Skin Secrets: 20 Stretch Mark FAQs and Their Eye-Opening Answers

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Has your greatest joy ever become a source of pain later on? If so, here is the story of Mary:

Two years back Mary, a 22-year-old mother, delivered a healthy baby boy. The child meant the world to Mary, but pregnancy took its toll on her. Ugly stretch marks marred her once youthful, attractive and fit body. She had become a shadow of what she used to be, and because of this, she cloistered herself in her apartment.

Mary’s confidence plummeted and her attitude towards life became morose. The once cheerful and exuberant girl grew weary and dull.

But this is not just Mary’s story. Stretch marks have dealt serious blows to the self-esteem of many. Would the contents of this article help Mary and those like her? Definitely.

Once you know what stretch marks are, where they come from, and how to treat them, you will get the confidence to cope with the debilitating effects of stretch marks and start experiencing life fully once again.

Here is a simple analogy to help you understand how stretch marks occur. Answers to frequently asked questions related to stretch marks will follow shortly.

How Stretch Marks Occur: A Cheesy Analogy

pizzaIf you don’t have a pizza handy, imagine one. The top layer of the skin is like the cheese coating on top of the pizza base. Underneath your skin’s top layer, a tough layer of tissue exists. This layer keeps the skin firm. You can think of this layer as the pizza base. Can you imagine how messy the pizza would be without the base?

When you pull out a slice of pizza, do you notice how it stretches the cheese layer on top? You might have to pull a while before the cheese lets go and breaks. The same thing happens when certain triggers pull the tough tissues of your skin apart; however, the force is not strong enough to tear the top layer. The top layer stretches permanently, and stretch marks form.

Now suppose you decide not to eat the slice and replace it at the location you pulled it out from, does the slice fit in seamlessly? No. You can definitely notice a difference in texture and color. That’s the problem with stretch marks as well – the stretched skin stands apart from the rest of the skin, and in a bad way at that.

Fortunately, in case of pizzas, you can sprinkle some cheese on top and pop it in the microwave for a minute or two in order to restore the consistency of the top layer. Unfortunately, you can’t do the same with human skin.

So what can you do? You can start by learning as much as you can about stretch marks, such as why they form and how to prevent them. This article will cover nearly every question you have on stretch marks, providing helpful answers on many stretch mark topics, such as how to treat them.

1. Where Do Stretch Marks Come From?

During PregnancyThere are a number of things that cause stretch marks. Although they may differ from person to person, the real reasons why stretch marks occur are as follows:

  • During Pregnancy: stretch marks are common in the later stages of pregnancy and impacts 80 percent of pregnant women.
  • Post Rapid Weight Gain or Loss: Stretch marks appear if you gain a lot of weight in a short period. The stretch marks will remain even if you lose the weight, but will fade eventually.
  • Heredity: If a close member of the family has stretch marks, you are likely to develop stretch marks, as well.
  • Underlying Medical Complications: Medical conditions, such as Marfan’s syndrome or Cushing’s syndrome cause stretch marks to develop.
  • During Puberty: During puberty, the body grows in quick spurts. This leads to stretch marks.

The most common reason seems to be rapid fluctuations in weight. In the case of women, pregnancy is a common cause of stretch marks.

2. Is Stretch Mark Removal Possible?

Despite tremendous leaps in medicine and technology, removing stretch marks is still not entirely possible.

When the dermis ruptures, and the skin above it stretches, the body repairs the tear using fillers, such as collagen. Collagen appears different from dermis in color and texture. This is why stretch marks stand out.

Our inability to remove stretch marks lies in our failure to restore the dermal cells in the tear. If a medical procedure replicates the dermis of human skin cell for cell, doctors can cure stretch marks. As of today, no one has demonstrated such a procedure.

3. Do Creams Remove Stretch Marks Effectively?

CreamsLet’s review the anatomy of a stretch mark. At the top, you have discolored skin and at the bottom, you have ruptured dermis. To remove the stretch mark, the cream must restore the color of the top layer and the appearance of the dermis.

Unfortunately, no scientifically documented studies indicate creams can achieve this. Products advertised on TV or on other media base their claims on so-called best results, but even in those cases of good results, creams moisturize to improve the appearance of the stretch marks, but may not remove them entirely.

4. How Do Doctors Use Lasers to Treat Stretch Marks?

Imagine a stream of light from a flash light being concentrated into a microscopically narrow ray. That is what a laser is – a highly concentrated beam of light.

Lasers have many applications in the medical field, because doctors can use lasers to make precise cuts at the cellular level. Dermatologists and plastic surgeons use lasers to treat stretch marks.

In the treatment procedure, a micro-laser penetrates the skin and removes defunct cells in the dermal tissue. The body’s healing mechanism then replaces the raggedy old cells with new uniform ones. As a result, the stretch mark becomes smoother, lighter and less visible.

The process is mostly painless, but you might experience some minor discomfort. Nevertheless, laser treatment is a widely accepted method of treating stretch marks. It is important to remember, the treatment will not make the marks go away completely, but it will improve their appearance significantly.

