Stretch marks are benign but are one of the most bothersome and frustrating skin conditions in both women and men. We wonder why certain individuals get many, and other people get few to none, despite the same body changes throughout life. It may not be fair that some women get no abdominal stretch marks with pregnancy, but keep in mind that stretch marks are NORMAL and they do happen to everyone. Some people just get much more noticeable and severe stretch marks than others.
Stretch marks are dermal scars resulting from stretching forces on the skin. Unfortunately, because stretch marks are scars, they are permanent. The exact causes are unknown, and there is no cure. Why some people get stretch marks and others do not is unknown. Clearly, it is not just because of mechanical stretching, but also related to other factors including age, weight fluctuations, hormones, genetics, and overall health. Stretch marks have a strong association with pregnancy, puberty, steroid hormones, and bodybuilding. Surprisingly, stretch marks associated with breast augmentation are rare (<5-10% of cases), and are unrelated to implant size or whether the breast implant is placed under or over the chest muscles. The addition of a breast implant to a woman’s breast with preexisting stretch marks also does not usually make them worse. That’s good news for women contemplating breast augmentation surgery.
The treatment of stretch marks, as with scars, is challenging. It is best to start treatment early, when the stretch mark is fresh, red, and in its active stage. Once a stretch mark becomes mature, white, thinned, and indented, they are harder to treat.
Although skin hydration is important, there is no scientific proof that the regular application of moisturizers, oils, or massage prevent or improve the appearance of stretch marks.
Many over the counter products claim to repair stretch marks, but most have no proven benefit. Don’t waste your money on gimmicks and advertisements you see. If the product worked so great, we wouldn’t need a huge marketing campaign or infomercial to sell it.
Stay tuned for Part II, Treatment of Stretch Marks
Dr. Hayley Brown MD, FACS
Board Certified Plastic Surgeon
Desert Hills Plastic Surgery Center serving Henderson and Las Vegas, Nevada