What are stretch marks?
Stretch marks are the result of a violent and rapid stretching of the layer of skin, but also of hormonal changes that weaken the collagen and elastic fibers that keep the dermis supple, they are also referred to as striae in dermatology that often manifest as reddish or purple lesions during the early stages..
It is known under two aspects, both unsightly, that few women assume.
White stretch marks are different from purplish-red stretch marks, which are the first so-called "immature" stage.
Pearly stretch marks are not new, they take on this tone when the repair process is complete. This new, lighter tissue is also thinner and disorganized, which is what gives it its striated appearance.
Over time, these lesions tend to shrink and lose pigmentation leaving the affected areas looking empty and soft to touch. Stretch marks can form nearly anywhere on the body, but are most likely to appear in regions with thick adipose tissue such as the breasts, underarms, upper arms, abdomen, back, thighs, buttocks and hips.
Although medically they are not a cause for concern, stretch marks can be quite vexing at times. They can cause emotional distress and are sometimes itchy. Stretch marks are also quite tricky to deal with and are considered a cosmetic nuisance.
Once these stretch marks appear, it is unfortunately almost impossible to make them disappear completely. Indeed, they look like scars.
The only solution? Make them as discreet as possible!
What Causes Stretch Marks?
One of the unique properties of the skin is its elasticity. This amazing property comes from the resilient middle tissue known as the dermis.
The dermis consists of protein fibers- collagen and elastin that give the skin both thickness and strength. These protein fibers allow the skin to stretch and retract back to its original shape as soon as the stretching force is removed.
However, if the stretching force is applied suddenly and/or maintained for a long period of time, it will cause damage to the dermis and the skin would lose its elasticity.
The damage to the dermis will appear on the upper layer of skin (epidermis) as striae or stretch marks.
Rapid and/or prolonged stretching of the skin can be caused by relatively sudden growth or weight gain associated with pregnancy, puberty, bodybuilding, obesity etc.
While stretch marks seem to be caused, literally, by excessive stretching of the skin, this is not the case. Stretching influences where stretch marks form and the direction they run but there are other contributing factors that promote the formation of stretch marks.
These factors include hormones, certain medications, nutritional deficiencies and medical conditions.
For instance, over secretion of the glucocorticoids during pregnancy, the use of medications such as corticosteroids and oral/systemic steroids, lack of vitamin A and C, and medical conditions such as Cushing's syndrome, Ehlers-Danlos syndrome, Marfan syndrome can lead to weakening of the elastic fibers in the dermis.
Once the dermal structure is weakened, it can no longer support rapidly growing skin leading to dermal tearing that produces striae on the epidermis.
Conventional prevention therapies to remove stretch marks include taking thiosinaminum and topical application of 0.1% tretinoin cream combined with various moisturizers and lotions.
Unconventional prevention therapies include topical application of castor oil, olive oil, frankincense and seaweed wraps.
Other than these remedies, you can also prevent stretch marks by simply adopting a healthy lifestyle; make sure you hit all your macro and micro nutrients daily, drink plenty of water to keep your skin hydrated and perform regular exercises to stay fit.
Microdermabrasion benefits for stretch marks
Microdermabrasion is a commonly used technique to treat acne scars, wrinkles, skin pigmentation, and in some cases mild stretch marks.
The treatment involves mechanical exfoliation of localized regions on the uppermost layer of skin (the epidermis) known as the stratum corneum, resulting in better light transmission in the skin.
This can give the impression of textural improvement in the affected regions.
This ‘peeling’ effect can kick starts elastin and collagen production in the damaged dermal region of the skin, improving the skin’s elasticity.
Microdermabrasion can also improve the efficacy of other treatments by enhancing their penetration into the deeper layers of the skin.
At home Microdermabrasion vs. professional Microdermabrasion
Done professionally, Microdermabrasion usually involves the use of a hand-held fine sandblaster to spray tiny crystals of aluminum oxide across the face; a combination of mild abrasion and vacuum suction results in removal of dead skin cells on the stratum corneum.