5. Does Weight Lifting Improve the Appearance of Stretch Marks?

Weight LiftingLifting weights does nothing to improve the appearance of stretch marks. Although your body will look toned and healthy, the stretch marks would still be there.

In fact, lifting weights could increase the number of stretch marks. As you lift weights, the muscles increase in mass and volume. As a result, the skin above the muscles stretches and creates new stretch marks.

Lifting weight to improve the appearance of stretch marks is counterproductive.

6. What Can New Mothers Do to Treat Post-Pregnancy Stretch Marks on the Abdomen?

Both during and after pregnancy, the body goes through many changes. One of these changes is the appearance of stretch marks at the lower abdominal region.

Fortunately, a surgical procedure called a tummy tuck or mommy tuck can help. In this procedure, the surgeon removes the excess, stretched skin and tightens the area. The new skin is without any stretch marks. This procedure works well for removing the stretch marks below the belly button level.

The right time to get a tummy tuck is after you decide not to have more children. If you want to have children in future, use laser treatments to improve the appearance of the marks above the navel level and cover the stretch marks in the lower abdomen with clothing.

7. Can Surgery Remove the Stretch Marks on My Breasts?

doctorsThe answer is no. So far, doctors have not been able to perfect a procedure as effective as the tummy tuck for other parts of the body. In fact, attempts to do so leave scars worse than the stretch marks. It will make the problem worse.

Be it breasts, or buttocks, or any other part, surgical procedures to eliminate stretch marks do not exist.

Breast lift or breast augmentation makes your breasts firmer and could lessen your stretch marks; however, it will not make your stretch marks disappear.

8. Can Tattoos Hide My Stretch Marks?

Yes, camouflage tattoos are a great way of masking stretch marks, but you need to consider a few things before getting a tattoo.

Firstly, approach a tattoo artist who specializes in this work, because there are many variables an artist must consider before designing and inking the tattoo. For instance, the tattoo artist must take into consideration the extent, location, color, and texture of your stretch marks. A generalist cannot do such evaluations as effectively as a specialist can.

Secondly, inspect the tattoo parlor. The tools, equipment, and the general environment must be hygienic.

Lastly, ask the tattooist to use laser-sensitive ink. Using laser sensitive ink allows you to get rid of the tattoo in two or three laser sessions.

9. How Much Will a Laser Treatment Cost Me?

To achieve satisfactory results, laser stretch mark reduction procedure requires three to four sessions. The sessions are approximately 30 minutes long and you can schedule them once a week.

surgeonEach session costs around 1,000 dollars. It’s a good idea to visit a few plastic surgeons to know the exact costs. While visiting, make sure todo the following:

  • Note the model of the equipment the surgeon uses.
  • Ask about the post treatment care procedures the clinic follows.
  • Find out the percentage of clients who were satisfied with the procedure.
  • Gauge the surgeon’s experience in dealing with people who fit your skin, age and gender profile.
  • Check the credentials of the surgeon.
  • Confirm the cost per session and frequency of the treatment.

Do not make a final decision based on cost alone. If the surgeon has more experience in dealing with your specific requirements, then a higher price is justifiable.

10. Can Doctors Use Dermal Fillers to Remove Stretch Marks?

Unfortunately, removing stretch marks using dermal fillers is not possible.

When you wax your car, do the scratches disappear? No, the scratches are still there, but the overall appearance of the car’s surface improves.

Similarly, doctors use dermal fillers to improve the texture of the stretch marks and make them look better than they used to before the treatment.

11. Can an Application of Silicone Gel Reduce My Stretch Marks?

People use silicone gel to manage scars. The thin film that the gel forms keeps the injury moist, clean, and safe from bacterial attack. As a result, the injury heals with reduced scarring. However, after the injury heals, applying silicone gel achieves nothing.

gel formsIn the case of stretch marks, there are no surface injuries. The rupture is below the skin. The top layer of the skin stretches, but does not break. Applying silicone gel on an undamaged surface serves no purpose.

At best, the appearance and texture of your stretch mark will improve, but the stretch marks will remain.

12. What is the Difference Between Red Stretch Marks and White Stretch Marks?

A simple analogy will help you understand the difference between red stretch marks and white stretch marks. Red stretch marks are to white stretch marks what grapes are to raisins.

If you let grapes dry in the sun for a long time, they become raisins. Similarly, fresh stretch marks, which are reddish in color, fade gradually to become old silvery white stretch marks.

Dermatologists treat the two stretch marks differently.

Doctors use tretinoin cream, pulsed dye laser, or fractional photothermolysis to stimulate the healing process in red stretch marks, and doctors use micro-dermabrasion, or excimer laser to improve the look and feel of white stretch marks.

13. Which is Better, Dermabrasion or Laser Treatment?

Let’s understand each term clearly:

  • Dermabrasion:The process is similar to sanding wood. Tiny crystals brush away a thin layer of skin – just as a sander removes the top layer of wood. After crystals remove the layer, new skin grows in its place.
  • Laser Treatment: In this process, a micro laser penetrates the skin and removes skin layer by layer. New cells grow in the void and replace the lost cells.

Both the procedures improve the appearance and texture of the stretch marks. However, laser treatment achieves better results.

