What are Stretch Marks?
Stretch marks are dermal scars or disfiguring lesions characterized by flattening and degeneration of the epidermis (the outermost layer of the skin).
Stretch marks are linear, smooth bands on the skin that, depending on skin color, can appear as red or purple and which fade over time to leave silvery pale marks.
Occurring in 40-90% of women, stretch marks appear following rapid repeated over-stretching of the skin over weak connective tissue.
The skin consists of three key layers: epidermis (the outer layer), dermis (the middle layer) and subcutaneous or hypodermis (the deepest layer). Stretch marks form in the dermis when the connective tissue is “stretched” beyond the limits of its elasticity due to rapid expansion or contraction of the skin from sudden growth or weight gain.
The abrupt stretching causes the dermis to tear, which allows deeper skin layers to show through, forming the stretch marks.
Usually, as the body grows, the strong connecting fibers in the dermis slowly stretch. However, with rapid growth, the fibers overstretch and break. Stretch marks are red or purple initially due to blood vessels showing through the tears in the dermis.
Stretch marks eventually fade to a silvery, white or glossy appearance due to the blood vessels contracting and the pale fat underneath the skin becoming visible instead.
The most common areas affected are the: Abdomen, Breasts, Hips, Flank, Buttocks, and Thighs.
Before stretch marks begin to emerge, the skin can appear thin and pink and may feel irritated or itchy.
The marks initially develop as wrinkly, raised streaks that can be red, purple, pink, reddish-brown or dark brown, depending on skin color. The streaks eventually fade, flatten and change to a silvery color over time, becoming less noticeable (this can take years).
- Maintain a healthy weight
- Avoid yo-yo dieting
- Eat a balanced diet rich in vitamins and minerals – particularly vitamins A and C and the minerals zinc and silicon for healthy skin
- Aim for slow and gradual weight gain during pregnancy
- Drink plenty of water (6-8 glasses daily).
Scarring is a natural part of the healing process after an injury. The scar’s appearance and its treatment depend on multiple factors, including the depth and size of the wound, its location, and the age, sex, ethnicity and genetics of the patient.
Scarring is the process by which wounds are repaired. Damage to the deeper layer of the skin, the dermis, is required to produce a scar. Damage to only the epidermis, the most superficial layer of skin, will not always produce a scar. Scars produce a structural change in the deeper layers of the skin, which is perceived as an alteration in the architecture of the normal surface features. It is not just a change in skin color.
- Scars occur when tissues have been significantly damaged and repaired.
- Scars result in changes that alter the physical architecture of normal skin or other tissue.
- Scars can occur after physical trauma or as part of a disease process.
- Poorly controlled wound healing can result in thick, unsightly scars that cause symptoms.
- There is a genetic predisposition in some people to produce thicker, itchy, enlarging scars called keloids.
- Scarring in areas of increased skin tension or movement tend to be unsightly.
- Fetal tissues and mucosal tissues have the ability to heal without producing a scar.
- Keloid scars: Resulting from an overly aggressive healing process, these scars extend beyond the site of the original injury. They may hamper movement. They are most common among patients with dark skin.
- Contracture scars: These scars form on burned skin. As they tighten, they can impair movement. Scarring also goes deeper, affecting muscles and nerves.
- Hypertrophic scars: These are raised, red scars that are similar to keloids but do not go beyond the boundary of the injury.
- Acne scars: Scars can range from deep pits to those that are angular or wavelike in appearance.
STRETCH MARKS & SCARS TREATMENT OPTIONS
DRY TATTOOING (MCA Micro Needling)
Dry tattooing (also known as MCA Micro Needling) is an exciting alternative treatment that works directly on damaged skin, relaxing and smoothing scars, and reducing the appearance of stretch marks. This treatment essentially brings new life into damaged skin, and is a very quick and precise way of treatment.
No pigment is tattooed into the skin, however pigmentation begins to normalize as a result.
Using the same principles of causing growth of healthy new collagen, dry tattooing works on the specific areas of affected skin. It targets only each stretch mark and only the scar. Areas that are not affected are not treated. The digital tattoo machine causes blood flow into the treated area, without removing the top layers of skin. Over the weeks and months new collagen is formed, promoting healthy new skin rather than poor quality scar tissue, stretched or creased skin.
A 20-50% improvement can be seen in just one session!
A course of 3 treatments is recommended for best results.
Dry tattooing can be used on all colors of skin. Dark skin patients who are prone to over pigmentation and keloid scarring are not candidates for this treatment.
Once approved for treatment, scarring, hypo or hyper pigmentation are unlikely risks, as no heat is used and the surface of the skin is not removed.
MCA Micro Needling began as a treatment to relax and reduce scar tissue, however it’s a amazing alternative treatment to reduce the appearance of stretch marks, especially for darker skins where laser treatments would not be advised.
After dry tattooing, with new life brought into damaged tissue, natural pigmentation starts to return.
If the skin surrounding the stretch marks has good elasticity, fine, silvery white stretch marks are likely to disappear after 2 or 3 treatments. Pigment will begin to naturally return, the shiny silvery appearance of thin skin will disappear as the stretch marks thicken and tighten and blur into normal skin.
While dry tattooing will firm any stretch marks, if skin lacks elasticity or is loose, , the rest of the skin will still look loose, and the stretch mark is less likely to blur away. A combined Microneedling/Dry Tattooing treatment would be suggested to tighten any loose skin; this can be carried out in the same session.
Medium and wide stretch marks are more difficult to treat and additional sessions may be required.
A consultation is always required so we can evaluate the skin and discuss options and expectations with our patients.
Scars respond just like stretch marks as dry tattooing causes new collagen growth on thin and stretched tissue, helping to create firmer skin. As new tissue grows in response to dry tattooing, discolored scar tissue will achieve a more natural tone, and white (hypopigmented) scars will begin normalizing pigmentation.
No pigment is used; this is the body’s natural reaction to scar tissue being needled, with dry tattooing being the most precise and intense form of it.
Dry tattooing also relaxes the fibers of tight scar tissue (as in contracture scars) allowing a much larger range of movement.
Atrophic and Hypertrophic scars are smoothed, like with pitted acne scars, while being treated individually. The finest needles can be used, chosen depending on the scar to be treated.
Active keloid scars cannot be treated.
Inactive keloid scars can be treated with discretion. We will evaluate the possible risks vs benefits of the treatment during consultation.
How much a scar improves is very individual, results will vary.
A series of 3 treatments is recommended, and then we leave the area settle and develop for about 3-4 months before considering additional sessions.
Laser therapy works by using wavelengths of light or heat (Fractional Radio Frequency) to stimulate growth of collagen and elastin, and to normalize melanin production in the skin.
The use of our laser technology to diminish the appearance of scars and stretch marks or it’s use in combination with other treatments, can provide safe and effective reduction in the appearance of both red (early-onset) and white (late-stage) stretch marks and scars.
Laser therapy requires special measures for darker skin types as altered pigmentation can be more challenging in dark skin.
A consultation is require to evaluate the skin and ultimately decide which treatment route will provide you with the best results.