While physiologically, stretch mark causes no harm to your body, however, some people may suffer psychological or emotional stress due to these marks. You may not need to treat it or stress about it, but if you want to reduce the visible appearance of stretch marks, read this article till the end to know how you can do this. In this article, we will talk about what stretch marks are, what the causes of stretch marks are, and how you can effectively lighten or remove them.
To understand how to treat stretch marks, first, you need to understand what stretch marks are and what are its causes.
Stretch marks are long, narrow strips that appear in the skin when the connective tissues of the dermis layer are damaged or overstretched. Stretch marks are the common name for Striae distensae. They are caused if there is a stretch in your skin due to many reasons. These stretch marks usually happen when the connective tissues break due to a lack of elastin and collagen fiber.
Now, let's understand some biology of stretch marks:
To understand stretch marks, first, you need to understand some terms and concepts as mentioned below:
It is the middle layer of the three layers of the skin. It has many components and functions. One of these functions is to retain the shape, structure, and tightness of the skin. collagen and elastin fiber present in the connective tissue of the dermis is responsible to sustain the structure and elasticity of the skin.
Collagen and Elastin Fiber
These are two types of fiber that the connective tissues of the dermis require. Their function is to provide flexibility and elasticity properties to the skin. Fibroblasts are the type of cells that are responsible for the production of collagen and elastin. Any problem with fibroblast is directly related to issues in flexibility and elasticity of the skin.
Now that we understand these two terms, let's understand how it relates to stretch marks. As explained earlier, the dermis is responsible for the flexible and elastic properties of the skin. These properties are because of collagen and elastin fiber.
Due to any reasons, if the level of collagen and elastin reduces in the skin, it affects its elasticity. It often happens that the body suddenly experiences change, stress, and stretch and the existing fibers are not enough to deal with the stretch to retain the original shape, and thus stretch mark appears.
Stages of Stretch Marks
There are two stages of stretch mark formation.
Striae Rubura (Early Stage)
It is the early stage of stretch mark formation. Here the mark has just started forming and is red or purple colored. They happen because the break in the dermis tissue is new, and the veins are slightly visible. This stage is where the stretch marks might feel itchy and irritating. The stretch mark lines in this stage are bumpy and thick, and they rise a little from the rest of the skin.
It is the stage where the marks are most likely to heal and disappear. It is the stage where you want to treat your stretch marks to prevent them from becoming permanent.
Striae Alba (Mature Stage)
It is a condition when the fresh stretch marks mature with time. As they mature, the bumpy structure flattens out, and the color turns white or shiny silver. It has a papery or wrinkly texture. In this stage, these stretch marks do not itch or irritate, and they are physiologically harmless.
Once the stretch mark enters this phase, getting rid of the stretch mark is almost impossible. But, some treatments can lighten the marks so they can blend well with the rest of the skin.
Causes of Stretch Mark
As explained above, if the level of fibers reduces in the skin, it causes stretch marks. Now you may wonder what can cause the reduction of collagen and elastin in the skin. It can be because of many reasons, some of the most common reasons are as given below:
Some people have genetic problems, because of which the production of fibroblasts is low. It leads to reduced production of collagen and elastin fiber. That ultimately affects the elasticity of the skin, leading to stretch mark formation.
A Rapid Change In The Body
There are many reasons because of why our body experiences a sudden stretch in the skin. These reasons include pregnancy, adolescent growth, and rapid weight gain or loss. Any of these conditions can cause a sudden stretch in the skin, such that our fiber in the skin can cope with it and thus result in mark formation.
Many medical conditions can cause stretch marks. Some of these are
- Cushing’s syndrome: when the body produces excessive cortisol hormone (a fight-flight hormone to deal with stress). It affects the fiber and results in stretch marks.
- Marfan syndrome and Ehlers danlos syndrome: In both of these conditions, there are problems in the connective tissue, which can cause stretch marks.
They are anti-inflammatory medicine used to counter many diseases. They are naturally produced by the adrenalin gland, or artificially made. When these are in abundance, they disrupt the normal functioning of connective tissues leading to stretch marks.
These steroids are synthetic replacements for testosterone. They are often prescribed to people who do not produce enough testosterone naturally. Use of these without the prescription of the doctor is illegal. There are used to grow muscles rapidly and illegally. Thus this sudden growth of muscles puts pressure on the tissue leading to stretch marks.
Process For Stretch Mark Treatment
There is not a 100% yes or no to this question. It depends on a lot of factors and conditions. When the marks are fresh, in the early stage, they can be treated and even completely get rid of them. But, it is not the same when the marks have matured. As they get old, the cure becomes difficult. You may not be able to get rid of it, but you can lighten its visibility.
