Not too long ago, the famous model Chrissy Teigen showed off the side of her body that we don’t usually see in magazines. She shared a revealing shot of her stretch marks on Instagram and that caught the attention of many women who then also posted their #stretchies picture in support of that bold move.
Yes, stretch marks are common and do occur even in supermodels. 90% of the population has 1 or more stretch mark somewhere on their body. It is not a disease, but usually an aesthetic concern of many women. As a mother myself, who has ‘earned her stripes’ (three times to be specific), I am extra passionate about this topic!
Stretch marks, also known as striae, are defined as “linear dermal scars accompanied by epidermal atrophy’
Striae – skin that is subjected to continuous and progressive stretching; increased stress is placed on the connective tissue due to increased size of the various parts of the body. Skin distension may lead to excessive mast cell degranulation with subsequent damage of collagen and elastin. 1
The onset of stretch marks can often be seen during puberty (growth spurts), pregnancy or a rapid weight gain.
New stretch marks are usually pink (striae rubra). Over time usually after six months, the pink colour fades and turns to white (striae alba) – an old stretch mark which becomes permanent.
What is interesting is the fact, that striae are also related to an excess of certain hormones, namely cortisol.
This can be seen when people with no stretch marks commence steroid therapy and they then develop new stretch marks even if their weight doesn’t change. Similarly, as seen in Cushing’s syndrome.
So how do we manage stretch marks?
“Prevention is better than cure”
With stretch marks, prevention is best but early interventions would yield satisfactory results too.
The current medical devices that can be used for external treatments are:
- Pulsed-Dye Laser
- Best for newly formed stretch marks because it aims to correct, and improve the blood vessels responsible for circulating oxygenated blood supply to the location of stretch marks.
- Fractional Non-ablative Laser
- Helps stimulate coagulation in the dermal connective tissue which is effective in old stretch marks. Treatments are done every 6 to 8 weeks. After 4-5 sessions, texture of stretch marks is remarkably improved by 50%.
- Improves skin texture and hyperpigmentation and encouragement of new epidermal layer. Since microdermabrasion affects mainly the epidermis, improvements are minimal.
- Skin Tightening Device – Radiofrequency
- Radiofrequency devices deeply heat the target soft connective tissues, resulting in stimulation of collagen and elastin, which leads to increase in skin tightening.
- Acoustic Wave Therapy
- By mechanically stretching and relaxing and the released energy of acoustic waves initiates physiological processes.
The types of treatment that are suitable may differ from person to person depending on genetic, hormones and ethnicity. The likelihood of Asians getting PIH (post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation) with aggressive fractional laser settings must be taken into consideration when choosing the right treatment.
New treatment tools, clinical studies, and multi-approach protocols are introduced every so often. Many physicians have tried a combination of PRP (Platelet-rich-plasma) or Sculptra (Poly-L-lactic-acid) injections, and hormone analysis as part of their treatment regime. I have definitely used those mentioned combinations before in treating stretch marks and happy to see good results.
I am always looking forward to discovering new methods to battle with this #stretchies, because as much as women can readily embrace their newly earned tiger stripes, they also love that bikini-beach-body-ready for sure!
JUNE 2016 – INTERNATIONAL THAI COSDERM CONGRESS ON AESTHETIC MEDICINE . (6TH ITCAM BANGKOK)
PRESENTATION ON STRETCH MARKS : REVIEW AND UPDATE ON TREATMENTS
1.Sheu HM, Yu HS, Chang CH. Mast cell degranulation and elastolysis in the early stage of striae distensae.J Cutan Pathol. 1991 Dec. 18(6):410-6.