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 them to appear. In part I of this three-part series on Understanding Stretch Marks, we explained the prevalence and symptoms of stretch marks and in part II we explained its causes and diagnosis. We believe prevention is better than a cure, so, in part III, we elaborate on the prevention and treatment of stretch marks.
How do they 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 this condition). While other causes include excessive use of steroids (oral or applications) and a genetic predisposition.
They 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 them?
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 them:
- Avoid using oral and topical steroids unless prescribed by your doctor
- Minimize drastic weight changes,
Pro Tip: 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 marks.
- In all circumstances, hydrate your skin well with oils and moisturizers. This will prevent the scars forming further, and also improve their appearance.
Pro Tip: Generally, consuming enough water and maintaining a healthy weight, along with a balanced diet is effective in preventing the appearance of stretch marks. Keeping the skin healthy and hydrated, and avoiding fad diets is also equally helpful.
- When associated with pregnancy, they diminish 6-12 months postpartum. Chances of developing stretch marks during pregnancy can be reduced by taking proper care of the skin during this period. 8-12 glasses of water must be consumed and anti-stretch marks oils and creams must be massaged into the skin, to keep it healthy and moisturised which prevents the development of stretch marks.
How can I treat stretch marks?
Once they are formed, they cannot be completely reversed. However, some treatment options can improve the texture and lessen the appearance of them.
Pro Tip: 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 them can be both medical and procedure based.
- Applications of 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. All of this is only done after a consultation with a dermatologist has been completed.
Stretch marks are not hazardous to your health in any way but the disfiguring scar is a cosmetic concern, which may cause emotional distress and depression, especially in women. It must be taken care of and treated in such cases. They often fade away and diminish with time, though they do not completely disappear.
If you have stretch marks, we suggest consulting a dermatologist to get your treatment started. A dermatologist through Remedico will be able to identify the cause for your stretch marks as well as provide you with a personalized treatment plan to reduce your stretch marks. It’s important to note that you should never self-medicate – only take medical treatment for your stretch marks that have been prescribed by a dermatologist.
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 - We will send you a personalised treatment plan within 24 hours.