Stretch Marks

Stretch Marks

Stretch marks are a common form of scarring on the skin, affecting many people. There are two types of stretch marks – red (new) stretch marks, and white (old) stretch marks. New stretch marks are more responsive to treatment than old stretch marks.

Stretch marks, as the name suggests, are due to stretching of the skin, resulting in altered structural support in the deeper layers of the skin. Histologic studies of stretch marks confirm alteration in collagen and decreased elastin, as well as swelling in the deeper layers of the skin. New red stretch marks exhibit an increase in the number of blood vessels and inflammation, resulting in the pink/purple discoloration which can make them more responsive to treatment. The majority of stretch marks will improve over time, changing from red/purple to pink and then finally achieving a wrinkled appearance.

The initial signs of stretch marks are pink to purple lines, usually running crosswise on the trunk and lengthwise along the limbs. Occasionally they can be itchy. With time, stretch marks lighten and develop a pale, wrinkled appearance. Stretch marks usually occur in areas involving the breast, abdomen, thighs, groins and buttocks. They may also develop in the groin and armpits if high-strength steroid creams are inappropriately used in these areas.

What can cause stretch marks?

Puberty and weight gain: In puberty stretch marks may occur on the back, abdominal areas, hips, thighs and breasts. Weightlifters often develop stretch marks on their arms from the increase in muscle mass over a short period of time.

Pregnancy: This is thought to be caused by hormonal changes and weight gain associated with the pregnancy. Stretch marks most commonly develop in the third trimester of pregnancy.

Medications: Cortico-steroid creams, ointments or tablets may cause stretch marks if used inappropriately and without dermatological supervision.

Diseases: Cushings syndrome and Marfan’s syndrome can predispose a patient to developing stretch marks.

How are stretch marks treated?

Stretch marks are a cosmetic problem and treatment is optional. The majority of stretch marks will fade over time. New red stretch marks respond better to treatment than older, white stretch marks. No treatment will remove stretch marks completely. We provide the widest range of laser and radio-frequency device treatments for stretch marks in New Zealand.

Treatments for red stretch marks:

  • Pulse dye laser (Candela VBeam). This is the most promising method of treating new, red stretch marks and will decrease the red discoloration in the skin. Most patients will benefit from three to five treatments, spaced two to four weeks apart.
  • Fractional or non-ablative lasers (Fraxel Restore Dual, Smart Xide Dot laser) can also improve stretch marks. At best, this treatment will tend to blend the affected and unaffected areas, potentially making them less visible. Three to five treatments are needed for the best results.
  • Excel V is also a promising method for treating red stretch marks.
  • Vitamin A creams such as Tretinoin can be combined with laser treatments to heal stretch marks, as can alpha hydroxyl acids.

Treatment of White Stretch Marks:

  • Lasers – in old stretch marks both fractional, ablative and non-ablative lasers are more effective than pulse dye lasers. Three to five treatments are needed to see some improvement.
  • E-Two Sublative resurfacing is also an alternative approach to improve stretch marks.
  • Re-pigmentation of stretch marks can also be treated with the Excimer laser, but ongoing treatment with the Excimer laser is necessary for the pigment to be maintained.

What’s the next step?

If you already have an appointment booked at The Skin Specialist Centre, you can easily add this treatment/consultation to your booking by calling our friendly team on (09) 524 5011. If you have never been to The Skin Specialist Centre, you can either give us a call on (09) 524 5011 or make an enquiry by clicking on the Enquire Now option below.

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