Stretch marks are scars of the skin after a period of rapid skin stretching that destroy the skin’s collagen and elastin bundles. This can occur during pregnancy, rapid weight changes or puberty. These scars are permanent and settle as hypo-pigmented lines.
Stretch mark form for a variety of reasons and can range from events that we clearly recall – periods of rapid weight gain or loss, pregnancy – or form over a period for reasons we might never know. These marks are essentially scarring of the skin – permanent damage to collagen and elastin bundles make the affected areas appear thinner, pale (eventually), and friable.
Much of the work during a ‘mummy make-over’ entails the management of excess skin laxity and stretch marks, both of which require strong and deep treatment options for good efficacy. Severe cases often require surgical tummy tucks, but mild to moderate cases and even those who experience laxity after surgery can benefit from proper non-surgical skin tightening.
The approach to the management of stretch marks first involves recognising the type or acuity of your scars, then treating them early, and treating them intensely to ensure good reconstitution of the skin over time.
Types of Striae
There are two main forms of stretch marks – striae rubrae and striae albae.
Striae rubrae is the acute form of stretch marks, showing early on as red or purple linear scars. These mature into striae albae, appearing as white, hypopigmented atrophic linear scars.
Can Striae Be Treated?
Striae are a form of scars, and they can be managed to reduce the appearance of scarring. The colour, depth, width and length of these scars can be managed and should be managed as early as possible to maximise outcomes.
Early stretch marks (striae rubrae) should be managed early and involves
1. Early reduction in vascularity and redness of the marks
2.Early gentle stimulation to promote good healing
3.Appropriate skin care to promote good healing
These methods do not get rid of the stretch marks, but they may reduce the eventual severity of end-stage – striae albae.
Striae albae are mature stretch marks, and these are essentially mature scar – the tissue is thin, weak, and with little to no pigmentation. They form unsightly creases when pinched, and are more evident over darker skin types.
Over the years, much hype and false advertising have fuelled the industry – from creams to home devices, to low-powered spa devices that claim to reduce or even heal stretch marks. This has invariably led to a loss of confidence amongst patients looking for a proper, efficacious solution.
From the medical standpoint, the notion of treating the scar at the depth as well as the surface has been around for a while, but the tools developed in the past few years bring us many steps closer to a proper solution.
The Morpheus 8 fractional radiofrequency system, unlike its other competitor fractional radiofrequency systems, or even ultrasound (HIFU) devices that claim to compare to it, is able to penetrate reliably, heat sufficiently and safely while at it. With multiple differences that separate it from another microneedle radiofrequency device, it is the only non-surgical option I would trust in recommending to patients looking for a significant result in laxity as well as stretch marks.
Combining this with superficial resurfacing of the skin, as with the use of ablative carbon dioxide lasers, stretch marks can see significant improvement after two to three sessions, each 8 weeks apart.
Pregnancy and hard work paid for keeping fit are both monumental milestones in our lives; it is unfortunate that they should be marked with unsightly and largely permanent scars. One good piece of news is that newer modalities more capable of effectively managing these scars are being produced through the years, giving a better run for your time and money the next time you think about tackling the problem.