Stretch marks are caused by rapid physical stretching of the
skin in a condition where elastic fibers due to genetics or hormonal influence.
Stretch marks develop in a variety of circumstances including pregnancy, weight
gain, adolescents with rapid growth spurts, and weightlifters bulking up (usually
on the arms). Men and women can get stretch marks in several areas including
the abdomen, thighs, hips, breasts, upper arms or back. Depending on skin type
and the cause, stretchmarks can appear pink, red, purple, reddish brown, light
or dark brown.
Various prescription and over-the-counter topical solutions
have been recommended over the years with little to very mild improvement used
alone. The following are just a few:
- Wheat germ oil
- Glycolic acid
- Vitamin C
Light and laser devices have given patients more hope. Initially,
treatment was known to be only successful when treatment was initiated while
stretch marks were red or purple, but new laser technology has made it possible
to improve the appearance of stretch marks in their white or silvery phase many
Microdermabrasion and chemical peels have been used for
years with minimal results. Vascular lasers such as the pulse dye laser and
intense pulsed light have been effective in reducing redness or purple
appearance of stretch marks.
Fractionated lasers such as fractional CO2 have now proven
to be effective in improving the appearance of older, silver or white
entrenched stretch marks. Deep fractional micro laser beams vaporize a fraction
of the skin leaving surrounding skin intact which allows for minimal downtime
with reduced risks compared to traditional CO2 lasers. New collagen is produced
in the treated areas resulting in improved elasticity and collagen fiber
Radiofrequency using Viora Refit protocol is something we
have found to be surprisingly effective in improving the appearance of new and
old stretch marks. Radiofrequency heats the tissue and stimulates contraction
and shortening of the collagen fiber bundles causing the skin to appear tighter
and improves the appearance of the stretch marks.
Multiple treatments possibly using different modalities and
topical solutions will be required. The most important part of treating
patients with stretch marks is setting realistic expectations on results and cost.