Did you know that up to 90% of women have stretch marks? It’s one of the most common changes you’ll likely see at some point in your life. Fortunately, there are treatments you can use to reduce their appearance. Before we get into the nitty gritty, let’s go back to the basics to uncover the causes of stretch marks and how to treat them.
Your skin has three layers: the epidermis, dermis, and the hypodermis (or subcutaneous layer). Stretch marks form in the middle layer—the dermis—because of sudden stretching of the skin. They look like long, narrow lines (sometimes smooth, sometimes jagged) that are usually a deep red or purple when they first form, then turn a shade slightly lighter than your skin tone over time. The good news is that stretch marks pose no health risks.
Stretch marks are more common among women. Rapid weight gain tends to be the main cause, so it’s no coincidence that pregnant women commonly see stretch marks form on their stomach. Females going through puberty may also see stretch marks near the breast, thighs, hips, and stomach. Stretch marks can often appear on the upper arms and lower back. Men who gain a lot of weight in a short amount of time may also see them.
Aside from rapid weight gain, there are other factors that can increase your risk of developing stretch marks. Corticosteroid creams, for example, can affect the skin, decreasing collagen levels and thinning skin if not used properly, making you more susceptible to scarring. (Stretch marks are a form of scarring.) Rapid weight loss can also cause stretch marks.
When your skin is constantly being stretched and isn’t given time to bounce back, the dermis (middle layer) tears, resulting in scarring under the skin’s surface. Stretch marks may fade over six to 12 months, but they can also remain visible if your skin lacks collagen. While stretch marks don’t signal any underlying medical concerns, they can cause self-consciousness and anxiety, potentially affecting your quality of life.
Vitamin E, tretinoin, Retin-A creams, and silicone gel help to increase dermis strength by rebuilding collagen, protecting your skin from stretch marks. Alternatively, microdermabrasion works from the outside, using crystals and suction to gently remove dead skin from the epidermis (the surface layer), stimulating new skin growth and reducing the appearance of stretch marks.
For late-stage stretch marks, NanoFractional Radio Frequency (RF) treatments are an effective way to reduce the appearance of the skin damage. This skin resurfacing technology helps to improve skin texture by delivering heat energy through the skin’s surface using tiny pins. This process creates microdermal wounds that prompt the body to start the natural healing process, repairing skin and reducing the appearance of stretch marks. The treatment is much more comfortable than standard chemical peels or lasers and requires very minimal downtime.
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