Stretch marks are the bane of many women and also that of many men. For some it is a nasty side-effect of the skin stretching during pregnancy, and for many others these ugly marks make their appearance after rapid weight gain or even some forms of extreme exercising. And they can also show up on men and women who do extreme body building, as the skin stretches due to muscle expansion.
Stretch marks, also known as Striae, begin as red marks across the stomach or other parts of the body; and over time, they fade slightly and become white in colour.
There are many over the counter creams which claim to be effective against stretch marks. Almost every cosmetic company will sell you a cream or lotion that has ‘magical’ properties, according to the manufacturer. Most creams are designed to help reduce the overall appearance of stretch marks i.e. they don’t eliminate them completely but the reduction in their appearance certainly gives that effect.
Ex-foliation and micro-dermabrasion are the other options which provide slightly better results. Basically, both these treatments work by removing the top layers of the skin, with the new layers appearing with fewer stretch marks. However, they are not recommended for sensitive skins.
By far, the best and the most popular method of treating stretch marks is surgery. It is a permanent solution and though it may be somewhat expensive initially, it is worth the final cost. The basic idea behind surgery is to remove the skin with the marks on it and replace it with good skin.
Option 1: Laser surgical removal is the first and the most common surgical option. Using a laser to remove a very thin layer of the skin that has stretch marks is a low-risk option, and it has a short recovery period.
Depending on the color of the stretch marks there are 2 types of laser therapy used:
Pulsed dye laser therapy: This is used on red or purple marks. The laser stimulates the growth of a new layer by penetrating into the top layer of the skin where the stretch marks are present. It destroys the damaged blood vessels without doing any harm to the surrounding skin.
Fractional laser resurfacing: This is used on white stretch marks and it works by stimulating the body to make new collagen by creating very small wounds (tiny holes) in the outer layer of skin so it can reach the middle, dermis, layer. The increase in collagen, as a result of this laser technique, leads to a rejuvenation of the first layer of skin and that in turn leads to an overall reduction in the appearance of the ugly stretch marks.
Option 2: An abdominoplasty or a tummy tuck is another surgical option for removing much larger, tiger stripe stretch marks, from the body. This procedure is the same used to make the stomach flat and helps to achieve a trim figure. The recovery process is much longer, but it is a very effective procedure as the stretch marks can be completely hidden from sight or the skin can be stretched to a point to reduce the overall visual effects of the marks.
Option 3: Endermologie, which originated in France and is also used in the reduction of Cellulite, is a newer treatment for the removal of stretch marks; it is less invasive than either laser treatment or a tummy tuck. It involves using a machine that massages the area with rollers and then follows up with a suction device to help soften the skin. The net effect of this technique is to improve blood circulation around the scar areas and improve the generation of Collagen, a lack of which is one of the main reasons for stretch marks.
With this technique you will need to have a few 35 minute sessions per week with a qualified practitioner. Most practitioners will be able to offer you personalized advice about the length of any treatment based on the severity of the stretch marks.
One thing to note about laser or endermologie treatments is that they may not provide you with permanent results. Once the overall effect of the stretch marks have disappeared you may have to undergo top-up treatments if the marks re-appear.
However, most procedures that rely on some form of surgical technique is far more likely to give you quicker and longer term results than just using stretch mark creams alone. Using a combination of the 2 will give you the best long term solution.