Stretch Mark Therapies
Stretch marks can be found on various parts of the body including the abdomen, thighs, hips, breasts, and arms, behind the knees, flanks and low back. Both men and women at different ages can develop these stretch marks.
Stretch marks can present differently depending on the skin type. They can range in color from white, silvery, pink, red, reddish purple to 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.
It was felt that rapid stretch 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 is 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, there are various lasers and light energy that can improve the appearance. Early treatment yields better results. Intense pulsed light (IPL) and V-Beam, a pulse dye laser can reduce the red appearance of the stretch marks. Fractional laser resurfacing vaporizes away a fraction of the scarred tissue and is replaced with new growth of collagen and elastin resulting in renewed skin with improved texture and color.
A device called Viora Reaction, utilizing bipolar radiofrequency, has surprised us unexpectedly 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 will vary among individuals.
Microneedling using the Dermapen has been a procedure that has yielded results beyond expectations. Different for the more traumatic dermal rolling, Dermapen utilizes groups of fine needles with adjustable depth of penetration depending on the condition to be treated. Collagen and elastin is stimulated by the microneedling to improve the appearance and texture of the skin. In addition, platelet rich plasma (PRP) can be applied topically immediately after the micro-channels are created, enhancing penetration of the PRP. This turns on the body's own regenerative process to repair the tissue being treated.
Realistic expectations need to be set. Results may vary depending on the severity of the stretch marks and the number of treatments. In many cases, a combination of modalities can yield the best results. These treatment modalities are costly and multiple treatments are usually required over a period of time. I tell all patients that stretch mark treatment is never 100%. Although these modalities can improve the appearance of the stretch marks, residual evidence of stretch marks may remain.