Stretch marks: they happen to the best of us! These “tiger stripes” seem to be permanent reminders of the changes our bodies have been through, and it’s normal to develop them as early as our teenage years.
While “erasing” stretch marks is no simple task, minimizing their appearance is now possible using topical skin treatments (like lasers or microneedling) that boost collagen production for firmer, more even skin! And the earlier you treat them, the better your results are likely to be.
But first: let’s break down what, exactly, stretch marks are.
What are stretch marks?
Stretch marks (striae) are a type of scarring that appears when skin is overstretched. They usually appear as thin lines, and may be a darker color when they are newly developed, gradually fading to a white-ish tone. The most common areas for stretch marks to appear include the abdomen, thighs, breasts, buttocks, and the upper arms. They pose no risk to your health, yet they are a common source of insecurity about our bodies.
Causes of stretch marks
Reasons behind stretch mark formation include:
- Pregnancy (these stretch marks are called striae gravidarum)*
- Muscle building, or bodybuilding
- Weight gain
- Changes in hormones
- Prolonged use of corticosteroids, which thin the skin
- Adolescent growth spurts
Stretch marks occur when the body’s production of collagen and elastin fails to keep up with the rate at which skin is stretched. When this happens, the collagen bands that give our skin its firmness and the elastin that gives our skin its elastic qualities are damaged.
*Experts estimate that somewhere between 50-90% of pregnant women get stretch marks—but all pregnancy stretch marks are not exactly the same. Other overlapping risk factors may be at play, too, including hormones, age, family history of stretch marks, high birth weight babies, and length of the pregnancy.
Who gets stretch marks?
People of all genders and skin tones can develop stretch marks, but women are more likely to get them. Pregnancy, rapid weight gain, growth spurts, or body building can cause stretch marks. They are a natural reaction to the skin being stretched, and are difficult to prevent—but there are treatments available after you get them.
While “erasing” stretch marks is no simple task, minimizing their appearance is now possible using skin treatments like lasers or microneedling.
Stretch mark removal treatment options
The key to minimizing your stretch marks is to talk to a qualified aesthetic doctor about medical-grade skin treatments that can renew collagen production. You will need to have some patience—it takes several sessions for the effects of stretch mark reduction to show—but if you stick with your treatment plan, you should see marked improvement in time.
At PureLee Redefined, our aesthetic providers offer several skin treatments that effectively promote collagen remodeling to improve the appearance of stretch marks. Whether you have white stretch marks, reddish stretch marks, or stretch marks closer to your skin tone, treatments that promote collagen remodeling can help. Here are our favorites:
Microneedling with radiofrequency (RF)
Our go-to treatment for stretch marks and scarring is microneedling with RF, which increases collagen production to effectively remodel the skin’s structure and provide dramatic improvements over the course of a treatment series.
Here’s how microneedling works: a handpiece coated in one-time-use, sterile, hair-thin needles is passed over the skin in a stamping motion. The needles reach an optimal depth in the skin to prompt the body’s natural healing response, flooding the skin with new collagen and elastin—the building blocks of firm, elastic, and healthy skin. In addition to tightening loose skin, this healing process also smoothes skin tone, minimizing dark spots or imperfections.
Our RF microneedling system, Morpheus8, uses a special technology that delivers bipolar radiofrequency energy to multiple depths in a single cycle, so we are remodeling collagen and tightening skin on multiple levels. Unlike at-home microneedling devices available at beauty superstores, professional microneedling with Morpheus8 is highly effective with just a few treatments. Here are a few more reasons why we love this minimally invasive, non-surgical technology for treating stretch marks:
- Fractional treatment pattern offers transformative results with less downtime
- Up to 4 mm depth sends energy deep into the skin for more pronounced results
- Combined manual microneedling and RF energy provides multi-model collagen remodeling
- Delivers uniform, controlled, and proven-safe treatment
- Morpheus8’s body handpiece has a large surface area which speeds treatment times for large stretch marks
Our Aerolase laser is highly customizable to safely treat a range of skin tones, including melanin-rich skin, and is an ideal option for stretch marks if you are prone to hyperpigmentation. (While Morpheus 8 also has a reduced risk of causing pigmentation irregularities, Aerolase is specifically designed to work on darker skin.) Laser skin resurfacing works by delivering light energy to the deeper layers of skin in short pulses, where new skin cell growth (collagen and elastin) is then stimulated to remodel your scar tissue from the inside. After several treatments, you will see firmer skin texture and smoother, more consistent pigmentation.
Just as microneedling and lasers can up your skin’s collagen production, so do injectable dermal fillers (along with, of course, adding immediate volume and plumpness to skin). For certain stretch marks, we may recommend trying dermal fillers injected beneath the skin for both a short-term plumping effect and a long-term boost in skin firmness. Fillers may be part of a combination approach with laser or microneedling, as well.
While over-the-counter stretch mark creams are unlikely to give you appreciable results, prescription retinoids (i.e. tretinoin, retinol, or Retin-A) can help improve the appearance of stretch marks by promoting cell turnover and, thus, improving collagen production. The purest and most effective forms of retinol are available only through a physician, so talk with an aesthetic doctor like Dr. Kenya Lee or Dr. Marvin Lee if you are interested in retinol for stretch marks. Note that retinol should not be used during pregnancy.
Do home remedies for stretch marks work?
Available over-the-counter stretch mark treatments and home remedies lack strong evidence of effectiveness, so they are unlikely to help. Since there is some weak evidence that hyaluronic acid may diminish stretch marks, you may wish to try a lotion with hyaluronic acid. If you are pregnant, be aware that many active ingredients in over-the-counter lotions have not been tested on pregnant women.
Preventing stretch marks
It is not always possible to prevent stretch marks, but some lifestyle adjustments may help to both avoid stretching skin and help to keep skin healthy.
Maintain your weight
Either gradual weight gain or sudden weight gain can lead to the development of more stretch marks, so keep a stable weight to avoid increasing your stretch marks.
Moisturize your skin
If you have average-to-dry skin, keeping your skin moisturized with lotion may help keep skin feeling more supple—although there is no evidence that topical treatments used during pregnancy help with stretch mark prevention.
Be active: exercise is not often listed among skin-boosting secrets, but it is a key way to improve the skin’s appearance as exercise-stimulated hormones support the health of our skin.
Drink plenty of water to keep your whole body hydrated, and help your skin feel more supple and elastic.
Eating a diet that provides all of the nutrients your body needs supplies your skin with the building blocks it needs to be firm and healthy.
Protect skin from the sun
While sunscreen alone can’t prevent stretch marks, protecting skin from sun exposure prevents sun damage—thereby helping it to stay more resilient and elastic.
Visit PureLee Redefined in Colorado Springs, CO for expert stretch mark reduction
Co-founders Dr. Kenya Lee and Dr. Marvin Lee established our Colorado Springs medspa to provide you with expert, top-quality aesthetic care in a pampering and comfortable environment. We offer a full range of non-invasive aesthetic treatments, from microneedling to Botox to dermal fillers to CoolSculpting®. We even offer hormone replacement therapy! Call (719) 452-8541 or contact us online today to start your journey to beautiful skin and your most confident self.