While the skin is elastic and strong, the skin’s supporting tissues can easily become damaged, should they stretch too quickly. These tears in the connecting fibers in the skin are called stretch marks. Stretch marks are considered a form of skin scarring that is commonly associated with puberty, obesity, weight gain, and pregnancy. These marks will form when the dermis is stretched more than it’s able to tolerate. Connective fibers in the skin will eventually tear which results in the disruption of collagen production, causing scarring. This type of scarring may be treatable through laser treatment. Laser treatment for stretch marks can be an effective way of minimizing their appearance, however, this treatment will rarely be able to remove stretch marks entirely.
Pregnancy and Stretch Marks
Pregnancy is considered the most common cause of stretch marks. For most women, pregnancy and stretch marks go hand in hand. Approximately four out of five women will develop this type of scarring during pregnancy, often during the third trimester. Obviously, a pregnant woman will mainly get stretch marks on her belly, but other areas can also be affected, such as the breasts, thighs, lower back, upper arms, and buttocks.
Other Common Causes of Stretch Marks
Stretch marks can happen to anybody. It’s usually a result of rapid weight loss or weight gain. The skin simply isn’t able to keep up with the change. This results in fibers tearing and the birth of unsightly stretch marks.
- Women and men are both susceptible to stretch marks on the abs, lower back, buttocks, and thighs. This can be a result of crash dieting or even medical conditions such as hypothyroidism, in which the sufferer rapidly gains weight as a result of a sluggish thyroid gland.
- Puberty is also often a common culprit of stretch marks as the skin struggles to keep up with the body’s growth rate.
- Bodybuilding will involve the quick development of muscle and can stretch skin beyond its limits, causing tiny tears.
- Long term or heavy use of corticosteroids can also lead to the formation of stretch marks.
Can Laser Therapy Erase Stretch Marks Completely?
Unfortunately, laser therapy cannot erase stretch marks completely. In fact, stretch marks actually cause a permanent change in the deeper layer of skin called the dermis. Because of this, there’s no treatment available that can get rid of stretch marks completely. However, with repeat laser therapy sessions, the depth of the stretch marks can be lessened, resulting in a thirty to sixty percent improvement rate. This success rate is all due to the treatment’s ability to increase elastin and collagen production in the deeper layer of the skin where these scars are still formed.
Who Is an Ideal Candidate for Treatment?
Treatment is more effective on fresher stretch marks that are still red or purple in color. Many physicians believe that treatment is not very effective on white or silver stretch marks. Additionally, laser therapy is not a good option for people with darker skin since treatment can potentially cause hyperpigmented changes in the skin.
How Lasers Can Minimize the Appearance of Stretch Marks
During treatment, a beam of light will remove layers of skin around the affected area. Typically, a dermatologist will use an excimer laser, which is considered the most effective for stretch mark treatment. The excimer laser will not cut or burn the affected skin like other types of lasers; instead, it will use a high energy ultraviolet light that disrupts the molecular bond in the skin tissue. This will cause the tissue to disintegrate. Once the session is over the skin will heal quickly and new healthy layers of skin will form. But keep in mind, since the stretch marks begin deep down in the skin, not the topmost layers, the appearance of the stretch marks will not be eliminated entirely. However, treatment can make a significant difference in the appearance of fresh stretch marks.
What to Expect After Laser Therapy Treatment
After treatment, the affected area will be tender and red. This is due to the removal of layers of scarred skin and the growth of new skin. On occasion, blistering and other types of symptoms can be present, but this will only be temporary. Most patients will heal within two to three days.