What Causes Stretch Marks?
The skin consists of three key layers: epidermis (the outer layer), dermis (the middle layer) and subcutaneous or hypodermis (the deepest layer). Stretch marks form in the dermis when the connective tissue is “stretched” beyond the limits of its elasticity due to rapid expansion or contraction of the skin from sudden growth or weight gain. The abrupt stretching causes the dermis to tear which allows deeper skin layers to show through, forming the stretch marks. Usually, as the body grows, the strong connecting fibers in the dermis slowly stretch. However, with rapid growth, the fibers overstretch and break. Stretch marks are red or purple initially due to blood vessels showing through the tears in the dermis fading with time to silvery white lines that may or may not disappear.
Stretch marks can be caused by:
- Pregnancy: Stretch marks are common during the later stages of pregnancy; their occurrence depends largely on skin type and skin elasticity. Hormones are produced which soften skin fibers, giving an increased risk of stretch marks. Stretch marks appear on the abdomen as the baby grows and sometimes occur in the skin covering the thighs and breasts.
- Puberty: The body goes through rapid growth cycles during puberty which can cause the development of stretch marks. In males, stretch marks commonly arise on the shoulders and back, while females typically develop stretch marks on the hips, thighs and breasts.
- Rapid weight gain: Stretch marks may also arise if a person gains weight rapidly, such as when bodybuilders and athletes dramatically increase muscle mass over a short period of time.
- Corticosteroids: Prolonged or inappropriate use of corticosteroid creams and lotions can cause stretch marks by decreasing collagen levels and thinning the skin.
- Numerous medical conditions: Medical conditions such as Cushing’s syndrome and Marfan syndrome can lead to the development of stretch marks. Marfan syndrome is a genetic condition that causes weakness and decreased elasticity in body tissues. Cushing’s syndrome can cause stretch marks because the condition involves the overproduction of cortisol (the stress hormone), which can lead to rapid weight gain, especially in the abdomen, in addition to causing the skin to become fragile, thin and more susceptible to bruises, scarring and infection. Ehlers-Danlos syndrome (EDS) is a rare inherited condition that disrupts the integrity of structural proteins in the skin which can also cause stretch marks.
How To Get Rid of Stretch Marks?
Platelet Rich Plasma (PRP) can help treat stretch marks. Platelet rich plasma is the portion of blood which contains a high concentration of platelets. Platelets stimulate the release of growth factors which assist in collagen regeneration. Increasing collagen in the skin will help thicken it and reduce the appearance of stretch marks.
During the PRP procedure, 8-24ml of your blood is collected in a similar way to a blood test. The blood is spun down in a centrifuge using a specially designed tube that separates the PRP from the red blood cells. The PRP portion of the tube is then drawn up into a syringe ready for re-injection and/or microneedling into the skin. Topical anaesthetic cream is applied to the skin prior to injection or microneedling to keep discomfort to a minimum.
There is very little to no downtime following a PRP treatment. Injections can cause minor bruising and swelling. Some patients report a tingling sensation after injection.
Typically, 3 PRP treatments spaced 4-6 weeks apart will be needed to treat stretch marks although some patients may need up to 6 treatments.
First results are usually visible 2 weeks after the first treatment and full results around 3 months after the final treatment.
Skin microneedling can also help reduce the appearance of stretch marks by harnessing the body’s innate ability to re-grow and repair the skin as a response to damage. A small, hand-held device delivers over 1000 micro-punctures per second into the skin causing a controlled skin injury thus stimulating the skin to produce collagen. The process generates new healthy skin cells to replace aged or damaged ones and can improve the appearance of stretch marks.
Generally, 4-6 treatments, spaced 4-6 weeks apart are recommended for optimal results. Some patients may require additional treatments.
Results can be seen after the first treatment. Lasting and more significant results will occur after 4 to 6 treatments. Your skin will continue to improve over the next 6-12 months after a course of treatments.
For minimum needle depths microneedling treatments are painless. Treatments for stretch marks is usually performed at deeper depths and may require a topical anesthetic cream to be applied for several minutes before the procedure. This will render the treatments virtually pain free.
Patients may experience redness at the treatment site for 12-48 hours after the treatment but are able to return to normal daily activities immediately after the treatment.
Contact us today for stretch mark removal in Melbourne, Brunswick Vic!