Stretch marks are very common and affect many people across all ages and races. They are the result of stretching of the skin which can happen due to a number of reasons the commonest being rapid growth or expansion of the skin such as with weight gain. Other causes for stretch marks include the use of steroid medication for prolonged time, either as tablets or topically as a cream or in rare cases as a result of a steroid-producing tumour. Pregnancy is a state of rapid growth and expansion in the skin and can be associated with the development of stretch marks. Typical sites for the development of stretch marks are the shoulders, thighs, upper arms and back.
Stretch marks can be red in colour and are termed “striae rubra” or white and are termed “striae alba”. Most stretch marks initially appear pink or red and may be associated with some itching. Over time the colour fades and the stretch marks mature and become silvery white. Under the microscope stretch marks show a reduction in collagen fibres and stretched abnormal elastic fibres. The ultimate goal of treatment is to improve on both the collagen and elastin.
There are a number of treatments available for stretch marks. Red stretch marks can be treated with the pulsed dye laser which is a vascular laser and will decrease the redness and improve the overall appearance. A number of sessions may be required but the treatment is quick and painless. White stretch marks can be treated with lasers or microneedling. The latter relies on a mechanical injury caused by the puncturing of the needles into the skin which will trigger a wound healing response with better collagen and an improvement in stretch marks. The treatment requires local anaesthesia and a number of sessions. The response is variable and depends on the severity of the stretch marks.
Lasers can be very effective and in particular the fractional lasers that create columns of light with a heat injury that subsequently leads to a wound healing response with better collagen fibres and a tighter appearance. Fractional lasers can be combined with the pulsed dye lasers and a number of sessions are required.
Professor Firas Al-Niaimi has published several key scientific papers on the treatment of stretch marks which have become the literature reference on this subject. These publications can be found in the publications section of the website.
How can you tell if you have stretch marks?
Stretch marks are usually long and thin and generally appear during weight gain or pregnancy. Pregnancy stretch marks are particularly likely to occur if you have excess amniotic fluid, as this causes the skin to need to stretch even more.
Who gets stretch marks?
Absolutely anyone can get stretch marks if their skin is put under some kind of pressure. Stretch marks occur when the skin has to stretch during a short space of time; it is common for teenagers to get stretch marks when they grow during puberty.
Can I prevent stretch marks?
In most some cases, such as pregnancy, preventing stretch marks is quite difficult, although some products do help. However, maintaining a healthy body weight can help prevent stretch marks.
How can stretch marks be treated?
Reducing stretch marks with laser treatment can be particularly effective. Stretch marks generally fade over time, however stretch mark removal with Dr Firas Al-Niaimi can speed up this process and make you feel more confident within your own body.