Stretch marks are like luggage—once you get ’em, they stick with you. And although society is starting to embrace them as totally normal, we know these lines can still make you feel self-conscious.
If you deal with stretch marks, you’ve probably wondered how you can make these pesky blemishes vanish. This post will examine why stretch marks rarely disappear on their own, and what you can do to make them fade.
Stretch Marks Are Not Just Skin Deep
Stretch marks form after an abrupt and excessive stretching of the skin, which causes collagen and elastin fibers in the dermis to rupture. The usual triggers are pregnancy, puberty, excessive fat gain, or rapid muscle gain from weight training. When these structures heal, your body replaces them with scar tissue. The problem here is that scar tissue, at the dermal level, creates pronounced scarring on the epidermis as well—your uppermost and visible layer of skin.
Unless you remove the scar tissue and regrow collagen in the affected area, the stretch mark remains. Unfortunately, your body produces skin cells much faster than collagen cells—skin cell production is a sprint, collagen cell production is a marathon. Because of this, the pigment always appears before new collagen does. More importantly, the skin itself has been altered and the body doesn’t fully restore its architecture, making the stretch mark “permanent”.
And that’s why lotions and creams can’t eliminate stretch marks on their own (more on this below). They can restore some of the skin’s natural pigment, but do very little to repair the damaged tissues underneath.
Why me and not others?
Why is it that some people get stretch marks worse than others? The reason for this is a source of mystery for researchers, but they’ve established some consistent patterns among sufferers.
For one, they’ve noticed that sufferers of stretch marks exhibit differences in hormone expression, which can produce stretchier skin tissue.
Researchers have also found gene variants that reduce collagen production, meaning they program some people to make less of these proteins than others. If that happens to be you, it’s okay! We’re all different—you just happen to be more elastic.
Stretch Marks Types — Yep, There’s a Family of Em’!
As you likely would have guessed, stretch marks affect everyone differently. A major reason for that is there are different types of striae, all of which have a tendency to appear from specific causes.
Types of Stretch Marks
- Striae atrophicans (thinned skin) — These stretch marks are accompanied by thin, wrinkled skin. They’re usually caused by conditions that weaken skin elasticity (i.e. Cushing Syndrome), or prolonged use of steroid-based medications.
- Striae gravidarum (following pregnancy) — The dread of many expectant mothers, striae gravidarum occurs after pregnancy due to the rapid stretching of the torso and hormonal changes. These stretch marks usually form on the tummy, breasts, thighs, and hips.
- Striae distensae (stretched skin) — For those experiencing rapid growth, striae distensae, which looks like reddish or purple lines, can seemingly strike out of nowhere. They typically occur during puberty, or while someone experiences rapid fat or muscle gain from weight training. These lines may fade in colour over time.
- Striae rubrae (red), striae albae (white) —Striae Rubrae appear as red (or purple) marks since they have active blood vessels. Over time, they might turn white (striae albae) as blood flow to the affected tissue diminishes.
- Striae nigra (black) — Often appearing on people with darker skin, striae nigra appears as dark or black lines on one’s skin. This type of stretch mark is less common compared to others.
- Striae caerulea (dark blue) — Also affecting more individuals with darker skin, striae caerulea appears as a deep blue or purple-coloured mark. They usually emerge after episodes of dramatic skin stretching.
Keep in mind that these stretch marks can appear in varying degrees. It’s entirely possible to have a few scattered stretch marks that look faint, or to have entire patches of skin covered with deep and pronounced ones. Again, everyone’s biology differs, making it plausible for your stretch marks to differ from someone else’s.
Are you stuck with stretch marks for life?
The short answer is “no”. The long answer is it depends on the extent of your stretch marks, their cause, and your treatment approach. If, for example, you have significant stretch marks caused by weight gain or pregnancy, using balm and lotions will definitely become a waste of money.
Remember, stretch marks happen underneath the epidermis, so using a lotion to repair structural damage is like trying to tape a cracked foundation. Your treatment has to target the epidermis. Only then, will you see significant and satisfying reductions in stretch marks.
A Better Way to Treat Stretch Marks
The good news is that you have treatments in your arsenal that can wipe out stretch marks or make them very minimal. They get deep, targeting the epidermis and stimulating the production of new collagen tissue, which restores your skin’s former structure. And although they can’t fully remove all scar tissue, they can reduce a good portion of it. Here at PSSC, we specialize in a few treatments.
Ideal Treatments for Stretch Marks
- Non-ablative fractional laser technology — This treatment uses a laser that selectively targets the dermis, where structural changes that cause stretch marks occur. We can stimulate the production of collagen and elastin at this level, which strengthens skin tone and texture. You can see significant improvements in as little as 3-5 sessions.
- FRACTORA radiofrequency (RF) microneedling — This treatment involves a combination of radiofrequency (RF) therapy and tiny needles, which practitioners use to stimulate collagen production in the dermis. It too restores your skin’s tone and texture. However, it requires roughly three months to see a significant improvement.
To find the ideal treatment for you, clinicians will have to conduct a thorough evaluation. They’ll also consider other factors such as your budget and treatment goals.
Caring for Stretch Marks Outside the Clinic
We want to make one thing clear— lotions and creams can be useful. In fact, topical treatments containing retinoids (which are vitamin A derivatives), can reduce some of the pigmentation associated with stretch marks. Also, tretinoin can rebuild some collagen tissue. If anything, combining these topical treatments with in-clinic procedures can get you the best results possible.
In addition to topical treatments, add foods that are rich in vitamin C and collagen, to help you improve your skin elasticity. And make sure to get plenty of exercise too. These habits won’t get rid of existing stretch marks, but they can help prevent the development of new ones.
Of course, if you’re not sure where to start on your stretch mark removal journey, get in touch with us. At PSSC, our practitioners have a long-track record of treating stretch marks and can help you restore your skin and confidence!