My Laser Girl

Stretch Marks

STRETCH MARKS

by on Jan.24, 2010, under Conditions, Stretch Marks

The amazing thing about stretch marks is that they’re not really caused by the skin “stretching.”  People associate stretch marks with weight gain or pregnancy and assume that stretch marks are caused by our skin stretching to fit around this new, larger body.  The association is so strong that the name ‘stretch mark’ was given; only further adding to the misconception.

Treatment is Available

Solutions

There are treatments available, particularly with lasers, which can help improve stretch marks, however, no treatment can yet make a stretch mark go all the way back to looking like totally normal skin. We can reduce red stretch marks, diminish white marks, we can improve the texture and make them look better, even in some cases make it so that you can’t see them very easily, but stretch marks are still an area where we improve the problem but don’t remove it. There are no ‘perfect’ treatments for stretch marks.

New Affirm® Laser Treatment

Stretch Marks May Be Improved with Laser

Lasers work by reducing the redness in the red stretch marks and by improving some of the inflammation causing the stretch marks in the first place. Lasers also induce collagen growth and remodeling, as well as some elastin remodeling which improves the look of the skin.

The latest development in the treatment of stretch marks is fractional laser therapy. Cynosure Affirm® lasers, utilize this technology. The idea of the laser is to create a number of vertical injuries to the patient’s skin with non-treated, uninjured skin in between the treated areas. Imagine a lawn that’s been aerated. A similar process, on a microscopic scale, is done to the skin with fractional laser treatment. The laser makes small injuries the diameter of a hair shaft in the skin leaving normal, untreated skin in between. The untreated skin helps heal the wound quite quickly, replacing the area with new, healthy skin. During each treatment only a fraction of the skin is treated. Some patients have improvement of stretch marks of 30% to 40%.

A variety of stretch marks may be improved with laser treatment. Generally stretch marks which are red in color are the most responsive to laser therapy, though in many cases white stretch marks may also be improved with treatment. A series of treatment sessions are usually needed to obtain the best results. We perform a series of treatments and can get between a 20-40% improvement in the appearance of these stretch marks. Generally we are getting good results with minimal downtime. There are some risks that some patients may not be responsive to the therapy, as well as some risk of post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation in darker individuals that takes some time to fade away. I usually do a test-patch for these patients to be sure we can safely treat them

Hormones are the Cause

The true cause of stretch marks is hormones. That’s right, hormonal influences are the cause. How can I support this fact? Well, when people gain weight, our hormones are produced and metabolized by fat cells. Hormones resemble fat and cholesterol, so when we gain and lose weight it affects the hormones in our body, and also the hormones in our skin.

Gaining Weight & Pregnancy Changes Hormones

So why do people who gain weight or are pregnant often get stretch marks? During the times we are growing, certainly when women are pregnant, when guys are lifting weights, or growth during puberty, its true that your skin is expanding as your body is expanding. But these life changes are accompanied by a serious change in our hormones and a change in the metabolism in our skin. It is this, not the ‘stretching’, that is the cause of stretch marks.

Diet Can Effect Weight, Which Effects Hormones

To the extent that your diet can cause you to gain or lose weight rapidly, thereby affecting your hormones, yes diet is important. However no foods are proven to cause stretch marks. So if you eat a lot of ‘x’ food, it will not cause them.

Weight Loss and Gain Impacts Hormones in Skin

Weight gain or loss has a dramatic effect on your body’s hormones and it is those hormones, which are present in the skin, which cause stretch marks to appear. The body’s expansion is not ‘stretching out’ the skin. Its hormones related to weight gain, pregnancy, puberty or other events associated with changing hormones that cause stretch marks.

Why don’t they heal over time?

Stretch marks are a huge problem. The problem is that the elastic fibers in skin with stretch marks are damaged, and elastic fibers are the single hardest thing to repair in skin. When you have a wound that’s healing, our body’s replace the collagen proteins and all the skin structures that are injured, but the elastic fiber is very difficult to repair. The trouble with stretch marks is that it’s a defect in those fibers. So since our body cannot effectively repair those fibers, the stretch marks do not heal.

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