Skin care products that are used for facial rejuvenation may help the appearance of stretch marks. Retinoids, glycolic acids, collagen peptides, hyaluronic peptides, and Vitamins B, E, and C products in topical formulations increase cell turnover, stimulate collagen, and may improve the appearance of stretch marks. These products may improve the texture of stretch marks over time with daily and continued use.
A number of treatment options for stretch marks are available, yet many are not consistently effective and no single therapy is necessarily considered better than another. Goals are not eradication, but diminishment of redness and visibility with hopes of about 30-50% improvement.
Vascular lasers such as the pulsed dye laser may improve the appearance of red stretch marks. Mature, or white stretch marks may be improved with fractional resurfacing lasers such as the fractionated CO2 or Erbium lasers. What these lasers do is “hit” tiny fractions of skin, which in turn stimulates collagen synthesis and improves skin smoothness. The new collagen can leave the stretch mark smoother in texture and less visible. Usually multiple treatments may be required for results, and results can be quite variable. Rare side effects of these treatments include pigmentation, thermal burns, skin thinning, prolonged redness, skin lightening, sun sensitivity, worsened scarring, and infection.
Another procedure called dermarolling or microneedling is a similar fractionated treatment for stretch marks using mechanical instead of thermal energy to penetrate the skin to trigger new cell growth and regeneration. During this procedure, topical anesthesia is applied and hundreds of microneedles penetrate the skin using a rolling mechanism directly controlled by your practitioner. These tiny microholes stimulate new growth as your skin regenerates and fills the microholes with new collagen and elastin in days, while thickening the skin over weeks. The depth of treatment can be fine-tuned without risk of surrounding thermal damage that can occur with laser treatments. Another benefit of this procedure is that topical stimulating serums and collagen boosters can be infused into deeper skin levels during the treatment to encourage collagen stimulation and synthesis from the inside out. Multiple treatments may be required, but results are impressive with little to no downtime and less risk than laser resurfacing.
Surgical treatment of stretch marks involves excising the affected area and tightening the skin. Abdominoplasty, also called “tummy tuck” surgery, is a prime example of this. During this procedure all of the stretch marks along the lower half of the abdomen are removed. The trade off is a low scar, hip to hip, with another small scar hidden within the belly button. Most women agree that a long scar that hides in a bikini brief is well worth the trade off of removing all the stretch marks (scars) from the belly button on down to the pubic area. Tummy tuck surgery also provides benefits of muscle tightening, while tightening and narrowing the waistline, in addition to stretch mark removal.
Dr. Hayley Brown MD, FACS
Board Certified Plastic Surgeon
Desert Hills Plastic Surgery Center serving Henderson and Las Vegas, Nevada