Let’s get it straight from the start: stretch marks are perfectly normal and risk no harm to health, but some stretch marks are more apparent than others and some people may feel more self-conscious about this scarring than others. While stretch marks may be left and loved as a natural part of the body, for those looking to erase these lines, the unfortunate news is that stretch marks cannot be wholly erased. If, however, stretch marks are caught in their early stages of development, there is a 90% chance of controlling their appearance to the point that they may appear almost invisible to the naked eye. So, the longer the time that lapses without treatment (or, at least, without effective treatments), the lower the chances of treatment success.
Instead of wasting time on stretch mark remedies that are bound to fail, focus your time and energy on the following treatments for stretch marks that are much more likely to generate the results you’re after.
Skin is comprised of three layers: the epidermis (outer layer), the dermis (middle layer), and the hypodermis (deep or subcutaneous layer). Sudden stretching of the skin by weight or muscle gain, usually during a period of growth such as pregnancy, puberty, or during muscle building, causes collagen fibers to break and stretch marks to form in the dermis. Blood vessels then begin to show through the epidermis. Appearing as long, narrow lines that can be either smooth or jagged, stretch marks are often purple, deep red, or dark brown in color (depending on natural skin tone) but lighten over time to become about one shade lighter than the natural skin tone. Essentially, stretch marks are a form of scarring. Finally, despite the myths about stretch marks you might commonly hear, both men and women are susceptible to this kind of scarring.
As mentioned earlier, while online search results will certainly suggest plenty of at-home remedies, skin care products, and in-office treatments to remove stretch marks, not all of these suggestions work. See our top four suggestions for reducing the appearance of stretch marks.
Studies show that products containing retinoids—or more specifically, at least 0.1% tretinoin, a specific retinoid that is also referred to as Retin-A—offer an effective topical treatment for stretch marks. Best used on newly formed stretch marks, before they’ve gone lighter in color, these topical treatments sink into the skin to kickstart collagen production in the dermis and heal damaged skin cells, reducing the appearance of stretch marks over time. Unfortunately, these treatments may not be appropriate for everyone. In some cases, tretinoin may cause redness and peeling and retinoid products are not safe to use for those who are pregnant or nursing.
A Note on Other Topical Treatments...
According to the American Academy of Dermatology, the efficacy of many creams, gels, and natural at-home topical remedies is yet to be proven, though they may show some results on marks that are newly formed. For those interested in testing out these methods before looking to alternative treatments, improved results may be obtained by using the cream, gel, or at-home product at the first sign of a stretch mark and massaging the product into the skin for improved absorption. These treatments require a daily commitment for at least a few weeks if they are to work at all. All things considered, time spent testing out these treatments may be better invested in methods with proven results.
Microneedling is a good alternative to tretinoin topical treatments and laser-based stretch mark treatments that may cause hyperpigmentation (discoloration) for those with darker skin tones. While those with deeper skin tones tend to be less likely to develop stretch marks—namely because darker skin also tends to have more elasticity—darker skin isn’t immune to this type of scarring. Utilizing tiny pins to create small, microdermal wounds, skin goes to work boosting collagen production and healing the treated area, minimizing the appearance of stretch marks without altering the color of the skin in the surrounding area.
Platelet-rich plasma (PRP) injection therapy utilizes platelets drawn from the patient’s blood and injected into damaged skin to kickstart skin’s natural repair cycle, reducing the appearance of stretch marks or the like. While PRP therapy may offer results on its own, one study published in the Journal of Cosmetic and Laser Therapy found that when paired with ultrasound treatments, PRP therapy offered a 70% satisfaction rate, with participants noting a “good” to “very good” improvement in the appearance of stretch marks. An effective method for increasing collagen production in a targeted area of the skin, PRP therapy is only likely to rise in popularity, suggesting further effective and complementary treatment combinations may be expected.
Radio frequency (RF) skin resurfacing treatments offer a valuable treatment method for stretch marks. Offering significant results in treating early to late-stage stretch marks, customized NanoFractional RF™ skin resurfacing treatments utilize RF technology to deliver heat energy below the skin’s surface, reaching the dermis and triggering skin’s natural collagen production levels in the targeted area. This results in the reparation of skin and a reduction in the appearance of stretch marks. In fact, one study on the safety and efficacy of Venus Viva™ skin resurfacing treatments reported a noticeable and consistent reduction in the surface area of stretch marks on the thighs, buttocks, and abdomen, as well as a significant increase in the number of collagen and elastin bundles found within the treatment area following just three NanoFractional RF™ treatment sessions.
To learn more about the best ways to treat stretch marks or whether a radio frequency skin resurfacing treatment plan is right for you, contact a certified treatment provider near you today using the search field below.