Of all of the unsightly skin conditions, one that stands out as making one self-conscious is stretch marks. These “singular stria,” as they are called in dermatology, are a form of scarring on the skin with an off-color hue caused by tearing of the dermis. Over time, they may diminish but they won’t disappear completely. Stretch marks are often the result of “fast stretching” of the skin, associated most closely with rapid growth or rapid weight changes. These may be influenced by hormonal changes associated with puberty, bodybuilding and even hormone replacement therapy, with stretch marks formed during pregnancy normally occurring during the last trimester normally found on the stomach, breasts, thighs, hips, lower back and buttocks.
Before we go into how to get rid of stretch marks, we must first talk about their causes. A number of causes are responsible for inducing the appearance of stretch marks; one particular study of 324 women who had just given birth found that low maternal age, high body mass index, weight gain over 33 pounds and higher neonatal birth weight were independently associated with the occurrence of stretch marks. Teenagers, meanwhile, seem to be at the highest risk of developing severe forms of striae.
It’s a fact that skin which is subjected to more stretching force than it can handle will tear, and that hormonal changes and genetic factors influence the skin’s ability to withstand stretching forces along with diet and – quite possibly – exercise. From a scientific standpoint, the glucocorticoid hormones responsible for the development of stretch marks affect the skin by preventing the fibroblasts from forming elastin and collagen fibers, all necessary to keep rapidly growing skin taut. This creates a lack of supporting material, as the skin is stretched, leading to dermal and epidermal tearing.
Put succinctly, the kind of scarring exhibited by the phenomenon known as stretch marks occurs when skin doesn’t “bounce back” after it’s been stretched by pregnancy, weight gain or extreme weight loss. The marks often begin with reddish or purplish-colored hues that then become glossy, making the skin appear to be streaked in white or silver.
There are more than a few stretch mark treatments available, yet unfortunately none of them are 100-percent effective. Success lies in one’s skin tone, age, amount of sun damage the skin has been subjected to and even one’s diet. These treatments include:
• Surgical Methods – Laser surgery, chemical peels
• Lotions and Creams – Prescription Retin-A or Tazorac gels/creams stimulate collagen to help improve stretch marks over time, but only the pink and purple-colored variants will fade; the grey/white marks are considered mature, and do not respond to treatment. From an over-the-counter perspective, products such as Lac-Hydrin lotion hydrates the skin to help reduce the appearance of stretch marks. The best advice if you’re pregnant and worrying about these unsightly skin blemishes is to talk to your doctor at the beginning of your pregnancy, before they form. Steady weight gain of 25 to 30 pounds over the nine months of pregnancy can actually help to reduce stretch marks.
• Supplemental Options – Increase Vitamin C intake, add a topical glycolic acid along with the Vitamin C, drink enough water to hydrate the skin, use Vaseline and exercise more.
Keep in mind that most treatments are, at best, partially effective – keep your expectations realistic, as stretch marks by their nature have a permanent-esque presence.
To learn how Soine Dermatology effectively approaches stretch mark treatment and all types of skin matters, schedule your appointment today.