Striae Distensae, more commonly known as ‘stretch marks‘, are scars in the deeper skin (or ‘dermis’) caused due to stretching. In medical terms, stretching can lead to the rupture of collagen which causes stretch marks to appear.
How do stretch marks form?
Most commonly, stretch marks are caused by changes in body weight that lead to the skin being stretched. This can be through weight gain, growth spurts (such as during puberty), muscle gain through weight training, and pregnancy (which also causes hormonal changes that can worsen stretch marks). Excessive use of steroids (oral or applications) can also cause stretch marks. If you have a genetic predisposition, then you are more likely to develop stretch marks.
Stretch marks start out as red wavy bands (known as striae rubra), and later turn white in colour with a wrinkled appearance (known as striae alba) Stretch marks occur most commonly on the arms, thighs, back, shoulders (especially in weightlifters), and breasts and abdomen (especially in pregnancy).
How can I prevent stretch marks?
Stretch marks that occur due to natural processes (such as during growth spurts, pregnancy, and because of genetic tendencies) cannot be prevented.
However keep in mind a few tips which can help you minimize stretch marks:
- Avoid using oral and topical steroids unless prescribed by your doctor
- Minimize drastic weight changes, and try to ensure any weight changes occur in a controlled manner. This gives the skin enough time to acclimatize, and reduces the intensity of any resulting stretch marks. The same applies to weight training – large, rapid increases in weights during training can put the skin through a lot of stress, leading to stretch marks
- In all circumstances, hydrate your skin well with oils and moisturizers. This will prevent the scars from stretching further, and also improve their appearance.
How can I treat stretch marks?
Once they are formed, stretch marks cannot be completely reversed. However, some treatment options can improve the texture and lessen the appearance of stretch marks. For the best possible improvement in the appearance of stretch marks, treat them as early as you can. While they are in the red stage (striae rubra), the marks are still forming, and the scarring process is not complete.
Treatment options for stretch marks can be both medical- and procedure-based.
Applications like oils, topical retinoids, and scar creams help to improve the texture and tighten the skin of the scars. However, their penetration is limited and so is the potential improvement.
Procedures such as chemical peels, pulsed dye, Excimer, CO2 lasers and radio-frequency technology can help further. Chemicals peel help with exfoliation as well as improving the texture of the scars. Sublative fractional resurfacing procedures using radio-frequency improve the collagen under the scars, thus reducing their appearance.
If you have stretch marks, we suggest consulting a dermatologist to get your treatment started. With Remedico, all you have to do is answer a few questions, take some photos with your smartphone, and you’re done. From start to finish in as little as 5 minutes.