Stretch marks or striae, to given them their medical name, are tear lines in the layers of your skin caused by rapid skin stretching – effectively a form of skin scarring.
They are very common in the population, not just in women, but men as well, and can be caused by all sorts of changes in a person’s body. They can be as a result of growth spurts in adolescence or rapid weight gain or muscle gain in men. Of course most notably we all associate stretch marks as a result of pregnancy in women when the skin on the stomach expands to accommodate a growing baby. Similarly they can occur on the female breast as the cup size increases due to pregnancy hormones and the start of milk production. Stretch marks are commonly seen on both sexes on the inner and outer thighs, breast or chest, the hips, buttocks, lower back, stomach, and arms.
When stretch marks first appear they tend to be red or purply-blue in colour and can be a little raised in the area where the tear is visible. Over time, they tend to reduce in prominence and become visible only as white coloured lines on the surface of the skin; they may also feel a little soft and hollow if you run your finger along them.
The science of exactly what causes stretch marks, and why not all people get them, is still being understood and researched around the world. One thing we do know though is that when it comes to treating stretch marks, the best time to do so is when they are in that early stage and still red in appearance. Treating them at this point tends to achieve the best results, however older, white stretch marks can still be improved upon with many of the cosmetic treatments available.
The prevention, as well as the treatment, of stretch marks is often a major concern to many people.
Most will admit to having bought some kind of skin cream, lotion or oil on the high street which promises to prevent or cure stretch marks; sadly most of them simply do not work. In fact a recent study published in the British Journal of Dermatology, noted that American dermatologist Dr Frank Wang, who has spent more than eight years studying stretch marks, believes that, ‘most of the existing (topical) products aimed at treating stretch marks aren’t based on solid scientific research’.
At Hilton Skin Clinics we treat stretch marks using two different treatments, depending on the nature of your stretch marks. We use medical skin needling techniques, where our practitioners use either the hand-held Genuine Dermaroller or the automated micro-needling machine called EDS – Electronic Dermastamp. We also treat stretch marks with our laser skin resurfacing iPixel erbium laser.
Using medical micro-needling we can encourage the skin to repair itself and create new collagen to regenerate the area damaged by the skin stretching. Tiny needles penetrate quite superficially into the area being treated and it’s this micro-trauma which sends a message to the body to start healing in that area. A topical anaesthetic cream will be applied before we start so there should be no discomfort. You might be a little bit red and tender afterwards but this will subside quite quickly. We would expect to see noticeable changes in your stretch marks after about 6 to 8 weeks as that’s how long it takes for your body to regenerate all the skin cells in the area; further improvement will be seen as time goes on. We generally recommend a programme of skin needling treatments to achieve the best results, and stimulate the natural healing process, the number recommended will depend on the extent of your stretch marks.
The iPixel skin resurfacing laser works by delivering pulses of ablative laser energy to the targeted area, in this case where the stretch marks are, which creates tiny ‘damage’ zones where it removes the top layers of the skin (the epidermis and upper dermis). These tiny, micro-spots of damage are about the size of a pixel on a computer screen, hence the name!
The creation of these small treated zones, with entirely untouched and intact skin and tissue around them, triggers the body’s natural healing processes and sets off the stimulation of collagen and creation of healthy new skin in the area – thus repairing the stretch mark.
A treatment session takes about 30 mins and you will normally be recommended a course of several treatments, spaced one month apart, depending on the nature of your particular stretch marks. Skin in the area treated will improve over the months following your treatment.
For more information and to book an appointment to discuss your stretch marks and suitable treatment options, please contact us today.