Simply saying, Removal or treatment of the stretch mark is easier when they are in the early stage, which is striae rubura (when the marks are just forming or are red or purple). The remedy for mature marks is comparatively complex and might be expensive.
Treatment of stretch marks can be carried out in two independent stages:
Prevention is needed when the marks are in the early stage. When the mark has just started forming and is red or purple, prevention steps should be taken, to stop the marks from worsening. It can be true when the marks have matured a little bit when in the early stage, it is easy to prevent.
These methods are opted to remove the mark or lighten its effect and are performed when the marks have already matured.
Important Goals For Stretch Mark Treatment
One should not go blindly for the treatment of stretch marks. There are certain limitations and variables to the cure. These often are major treatment choice factors.
As we have learned earlier, there are two stages of stretch mark formation, the Striae Rubura (early stage) and Striae Alba (mature stage). The cure is most effective in the early stage rather than later. Once the mark matures, there is no way to remove them, although it can be lightened a little so it blends with the rest of the skin. Based on these, three goals can help you choose the treatment option that suits your need better.
- Increase synthesis of collagen and elastin: most of the remedy focuses on this goal.
- Reduce the redness: laser treatments are best for this goal.
- Increase the pigment of the mature scar.
How To Get Rid Of Stretch Marks
As mentioned earlier, the complete solution of stretch marks depends upon the stage of the stretch mark. Depending on them, there are various ways of treating the marks. Let’s learn them one by one:
Vitamins And Nutrients
Your body needs vitamins to ensure that the collagen and elastin fiber is produced enough and in the correct amount.
Vitamin C: This vitamin is responsible for making fibers for the connective tissue, thus directly related to the stretchability of the skin. When in the early stage of the stretch mark, regular consumption of vitamin-rich food or application of vitamin C-rich products can prevent the growth of the stretch mark or even remove it.
Vitamin D: Some studies suggest that low levels of vitamin D, may lead to stretch marks, especially in pregnant ladies. Direct sunlight can be a good source of vitamin D, but when in excess can have harmful effects. Consult your expert to know what could be the best source of this vitamin for you.
Vitamin E: This vitamin acts as an antioxidant. Primarily it prevents radicals from harming your skin. It leads to the rejuvenation of healthy skin and hydrates the skin. It can help prevent stretch marks or treat early-stage stretch marks.
To ensure that the connective tissue works efficiently, one should meet zinc and protein requirements.
Hydration of Skin
Retaining hydrated skin leads to softer skin. Some studies suggest that supple skin is less prone to developing stretch marks compared to dry, rough skin. You can hydrate your skin by drinking enough water (it constitutes 70% of your body), and make sure to moisturize your skin enough throughout the day.
Massages at regular intervals can enhance blood circulation in the muscles. It ensures that all the required nutrients are reaching them for the good hassle-free performance of the tissues and muscles avoiding tearing them. Massage using oils, creams, and lotion can help to make the skin moisturized and hydrated reducing the chances of excess stretch and tearing of the skin.
It is most effective in the early stage of the scar. It can be used by anyone, but pregnant women are advised to have a regular massage to ensure blood circulation and avoid itchiness and irritation in the skin.
Bio-oil is a cosmetic oil produced by a UK-based company of the same name - Bio-oil. They express their products as follows on their official website “Bioâ€‘Oil Professional is designed to support you in your role of caring for patients who may be affected by scarring, stretch marks, and dry skin.” This oil is rich in various compounds that are utilized to deal with scars and stretch marks.
It is most effective when used on fresh marks rather than the oil once. Though, it will help you lighten the older marks.
It promotes the production of collagen and elastin. Regular application of this can help you avoid stretch marks, and even if they are mature stretch marks it can help its appearance. Retinoid is very effective when treating early-stage stretch marks. It is a type of vitamin A that promotes the growth of new cells.
One of the most used types of retinoids is tretinoin or retinol.
Glycolic acids are alpha hydroxy acids. They are synthesized from sugarcane. Their function is to promote the cell turnover rate, meaning to shed dead cells faster. It promotes tight, and even skin. It also promotes the production of collagen, making the skin soft and elastic.
It is an active form of vitamin C. It works as a repairing and brightening agent for the skin. They also protect the skin from the harm of UVB rays. It can be used with the help of creams and lotion filled with this acid.
These are plants found in Asia. They are commonly known as Gotu Kola or Tiger grass. They are known to stimulate the growth of fibroblasts, leading to more production of collagen and elastin fiber. They are used to provide hydration to the skin. It is found to be effective as a cure for small wounds, hypertrophic wounds, as well as burns, psoriasis, and scleroderma. They also act as an anti-aging agent in various cosmetic products.
