You’d be forgiven for thinking that stretch marks are a curse for women alone – after all, we tend to hear about them related to pregnancy, which is something only women can do!

But, you’d be wrong, stretch marks are not just something that affect women; so listen up guys!

The concept of the female stomach stretching with the growing baby and the underlying skin structures tearing under the tension, causing fissures or small tear lines across the abdomen is well known. At the same time, stretch marks can occur in the female breast due to the pregnancy hormones causing increased breast tissue ready for milk production and lactation. We hear about this cause of stretch marks all the time.

But, rapid skin stretching which causes the formation of these stretch marks, or striae as the medical profession call them, can happen to both sexes.

In fact, they are very common and are caused by all sorts of changes to a person’s body.

Growth spurts during the teenage years can cause both men and women to manifest stretch marks on the lower back or the upper thighs as the adolescent gains height quickly. Rapid weight or muscle gain, especially in men, can have the same effect on the skin as the structures are pushed, literally to breaking point.

Stretch marks are therefore commonly seen in men and women on the inner and outer thighs, breast or chest, the hips, buttocks, lower back, stomach, and arms.

When this form of scarring first happens, it shows itself as quite a painful and ugly-looking tear, being plainly visible as a raised, red/purple coloured mark. Over time, and as the body tries to heal the tear, they reduce in colour and prominence to show as thin, white lines, although the area will still feel a little shallow or hollow when you run your finger over the tear line. Some stretch marks, if particularly severe can be painful to touch or ache.

Once you have stretch marks, the damage is done, and like a pot hole or crack in the road, it needs intervention to repair the underlying skin structure. Thankfully, this can be done by making the body repair itself – with a little help.

iPixel erbium YAG laser

In order to do this, we use the iPixel erbium YAG laser which is available on our new Harmony XL Pro laser platform from Alma Lasers.

The iPixel is used for skin resurfacing and it produces a fractional, ablative laser light. We use this on the stretch marks to create small, pixel-sized zones of damage when we fire the laser energy precisely at them. This means that within a small area there are dots or micro-spots of ablated skin (where the top layers of the epidermis and upper dermis have been vaporised away), which are surrounded by areas of undamaged skin. This will look like tiny pin-pricks of white across the area. After treatment, the body does a clever thing as it heals. The damage to these small areas starts the natural healing processes and the surrounding healthy tissue gets stimulated to repair the damaged dots by producing new collagen and healthy skin. As well as repairing the damage, which we have carefully caused with the iPixel laser, it is actually repairing the stretch mark as well – basically we trick the body into repairing the old stretch mark damage by making small areas of new, minor damage. Pretty clever isn’t it!

To get the best results from the iPixel treatment for stretch marks you will need several treatments every month or so, depending on the severity and age of your stretch marks. A consultation with our skin specialist will determine the recommended treatment programme for you. As your body heals over this time, and in the months after your final treatment session, the area of skin where the stretch marks were will significantly improve.

If you’d like more information about stretch marks treatments, including with the iPixel laser, then please contact Hilton Skin & Body Clinics in Reading today to book a consultation.