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Why do stretch marks form? Well… from stretching right? Probably, but the precise cause of stretch marks, also known as striae, is not quite understood as there are clearly some other factors at work here. Whatever the exact cause, many of us have at least one or two of them. They tend to appear around the breast, upper arms, buttocks, hips, and upper thighs. They are also more than twice as likely to appear in women, compared to men. But regardless of gender, they can be frustrating to us all and are a very common cosmetic concern.
Keep in mind, we divide striae into two groups: striae rubra (SR) and striae alba (SA). SR are a little bit pink, red, or purple, are relatively new, and may be raised. SA are typically older, light colored, and slightly atrophic or thinned. These categories are important because they are treated a little differently.
Treatment of stretch marks includes a variety of topical and injectable medications, laser therapy, and resurfacing techniques.
Tretinoin and similar topical creams have shown to clinically improve the appearance of SR in clinical trials. Daily application over the period of 3-4 months may help exfoliate and tighten the mark. Other topical therapies that show benefit are glycolic acid and Trichloroacetic acid (10-35%). These are typically applied at monthly intervals.
Another proven therapy is microdermabrasion. By carefully and gently abrading the superficial layer of skin, deeper new collagen regeneration is stimulated and the texture of the striae can be smoothed and strengthened.
And finally for my favorite and what in my experience are the most effective options – lasers! There are also a variety of laser and light devices that have been studied and have great potential to treat these pesky stretch marks. By using a combination of different lasers, such as the V-beam and Fraxel lasers, good to great results can be achieved in both newer red stretch marks and older white ones.
I’m surprised at how many patients I speak to who don’t know that help is out there. Remember, if you or someone you know is distressed because of the unsightly appearance of their stretch marks, we have options.