It is an acid that promotes the production of collagen and elastin fiber. This will lead to the proper functioning of connective tissue leading to fewer or no stretch marks. It should be used in the early stages of stretch marks to reduce the effect or avoid the marks. Even in the later stage of the mark, it can be used to moisturize the skin to not worsen the case.
Laser treatment is suggested when the marks are fresh as it has more chances to work. It is futile to perform laser treatment on the mature marks as they will not work, and there is a high chance that they may cause hyperpigmentation in the area. In laser treatment, the dermis layer is aimed so that the fibroblasts are stimulated, to promote the synthesis of collagen and elastin.
Some well-known laser treatments are Pulsed Dye Laser (PDL) Treatment, fractional laser treatment, and Laser Resurfacing treatment.
- PDL treatment: It is effective in new/ fresh stretch marks only. In this, the affected area is targeted using the laser with some wavelength light. This light is absorbed by the vein and reduces the redness of the new stretch mark.
- Fractional laser treatment: The laser beam penetrates the skin layer, and heat damages the tissue, leading to the production of collagen and elastin.
- Laser Resurfacing: In this remedy, the doctor uses a laser to remove the upper layer of the skin very carefully. It helps to remove damaged skin and leaves you fresh, tight, and light skin. It can help you lighten the stretch marks.
If you want to understand microdermabrasion, it is the process to exfoliate your skin. In this process, the tiny crystals are scattered on your skin and later removed using a wand-like tool. It removes the dead skin cells of the epidermis. It may not remove your stretch marks, but it can lighten them.
One has to keep repeating this process at regular intervals, if they want to retain the results of this process.
It is also known as collagen induction therapy. In this procedure, small needles are stamped on your skin to form some microscopic injuries so that collagen production is stimulated. There are different types of needles used for different purposes. It is one of the most effective methods that work and causes no serious harm.
Platelet-Rich Plasma (PRP) Therapy
In this therapy, the healing power of your blood is used to solve the issue. For this, first, some blood sample is taken out from your body. Then the blood platelet is separated using the centrifuge machine. These platelets are then re-injected in your affected area to let the healing power of your platelets promote the growth of skin cells.
It is considered one of the safest therapy as it uses your blood with minimal invasion. Also, it is one of the few remedies, that show significant results on the stretch mark. It takes a few days to show results.
In this treatment, the outer layer of the skin is peeled off to remove the dull skin cells and promote the production of new skin cells. It helps you improve the appearance of the stretch mark. A chemical solution (acid) is applied and then carefully removed. There are few levels of removal, and they have different acids in different concentrations. The most common acids are Salicylic acid, Glycolic acid, and Trichloroacetic acid (TCA).
It is a tropical retinoid commonly used for acne. But it has the property to heal the pigmentation of the stretch mark. 0.1 - 0.3% adapalene-containing product could be useful.
Stretch marks are lines or lesions, formed due to dysfunction of the collagen and elastin on the dermis layer. It can happen to anyone from a teenager to an elderly person. They are common in pregnant women. Stretch marks do not have any physical harm to the body and thus, there is no need for its treatment. But it is observed that stretch marks may have a significant psychological impact on humans, and may severely impact their self-esteem.
Before choosing a treatment option understanding the roots of stretch marks is extremely important. It can make decision-making easier. Collagen and elastin fiber produced by the fibroblast cells of the dermis layer is responsible for the pliability (flexibility) and elasticity of the skin. These components make sure that the skin retains its shape and is smooth and soft.
There can be many reasons why your skin can not sustain a stretch. Some of them are lack of collagen elastin, sudden changes in the shape of the body, consumption of steroids, and certain medical conditions. There are two stages of the stretch mark, striae rubura (the early stage of the mark, when the mark has just started to form and is red or purple) and striae alba (the mark is matured and white/ silverish). The treatment is much easier and more effective in the early stage rather than in the later stage. The possibility of removal of the scratch mark is only in the early stage as in the mature stage, as the marks can only be lightened.
The treatments of the stretch mark help you increase the production of collagen and elastin or help you with the pigmentation of the skin. The production of collagen and elastin is increased by consuming nutrient and vitamin-rich food, massaging oil, cream, and lotion, and hydrating your skin. It can be assisted with products that include various compounds and active ingredients like retinoids, glycolic acid, adapalene, hyaluronic acid, and Centella Asiatica.
Cosmetic surgery like the PRP treatment or microdermabrasion and chemical peel can help you stimulate the growth of collagen and elastin. Certain laser treatments can help you regenerate the new skin cells or even help with pigmentation.
There is no need to be worried about stretch marks as they are very common, however, if you do feel like treating them consult an expert to decide which procedure will suit you best. It is advised to treat the marks in the early stage as they are more likely to work and less expensive compared to mature marks.
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