For so many women, stretch marks (medical term “striae”) are an unavoidable and unpleasant side effect of pregnancy. They can also affect bodybuilders, as well as anyone else who has gained or lost a significant amount of weight in a short period of time. Some people are even unlucky enough to acquire them during the growth spurts of puberty (commonly found on the lower back). Although maintaining a stable weight and taking good care of one’s skin are certainly steps in the right direction, the unfortunate truth is that heredity and hormonal changes play a considerable role in the formation of stretch marks.
There are many oils, creams, and lotions that are purported to improve or even prevent stretch marks. While Retin-A has been shown to be marginally effective at reducing the apparent depth of stretch marks, and there are those who swear by treatments with other lotions and potions, most medical experts agree that the claims are mostly hype.
With the advent of the use of lasers for cosmetic purposes, though, hope for the treatment of this cosmetic problem seems to have been renewed.
So, can lasers really erase stretch marks?
The answer is no, well not completely anyway. Since stretch marks represent a permanent change in the dermis (the deeper layer of skin beneath the surface layer known as the epidermis), there is no amount of resurfacing that can erase them. However, studies have shown that laser treatments can lessen the depth of stretch marks in some patients, with an improvement rate of between 20 and 50%. The improvement is believed to be largely due to the laser’s stimulation of increased production of collagen and elastin in the dermal (deeper) layer of the skin, where stretch marks are formed.
Lasers are most effective on immature stretch marks (those that are still red in colour), where a combination of BBL (broadband light) and Profractional lasers can reduce the colour and depth of the stretch marks. For mature or white stretch marks, improvement is less pronounced. The BBL is essentially ineffective, but the Profractional laser is capable of moderately smoothing out deeper set scars. For scars that are white or silver and feel mostly smooth to the touch, there is very little a laser can do to improve the appearance.
In short, there is no “cure” for stretch marks. Worse yet, prevention of stretch marks is not entirely in your power, especially during times of great hormonal fluctuations, such as pregnancy and puberty. If your mother has stretch marks, there’s a good chance that you will have them, too. Keeping the skin hydrated helps to maintain elasticity, and may help the skin to “bounce back”, but there is no guarantee.
Only you can decide if a 20-50% improvement in the appearance of your stretch marks will prove satisfying. With realistic expectations in mind, these improvements can make a big difference for some people. To neutralize the colour of stretch marks and to reduce the depth (and width) of the scars can visibly reduce what was once an angry red scar to a fine white line that is nothing more than a mere nuisance.
OUR OTHER TREATMENTS
We perform laser stretch mark removal with the fractional laser handpiece. This is a gentle, non-ablative (non-wounding) laser that works by transmitting a certain laser wavelength which is absorbed by water molecules in your skin. That energy is converted into heat, which gently breaks down the damaged tissue, and causes the skin to heal itself by producing collagen and new, even, smooth skin.
Before the procedure begins, you’ll put on special eyewear to protect your eyes from the laser light. Though the laser stretch mark removal treatments are usually painless, if you have especially sensitive skin, we can apply a numbing cream to the area to be treated to help avoid discomfort. We also use a special cooling device in conjunction with the laser handpiece to keep your skin cool, alleviate discomfort, and reduce the risk of injury.
Treatment sessions may take up to an hour. The time required will depend on your skin type, the size and depth of your stretch marks, and the number of areas to be treated. Laser stretch mark removal is customized to each patient based on those factors. Some conditions may require multiple sessions to achieve final results. However, you may see some improvement after just one session.
Potential side effects of laser stretch mark removal include, but aren’t limited to redness and swelling. Little to no downtime is required, and you should be able to resume your normal daily activities immediately after each session.
Safe. Pain Free. Hair Free.
BEFORE AND AFTER
FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS
In general, “top down” fractional laser and radiofrequency devices are performed using topical anesthetic cream. The treatment involves the applicator being applied over the skin of the stretch marks and blending into the uninjured skin. The treatment takes generally between 30 and 45 minutes, depending on the size and number of areas of the stretch marks that are being treated.
Good candidates for stretch mark treatment are realistic patients who understand that without an excisional procedure, the non-excisional fractional lasers and fractional radiofrequency devices and under-the-skin heating devices give the best possible improvement in stretch marks without complete removal.
Candidates that have selected the non-excisional approach to stretch mark reduction or removal generally want the best possible improvement they can get without the scars associated with excisional surgery, such as mini-tummy tucks or skin excisions.
Contraindications would include those individuals who may be pregnant at the time of surgery; individuals with inflammatory lesions or infective lesions; skin cancers in the areas of treatment; and those individuals with very dark skin who have a history of keloid scar formation.
The treatment of stretch marks, whether “top down” or “bottom up” is very tolerable. Topical anesthesia makes the “top down” treatment of red and white stretch marks with laser and fractional devices comfortable. The “bottom up” approach, performed under local anesthesia, is also very comfortable once the local anesthetic has been instilled.
Each stretch mark treatment, whether “top down” or “bottom up” takes approximately 45 to 60 minutes, depending on the size of the stretch mark region and number of regions treated. Generally, the program itself requires three to six months to complete, as each treatment is performed every four to six weeks and a series of four to six treatments are required.
There is little to no recovery following stretch mark removal and reduction treatment. There is some mild, burning discomfort and bruising following the treatment but, in general, most stretch marks are in easy-to-hide areas with clothing and the mild redness and swelling subsides over one to two weeks. The pinkness following the treatment with fractional radiofrequency devices and fractional lasers can take four to six weeks to completely disappear. Some patients may be prone to hyperpigmentation following this fractional treatment and intense pulsed light treatments and topical bleaching creams may be required to fade the pigmentation.
Most patients can return to activities of daily living the following day. High-impact aerobic activities may take one to two weeks before returning to these activities, depending on the location and number of stretch mark regions treated. In general, the redness and swelling will take four to six weeks to completely subside and before bathing wear that does not cover the region should be worn.
The non-excisional results of your stretch mark reduction and removal, with the use of fractional radiofrequency and fractional laser devices and under-the-skin radiofrequency and laser heating devices can be quite noticeable. Up until the last several years, there had been no treatment that was effective for stretch marks, but with these new approaches to combination treatment, both treating from above and below the stretch marks, patients can see 30% to 75% improvement in their red, white, or silvery mature stretch marks after a series of treatments.