What treatments are available for the removal of stretch marks?
Stretch marks usually are only a cosmetic problem, but rarely, if extensive they may ulcerate or tear easily in an accident. Stretch marks occurring in adolescents become less visible over time and generally require no treatment. In other cases, if stretch marks are a cause of concern then the following treatments may be tried, but have not been proven to be effective:
Topical retinoid therapy; Chemical peels; Pulse dye laser therapy.
Laser surgery is one of the most expensive forms of stretch mark treatments and it usually requires between five and six sessions. It won’t remove your stretch marks but it can help to significantly improve their appearance. Studies have shown that the appearance of stretch marks continues to improve up to six months after the initial treatment. Laser surgery uses a narrow beam of light that transmits through the skin helping to stimulate the cells in the dermis to produce new tissue. However, at this stage most lasers only detect pigment that is red, purple or brown, so they do not detect mature stretch marks that have turned silver-white. Today, several new laser techniques are available to treat a wide variety of scars and stretch marks. The laser's energy stimulates the skin under the scar and causes the fibroblasts in the skin to begin to divide again. It also stimulates the production of collagen. This thickens the skin under the scar until it closely resembles the surrounding normal skin. Current laser technology has been shown to improve or eliminate red or raised scars. Recent studies have demonstrated that laser treatments stimulate the production of collagen and improve or eliminate the appearance of stretch marks. Additional studies show that the appearance of stretch marks continues to improve over a period of time ranging from 3 to 6 months after the laser treatment was given. Even those treatments that showed little if any initial improvement showed as much as a 50% improvement at their 6 month checkup. Current laser technology has been shown to improve or eliminate red or raised scars. Recent studies have demonstrated that laser treatments stimulate the production of collagen and improve or eliminate the appearance of stretch marks. Additional studies show that the appearance of stretch marks continues to improve over a period of time ranging from 3 to 6 months after the laser treatment was given. Even those treatments that showed little if any initial improvement showed as much as a 50% improvement at their 6 month checkup.
Chemical peels are sometimes applied to other sites such as the hands. They may be used to treat damage caused by exposure to the sun (photoageing), to remove pigmentation such as freckles and melasma and fine lines and wrinkles. A peel removes several layers of sun damaged skin cells, leaving fresh skin which has a more even surface and colour. It may stimulate new collagen to be formed improving skin texture. Peels may result in superficial, moderate depth or deep skin injury. A nurse or aesthetician (beauty therapist) may perform superficial peels. A dermatologist or plastic surgeon usually performs deeper peels. Peels can be repeated as necessary; some people have superficial peels every few weeks. It is wise to wait 3 to 6 months before repeating a moderate depth peel. Glycolic acid and Jessner's peels result in superficial skin injury and are well tolerated - the 'lunchtime' peel. They remove thin lesions on the skin surface, reducing pigment and surface dryness. The result of the first peel may be disappointing, but after repeated peels, significant improvement is usually evident. Trichloracetic acid (TCA) is the most common chemical used for a medium depth peel. The results depend on its concentration, usually 20 to 35%. The treatment is painful and treated areas are swollen, red and crusted for the next week or so. It can lead to an impressive improvement in skin texture with a reduction in blotchy pigmentation, freckling and solar keratoses (dry sunspots). Although fine wrinkles and some acne scars are less obvious, the TCA peel has no effect on deep furrows. Phenol results in deep skin injury. It is rarely used for facial peels nowadays because of the risk of scarring and because of its toxicity. Absorption of phenol through the skin results in potentially fatal heart rhythm disturbances and nerve damage. However, it is very effective at improving both surface wrinkles and deep furrows. After a phenol peel, the treated skin is pale and smooth but it may be waxy and "mask-like".
The group of medicines known as retinoids are derived from Vitamin A. Creams containing the retinoids retinol and retinaldehyde can be obtained over the counter at pharmacies and supermarkets. Other topical retinoids containing tretinoin or isotretinoin require a doctor's prescription. Adapalene is a related prescription medicine. Topical retinoids can be applied to any area but are most often used on the face, the neck and the back of hands. Creams containing alpha hydroxyl acids (AHAs) can be of some benefit in your battle to get rid of stretch marks. AHAs are usually derived from fruit and they are sometimes called ‘fruit acids. These creams can improve your skin texture and color by increasing cell regeneration. AHAs remove the top layer of cells which then allows healthier ones to come to the surface which help with improving the appearance of your stretch marks. Although there are tons of creams and other skin products on the market that claim to eliminate stretch marks, the truth is that most of these products are ineffective and often costly. You can't make stretch marks go away entirely without the help of a dermatologist (a doctor who specializes in treating skin problems) or plastic surgeon. These doctors may use one of many types of treatments, from actual surgery to techniques such as microdermabrasion and laser treatment, that reduce the appearance of stretch marks. These techniques are expensive and are not usually recommended for people in their teen years because they are not finished growing and their stretch marks will probably diminish over time anyway.
The Endermologie machine, developed in France over a decade ago, uses rollers and gentle suctioning to deeply massage stretch-marked areas, increasing the circulation by up to 200 per cent. At the same time, toxins and abnormal water build-up are expelled as connective fibres are stretched. The exfoliation in conjunction with the stretching of the fibres can be helpful in reducing the appearance of stretch marks. Expect to wear a body stocking as a technician runs the suctioning rollers over your body, concentrating on the affected areas. Each session lasts half an hour, but to see results, a series of treatments is recommended.