Instead of tiny aluminum oxide crystals, a diamond-tipped wand may also be used to deeply exfoliate the skin.
At-home, Microdermabrasion is done using Microdermabrasion kits or machines similar to the professional ones. The kits essentially consist of an exfoliating scrub such as Microdermabrasion cloths or scrubbing gels/creams containing minute aluminum oxide crystals. The at-home machines vary from brand to brand but the most effective ones use diamond tips.
The amount of active ingredients in the at-home Microdermabrasion kits is normally lower than in those used by professionals; therefor the end results may not be as striking or long-lasting as when done by a professional.
Still, when done properly, at-home Microdermabrasion can provide good results.
Professional Microdermabrasion costs around $100 to $200 per session. You can get professional Microdermabrasion done at a spa or a dermatologist’s office. For the best results you may need to go for around 12 sessions.
At home Microdermabrasion is cheaper than professionally done Microdermabrasion; the average cost of a home Microdermabrasion kit is between $20 and $50, as for the microdermabrasion machines prices can vary from $120 to $300 for the high end ones.
New Promising At Home Device to Reduce the Appearance of Stretch Marks
Last update on 2023-11-25 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API
When at-home Microdermabrasion becomes the best option?
Although, professional microdermabrasion is more likely to be effective, since it is a more aggressive and thorough procedure; it is not always the best option, especially if you have sensitive skin.
Due to its aggressive nature, Professional Microdermabrasion can cause breakouts and skin irritation in people with sensitive skin.
At home Microdermabrasion scrubs and creams are gentler thus less likely to cause breakouts and irritation if your skin is sensitive. For the at-home machines it is recommended to carefully read the instruction manual and the frequency of use to avoid skin irritation. Besides, home Microdermabrasion is cost-effective and time-saving.
Are there alternative methods?
If you are reluctant to undergo microdermabrasion (because of the time, cost or fear of the process) but you want to reduce the apprearance of stretch marks, there are other alternatives to treat them.
Today, cosmetics are increasingly effective in fading stretch marks, both old and new.
Top 8 Best Stretch Marks Treatment Creams, Oils and Butters
Last update on 2023-11-30 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API
Last update on 2023-11-28 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API
Other Treatment Options for Stretch Mark Removal; Types of stretch marks, Contraindications, Efficiency, Cost Estimate
Types of stretch marks
Current/recent use (< 1 year) of isotretinoin, active herpes infection, malignant skin tumors, nascent dermatoses, and certain keratoses
Microdermabrasion stimulates skin regeneration through superficial exfoliation of the epidermis, improving the appearance of mild stretch marks.
Professional Microdermabrasion costs up to $1,800(complete 12 sessions)
Pregnancy and epilepsy, photo-allergy, and medications that cause light sensitivity (such as Tetracycline)
Induces controlled wounds on the skin, prompting it to regenerate thus reducing the visibility of stretch marks.
Depending on the type of therapy, photo rejuvenation costs between $1,500 and $5,000
Active herpetic infection, Open wounds, Pre-existing dermatoses, history of abnormal scarring, keloids, atrophic skin, recent/current isotretinoin use
Prompts the skin to slowly peel off allowing new skin cells to form. This improves the appearance of stretch marks as the regenerated skin is smoother in texture
Deep Chemical Peel costs between $2,000 and $7,000 (1 session per year)
Severe comorbid conditions (heart disease, diabetes, morbid obesity- BMI >40), history of thromboembolic disease, future plans for pregnancy.
Surgical removal of excess fat and skin from the abdomen to get rid of stretch marks in the abdominal region.
Average cost of abdominoplasty is $5,500
Are there any contraindication to the treatment of stretch mark removal by microdermabrasion?
As with any aesthetic therapy, microdermabrasion to treat stretch marks is not recommended for :
- People with unhealed burns/wounds
- People with inflammatory acne, rosacea, or active skin diseases (psoriasis, eczema, urticaria)
- People with contagious infections (such as herpes) or a weakened immune system (cancer, autoimmune disease)
- People with dark skin, at risk of developing hyperpigmentation spots