Hard to prevent and even harder to erase (for good), stretch marks, unfortunately, can be a lifelong problem. Although there are options available that reduce their appearance, a permanent cure still does not exist.
Stretch marks range in color from red (fresher, new marks) to white and silvery (older marks). They can feel indented or smooth on the skin. Whenever the skin is stretched out quickly, small tears in the dermis occur, causing stretch marks. As Miami, FL dermatologist Janelle Vega, MD, puts it, “They are basically microscars in the skin.” To limit stretch marks from forming, keep the prone areas well-moisturized with a heavy hydrator like cocoa or shea butter, which will keep the skin pliable and more elastic. Keeping the skin hydrated and supple is key. Stretch marks can be exacerbated by the sun, which is why they should be safeguarded at all costs. While sunscreen is the go-to, you can also try a top or dress that’s embedded with UPF.
While some experts feel that in-office treatments, like lasers and skin tighteners, do little for stretch marks, others disagree. It is important to know that when treating them, the degree of improvement can range from minimal to moderate. If your stretch marks are red (due to the influx of blood vessels at the site), then a pulsed-dye laser may help; if they are white, a fractionated collagen-stimulating laser can offer some improvement. Lasers may help to lighten up any existing stretch marks, but they won’t get rid of them permanently since they will still exist to some degree. “Think of using any type of laser for stretch marks almost like airbrushing—you’re ‘smudging’ away any of the sharp demarcations so that the marks are less noticeable on the skin,” says Dr. Vega. Excising any extra skin can also improve stretch marks since they are literally cut out or moved downward. “If they are below the belly button and a tummy tuck is performed, we can cut them out,” says Scottsdale, AZ, plastic surgeon Steven Wiener, MD. “If they are above the belly button and we do a tummy tuck, the stretch marks will now fall below the belly button and there will be less of them.”
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