Even though dermabrasion may be cheaper than laser treatment, the number of sessions required for dermabrasion might be more than what is required for laser treatment. Thus, the cost per session may average out.

In addition, the chances of hyper pigmentation are higher for dermabrasion than laser treatment.

Skin color is also an important factor to consider. Dermabrasion works better on light skin than on dark skin. Therefore, consult a dermatologist and discuss the ramifications of choosing one over the other.

14. Can Chemical Peels Help Remove or Reduce My Stretch Marks?

A chemical peel is a solution that strips away the top layer of the skin. Thereafter, a new layer of skin, which is smoother than the old skin, replaces the stripped layer.

However, chemical peels do not penetrate deep enough into the skin to restore the damaged dermis. As a result, the application of chemical peels will make the stretch marks look better, but will not make them disappear.

15. Are Older Stretch Marks Harder to Treat Than New Ones?

Fresh stretch marks appear reddish in color and as they get older, they lighten in color and eventually become lighter than the person’s skin color.

Medically, it is easier to remove pigmentation than to restore pigmentation. A surgeon can remove the extra pigmentation until the color of the stretch mark is close to the patient’s skin color. However, if the stretch marks are white or silvery, it is difficult for the surgeon to restore the pigmentation.

That is why it is easier to treat fresh stretch marks than old ones.

16. What is Carboxytherapy and How Do Doctors Use It to Treat Stretch Marks?

scarsCarboxytherapy is a form of treatment that uses carbon dioxide gas to remove damaged collagen and stimulate the growth of a new collagen matrix. This is the only form of stretch mark treatment that works well for old and new scars.

Doctors use a micro-needle to inject the stretch marks with carbon dioxide gas. Thereafter, the gas causes formation of new collagen and eventually improves the way the stretch marks look.

The treatment is painless and requires between six to 12 treatments spaced one week apart. Each session takes 15 to 20 minutes to complete. This type of treatment is safe and has a short downtime.

17. What is the Excimer Laser?

Plastic surgeons use excimer lasers to treat white stretch marks. During the process, the surgeon exposes the stretch marks to a concentrated dose of ultraviolet rays in order to re-pigment them.

The excimer laser operates with high precision, and adjacent healthy skin remains unaffected. The dosage of ultraviolet rays depends on the nature of the stretch marks and doctor usually determines the dosage on the first visit.

Although the procedure is safe, surgeons can address any specific risk during consultation. The number of sessions required and the length of each session depends on the magnitude of stretch marks.

18. How Do Doctors Use a Pulse Dye Laser to Treat Stretch Marks?

stretch marks appear smootherA laser is a high-energy beam of light. In pulse dye laser, or PDL, treatment, doctors first apply a dye to the stretch mark. Next, they expose the stretch mark to a laser beam.

The cells pigmented by the dye absorb more energy than the cells that are un-pigmented. The excessive energy absorption destroys the cell. Thereafter, new cells take the place of the old ones. Thus, the stretch marks appear smoother and lighter.

This treatment usually applies to fresh reddish stretch marks. It doesn’t work that well for old white stretch marks. Doctors combine pulse dye laser treatment with other forms of laser treatment to achieve better results.

19. Are Fraxel Laser Treatments the Best Form of Laser Treatment?

There is no one-stop solution to stretch mark treatment. The nature of your stretch marks largely decides what the optimal treatment is.

In fraxel laser treatments, a laser damages thousands of tiny columns of skin in your stretch mark. The body then repairs the damaged columns with the help of new collagen. Over a course of a few treatments, your stretch mark becomes tighter, smaller, and smoother.

20. How can I Prevent Stretch Marks?

Unfortunately, no precautions or preventive measures exist that can stop stretch marks from appearing. Stretch marks accompany biological milestones such as puberty, pregnancy and aging. However, you can reduce stretch marks due to rapid weight change to a certain extent.

If you are overweight and want to lose weight, do so gradually. The recommended rate of weight loss is one pound per week. Losing weight faster than that leads to stretch marks.

Once you reach the desired weight, maintain it. Yo-yo diets, in which cycles of weight loss and weight gain occur, can cause extensive stretch marks.

Things You Should Bear in Mind

Consult a doctorThe article covers the most frequently asked questions regarding stretch marks. Stretch marks are an inevitable consequence of the way your body functions. You can neither prevent the appearance of stretch marks, nor can you eliminate them.

The best course of action is to improve the appearance of the stretch marks through various options we discussed here. The quality of the results depends on many factors, such as your skin type, the age of the stretch marks, the body part where the stretch marks appear, the number of marks, and the extent of stretch marks.

Consult a doctor to get some advice on how the doctor would treat your specific condition. The treatment method, cost of the treatment and the number of sessions required varies from person to person.

Remember, your stretch marks will fade away and become less visible over a period. However, if you want to expedite the process, seek medical attention.

A Few Words of Caution

If someone completely removes stretch marks from the human body, it would qualify as a miracle no less wonderful than turning water into wine. So, beware of product or treatment that seems too good to be true. Invest your time researching the claims of such sensational products before you use them. Otherwise, the only thing that is going to disappear is your hard-earned money.

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