Stretch marks don’t have to be forever. If pregnancy or weight-related stretch marks are bothering you, or if you’ve had them since puberty, book a consultation to discuss your options. Stretch marks can be ‘broken down’ via Dermapen or laser, in the same way we treat scar tissue, allowing the skin to heal with a more uniform appearance. In other cases, topical treatments are recommended.
What are stretch marks?
Stretch marks, or striae, occur when the middle layer of the skin is stretched too quickly causing collagen fibres to snap. As the skin becomes more uneven, blood vessels are made visible, resulting in pink or purple marks that may seem to appear overnight. With time, these darker marks fade to brown or white – or even a shimmery silver. Most people, particularly women, will experience stretch marks to some extent – up to 90% of pregnant women are affected. Stretch marks are typical in adolescence and common as a result of weight gain or rapid muscle growth. They can also result from topical steroid use. It’s important to stress that stretch marks are harmless. If, however, you are looking to reduce their appearance – effective treatments are available.
In-clinic Dermapen treatment can help to permanently minimise your stretch marks. Dermapen, or micro-needling, uses small needles to improve skin and scars all over the body. As the device is moved over the skin, hundreds of minuscule needle punctures or ‘micro-injuries’ are made which spur the skin into healing mode. The skin’s natural defence system works by increasing the production of elastin and collagen. Scar tissue is broken down and the surrounding skin is encouraged to regenerate, resulting in a more even texture and appearance. You should notice an improvement within 4 to 8 weeks, with best results after several months.
Lasers can be used to ‘resurface’ the skin, thereby minimising ridges and irregularities of texture. Different lasers work in different ways. Ablative lasers work by destroying the outer skin layer, encouraging the layers beneath to regenerate. Non-ablative lasers instead target the lower skin layers – the outer layer is left intact and collagen production is boosted from within. A course of 6 treatments spaced 3-4 weeks apart is generally recommended, although you may need less. With excellent aftercare the effects of laser skin resurfacing will last for years.
Retinoids and glycolic acid treatments are effective for stretch marks – in varying strengths and combinations. OTC retinol products can be useful, while in some instances only stronger, prescription retinoids – which rapidly increase skin cell turnover – will be effective. Glycolic acid creams are freely available, but professional glycolic peels yield better results. Peels are safe for all skin types and solution strength can be adjusted as needed – for instance a lower concentration should be used for darker skin. There should be a visible improvement after 3 or 4 peel treatments, with a course of 6 the recommended minimum. Retinoids and glycolic acid peels are often used in conjunction, with the retinoid being prescribed in advance as a preparatory measure.