What are stretch marks?
Stretch marks (which can also be referred to as striae) are blemish lines that occur on the skin’s surface, most commonly due to skin stretching. The most frequent causes of these marks are weight gain, pregnancy as well as changes seen in puberty (often breast growth in females). A stretch mark usually initially presents with a red or purple color. When the skin is stretched, it causes damage to the connective tissue fiber which causes lacerations (the result of ruptured blood vessels). Even after excessive weight is lost, the marks remain, often assuming a whitish color. Although the magnitude of the discoloration may diminish over time, the stretch marks will remain to some extent.
Patients often come to us asking what is the best way of “getting rid of stretch marks”. There is a wide variety of stretch mark treatments available both in the marketplace as well as offered by physicians. While there are many topical solutions made available over the counter, these creams and gels are not particularly effective.
As for in office stretch mark removal treatment, lasers have become the best treatment for diminishing the appearance of stretch marks. The type of laser used is largely dependent on the state of the discoloration. With red or purple stretch marks, a pulsed dye (aka pulse dye) or a KTP laser is often employed which, through a concentrated beam of light at a specific wavelength, destroys damaged blood vessels without damaging the surrounding skin. To treat white stretch marks (or in some instances chronic red/purple marks) the best treatment is often the Fraxel Laser or the Fractional CO2 laser. This laser works by poking tiny holes in the outer layer of skin and reaching the middle layer (or dermis). The treatment causes the stimulation of collagen production which subsequently leads to the rejuvenation of the epidermis (surface skin) and vast improvement of the area affected by stretch marks.
Where do stretch marks occur?
Stretch marks are common on the abdomen (stomach), arms, breasts, back of the knees and inner thighs.
Can you tell me more about the Fraxel and Fractional CO2 Lasers ability to remove stretch marks?
The Fractional CO2 laser works by ablating a fraction of the treatment area while surrounding skin tissue is untouched and thus not damaged. This not only proves to be a less invasive procedure with faster recovery times, it actually produces better results as the collagen production can work in conjunction with existing, live skin tissue as opposed to the entire treatment area being damaged at once. There is often some mild discomfort experienced with the treatment but these reactions are mitigated through the use of a topical anesthetic.
How long is a typical Fractional CO2 procedure for stretch marks removal?
The length of treatment time is largely dependent on the size of the area, but expect a typical procedure to last 20 to 30 minutes.
Could you please describe the post treatment recovery period – is there associated downtime?
When treating stretch marks, the pulsed dye and KTP laser treatment involves little to no down downtime and regular activities can be resumed upon leaving the office. The Fractional CO2 does puncture the skin and thus leaves the skin wounded for 3-4 days. Resumption of normal activities is largely dependent on where the stretch marks are located. In visible areas, patients often choose to schedule a procedure in advance of a weekend to recover. However, if the treated area is not visible to the general public, this is often not necessary. In some cases, there can be associated bruising as well. It is important to avoid intense sunlight exposure to the area for a week or so immediately after the procedure.
What kind of results can I expect to see with laser treatment for stretch marks removal?
The results of both treatments can be rather dramatic with patients seeing up to a 75% reduction in noticeable stretch marks after a few Fractional CO2 treatments. Of course every patient is different and results can vary on a case by case basis.
What is the best way to get rid of stretch marks from pregnancy?
Post pregnancy stretch marks are common and are best treated immediately after delivery with laser treatment. The Fraxel, Fractional CO2 laser, KTP laser and pulse dye laser are all options for pregnancy related stretchmarks. The best way to remove stretchmarks is often the Fractional CO2 laser.
Where are the laser procedures performed?
All laser treatments for stretch mark removal are performed in our New York office in midtown Manhattan. Dr. Schweiger, a NYC dermatologist, oversees all procedures.