Stretch mark removal is possible. However with stretch marks prevention is better than cure and if you do get them than you get the best results by treating the stretch marks sooner rather than later. Stretch marks are a worry, especially for woman who are either pregnant or just starting their pregnancy. Not all women of course will get stretch marks; a lot of it depends on genetics giving you the type of skin that is more or less prone to stretch marks. No matter how you get them, the end result is the same. Large red unsightly lines that crawl across your body that never seem to go away or fade. However, with a little bit of understanding of the process of how it is formed and how it can be removed, a lot can be done even to reduce their appearance. Here is the best evidence and research regarding stretch marks and stretch mark removal.
So what are stretch marks?
Stretch marks called striae, appears as a reddish or purplish streaks that appear across the skin. Common places for stretch marks are
- Thighs and buttocks
These marks are a concern for people because they are very bright and highly visible when they first appear. Everyone can get stretch marks, both men and woman. Stretch marks are not a life threatening or dangerous condition; overtime they will fade and become less visible.
What causes stretch marks?
The skin is pretty flexible; however there are times when the skin is literally stretched further than it can grow to accommodate the increase in size. The inner layer of skin is literally stretched thinner and as it tears blood vessels start to become visible, leading to that bright reddish discoloration. Common causes of stretch marks are:
- Weight lifting
- Weight gain
- Some rare medical conditions
- Side effect from drugs such as corticosteroids
Anytime there is a large change in weight gain or due to periods of growth you are at risk of getting a stretch mark. For woman about to enter into pregnancy you have probably heard about or have experienced stretch marks first hand. For males you are most likely to get them during puberty or when hitting the gym and bulking.
Stretch Mark Removal Options
There are a couple of stretch mark removal treatment options for removing stretch marks, however all the treatments work most effectively on newer stretch marks that still have that bright discoloration. Keep in mind that no matter what options you choose, all treatments are only ever partially effective at reducing the visibility of stretch marks, there is unfortunately no treatment to remove the appearance of stretch marks completely.
Do Nothing. Leave the stretch mark alone, these marks are harmless and over time they will fade from the bright color to more closely approximate the color of the surrounding skin. However, these marks are still visible when viewed closely.
Tretinoin cream. Using a Retin-A or renova cream has been found to be good at improving the appearance of newly formed stretch marks. Ie anything less than 6 weeks and still has that bright discoloration.
Retinol is the best active ingredient that is easily available in over the counter products to consider using for treating stretch marks.
Retinol is commonly added to face and skin care products, although the cost of acquiring them makes it an expensive option. Further, products containing retinol are typically made for usage over a small area and stretch marks can cover a larger area requiring more product.
How retinol works is that it stimulates the underlying skins production of collagen. As it stimulates collagen and not directly adds or replaces it, retinol treatments have a certain lag time before it starts to become visibly effective. Ball park figures place treatment times at around 6 weeks minimum before there is any visible change to stretch marks.
Non ablative(destructive) laser therapy. A non-destructive laser treatment that sends a light source to stimulate the production of both elastic and collagen in the underlying layer of skin (dermis). It is one of the few options that are still moderately effective even on older, faded stretch marks
Microdermabrasion. Remove the top layer of skin to reveal a new fresh layer underneath. By slowly removing the top most layer of skin it is possible to flatten out the appearance of stretch marks and also promote the formation of a new skin later which is more elastic. Next to using a non-ablative laser dermabrasion is the next best choice for older stretch marks that have faded.
Excimer laser. A special type of laser that normalizes the color of the stretch mark to more closely approximate the surrounding skin color. This will not remove your stretch marks but it will make them less visible.
Stretch mark removal or prevention?
Although there are many creams and lotions that may help to prevent stretch marks, the only truly effective way is to control your weight. Stretch marks occur because the skin is stretched faster than it can accommodate the sudden change in weight. Which is why pregnant woman, weight lifters and adolescents are most at risk of stretch marks. These populations will often times experience the biggest weight changes in a relatively short time.
For example, during pregnancy it is wise to consult with your doctor about keeping a healthy weight range over the duration, this will help minimize the formation of stretch marks and also keep you fit and healthy for you and the baby.
A note of cation. Vitamin A derivative products are generally recommended as a treatment option for stretch marks. However pregnant mothers should not use these products as vitamin A has been known to cause birth defects.
Stretch mark removal timing
Stretch marks have a life cycle and depending on where a stretch mark is in that life cycle treatment can affect how good of an outcome you can expect to achieve when trying any stretch mark removal treatment.
In the beginning a stretch mark will appear red, purple and be highly visible due to its bright coloration. At this stage the stretch mark is referred to as striae rubra. If you catch a stretch mark early you not only have more flexibility with treatment options but you can also expect better treatment outcomes for your stretch mark removal.
After a while stretch marks will start to lose their initial bright coloration. Old stretch marks will turn a white silvery color that matches very closely to your skin tones. At this stage they have turned into striae alba. Leaving a stretch mark this long will affect the type of treatments you can apply and also how effective they will be in reducing the visibility of the aged stretch mark.