by cortisone. Genetic factors may also play a role. The physical stretching of the skin and hormonal factors play a role in the development of stretch marks in pregnant women, teenagers during a growth spurt, body builders with substantial weight gain, use of corticosteroid creams or systemic steroids, as well as those with various disease processes that affect the adrenal glands.
Over the years, people have spent hundreds of dollars on useless lotions and potions that claim to make stretch marks disappear. Limited data are available for topical solutions that improve stretch marks. Tretinoin (Retin-A) has been shown to improve the appearance of stretch marks when used in the early stages. It works by stimulating collagen production. However, skin can become very irritated and patients need careful guidance on proper use of this product. Unfortunately it cannot be used during pregnancy.
Although nothing has proven to eliminate stretch marks, various lasers can improve the appearance. Early treatment yields better results. The V-Beam, a pulse dye laser, and fractional resurfacing help by remodeling the dermis by stimulating new growth of collagen and elastin, improving texture and reducing redness. In our clinic, we have seen skin discoloration with each of these lasers in some of our patients. Postinflammatory hyperpigmentation, as well as hypopigmentation, can occur. It's important to have patients use bleaching agents during their course of treatment and comply with sun avoidance.
A device called Viora Reaction, utilizing bipolar radiofrequency, has surprised us in improving the appearance of stretch marks. In our clinic, we use this device for cellulite and skin tightening, and have seen improvement in stretch marks in the areas that we have treated. So far we have not had patients report hypo or hyperpigmentation. Response to treatment varies among patients.
Finally, this is something that really has an impact on a stretch mark. Results may be in the 30% range of improvement, depending on the number of treatment sessions, the type of device used and what stage the stretch marks are in when treatment was initiated. Realistic expectations need to be set.