The Surprising Science Behind Stretch Marks

Posted on

As our bodies change, the fibers in our skin slowly stretch to adapt. But rapid change—whether it is due to pregnancy, teenage growth spurts, weight gain or even weight loss—can cause the middle layer of the skin to tear, leading to scarring. This is how we develop stretch marks, a common cosmetic concern among our patients at Skin Wellness Dermatology of Alabama.

The appearance of stretch marks can vary from red, pink, purple or silver streaks to indented lines in the skin. While oils to hydrate the skin often promise to reduce your likelihood of developing stretch marks, there is little science behind the claim. Fortunately, treatment options to reduce the visibility of stretch marks are available under the guidance of our skilled dermatologists in Birmingham and Chelsea. These options include:

  • Retinoid cream. This common topical cream is one we often use to treat acne, wrinkles and problems with pigmentation. As an initial approach, a retinoid cream helps our patients with the appearance of stretch marks by causing the scars to contract.
  • Vascular laser. The redness in your stretch marks is caused by broken blood vessels. Our vascular laser system will seal off the blood vessels and eliminate the color of your stretch marks. It will not, however, smooth out raised or sunken areas of scarring.
  • Fractional laser treatment. Our favorite—and most effective—way to treat stretch marks at Skin Wellness Dermatology of Alabama is with Fraxel® DUAL laser treatments. By delivering energy deep into the skin, we promote the regeneration of collagen to resurface the skin. Our patients struggling with the cosmetic concern of stretch marks find that the result is a more even skin tone and texture. The number of Fraxel® sessions you will require for optimal results will depend on your skin type, skin color and the number of stretch marks in the affected area. Most patients benefit from approximately five sessions.

Aside from rapid weight gain or loss, an increased presence of cortisol will also put you at risk to develop new stretch marks. Whether made by the body or taken as a steroid via a pill, shot or topical medication, corticosteroids—when used incorrectly—will thin the skin, encourage blood vessel formation, and lead to the production of stretch marks. Be especially careful not to use a topical steroid cream on the wrong area—or in the right area for too long.

While typically painless, stretch marks can be disfiguring and cause anxiety. Contact one of our experienced team members to talk about your treatment options today.