Stretch marks also known as striae develop initially as red marks and gradually fade into white or silvery ones. They develop as the skin loses the elasticity. Some of the factors which contribute to this skin condition are excessive use of corticosteroid creams, pregnancy, obestity and hormonal changes.
Hormonal changes prevent the formation or reduce the production of collagen and elastin fibres in the skin causing the skin to lose elasticity and develop stretch marks. Cushing syndrome and Ehlers-Danlos syndrome can also cause stretch marks. There can be two types of striae which are red stretch marks and the white ones.
- Age – The red stretch marks are in the initial stage of development and comparatively fresh. The white stretch marks are comparatively older and atleast a few years old.
- Prevalence – Red stretch marks are commonly found in adolescent children, pregnant women and young men who actively participate in sports. The white stretch marks usually develop at older age.
The red stretch marks are in the nascent stage and can be removed or reduced by medication and creams. Pulsed dye laser treatment and fractional photo-thermolysis may prove effective in the removal of red stretch marks. Retin-A, a component found in the anti scar creams is useful in the restoration of collagen in the skin. This cream is not suitable for pregnant women.
The pulsed dye laser treatment uses laser to activate the collagen cells under the dermal layer to rejuvenate the cells and remove the stretch marks. In fractional photo-thermolysis the skin is exposed to laser light in varied quantities which penetrate into the deeper layers and help in restoration of the cells thereby removing the stretch marks.
The white stretch marks are older and cannot be treated by medicines or creams. Microdermabrasion uses crystals to exfoliate the skin making it look better and brighter. In excimer laser ultraviolet light is used which causes disruption of the molecar bonds of the tissues in the skin leading them to disintegrate. This process is called ablation. As a result of this process, the new and fresh skin grows which is clearer and tender. This process is highly effective and much safer than the surgical procedures.
Abdominoplasty or tummy tuck is a surgical procedure to remove the white stretch marks. However, it is not applicable to all the body parts. Chemical peels use a procedure to apply a chemical over the affected areas. This process however, does not remove the stretch marks completely but helps to make them fade and also makes the skin look better. Several sittings of the same procedure may be required in this case to achieve the expected result. It is effective in both kinds of stretch marks.
- Melanin – The pigment present in the skin secreted by the melanocyte cells of the body are absent in the white stretch marks but present in the red ones.
Healthy diet and exercise might help the prevention of stretch marks. It is advisable to treat the stretch marks when they are red or in the nascent stage as removal of the white ones might involve complicated procedures.