In honor of St. Patrick’s Day, here is an article on Stretch Marks Removal and, in it, is a discussion for those who are of Irish descent and how Irish Stretch Marks have a “silvery lining”; people who are Asian or African American (Black) have darker stretch marks that stay visible over a longer period of time.
This article discusses how to get rid of stretch marks, what causes stretch marks, and alternative to stretch marks removal such as stretch marks creams, lotions, gels, stretch marks acid peels, laser treatment, microdermabrasion for stretch marks 1.
Okay, so maybe the problem doesn’t rank up there with world hunger, air pollution, global unrest or even paying your rent on time, but stretch marks–those unattractive reddish streaks that show up when your body changes too quickly–can be an unsightly nuisance. When you’re committed to eating right and maximizing your workouts to look and feel your best, it’s kind of a drag to develop these hard-to-get-rid-of lines (basically, scars that result from overtaxing your skin’s elasticity) just as you’re really starting to make some progress.
While most experts agree on the causes of striae atrophicae (the medical term for stretch marks), they have widely divergent ideas about how to best prevent and treat them. The following should help you separate fact from hype and expand your understanding of this common but nonetheless irritating condition.
birth of “those lines” stretch marks
According to facial plastic and reconstructive surgeon Mark A. Erlich, MD, clinical assistant professor at New York Medical College, stretch marks are caused by
a rupture of elastic tissue in the dermis [skin] along linear tracks, which causes purple lines that fade to become white, depressed surface irregularities. They’re typically caused by rapid growth, weight gain, pregnancy and also by weight loss.” Paul Carniol, MD, clinical associate professor, University of Medicine and Dentistry, New Jersey, and vice president of the International Society of Cosmetic Laser Surgery, offers a slightly different take on the situation: “The weight gain is the actual cause of the stretch marks–this is when the damage is done. When you lose weight, the skin becomes looser. This often makes the marks become more noticeable.
Board certified clinical and research dermatologist Nicholas Perricone, MD, FACN, assistant clinical professor of dermatology at Yale University School of Medicine and author of the New York Times bestseller The Wrinkle Cure (Warner Books, May 2001) recommends that an active person of either sex gain no more than 2% of his or her total body weight per month to avoid developing many stretch marks. This would translate into a 140-pound woman putting on no more than 2.8 pounds (2% of her bodyweight) in a 30-day period. He also believes a diet with adequate amounts of protein may help minimize stretch marks. Protein helps the skin repair itself, and thus, theoretically, makes the dermis more supple.
Typically, women complain of stretch marks mostly on the abdomen, breasts and buttocks. It takes about a year or more for the “fresh” red marks to fade to white/silvery streaks. Many experts agree that there is a genetic tendency toward stretch marks (if a parent or sibling has them, you probably will, too), and age could be a factor, as well. Ironically, notes Perricone, you may be more likely to develop stretch marks in your teens, 20s and 30s, when your skin is more elastic. Rapid cellular turnover during the growth years and pregnancy causes the collagen and elastin producing cells to become overburdened, resulting in faulty production of collagen and elastin. In your 40s and beyond, your skin is generally looser on your body, which means you’re less likely to develop the marks.
In addition, there is some professional debate about whether some skin types are more prone to developing stretch marks. Perricone, for example, asserts that many fair-complexioned women, whose skin is generally thinner than that of men (due to them having less testosterone) tend to suffer more from the “crepe-y” look when their marks turn white. And, while Carniol believes that ethnicity and skin tone do not play much of a factor, Richard Silverman, MD, assistant professor of surgery at the University of Massachusetts Medical School, based at St. Elizabeth’s Medical Center in Boston, disagrees:
I would think skin type would make a difference. People of English or Irish descent with light skin may have silvery stretch marks that are less noticeable, while individuals of different ethnic backgrounds who are darker complexioned tend to develop marks that stay dark and more visible over time.
Yet, regardless of your sex, skin type, diet or genetic predisposition, as Silverman says:
“There is no surefire way to avoid stretch marks. Gradual growth” he adds, “may aid in minimizing them. It isn’t clear whether or not skin moisturizers will help in this endeavor, but they wouldn’t hurt.”
stretch marks creams, gels and lotions
Manufacturers claim that cocoa butter and myriad other herbs and topical products can prevent or get rid of stretch marks. Do these products have any merit? Again, there is ongoing controversy. What you should remember, however, is that cosmetics are not subject to the same stringent FDA standards that medications must meet. In short, these products may or may not have value. Evaluate them on a case-by-case basis, rather than as a whole.
When you explore the plethora of topical and herbal remedies on the market, Carniol suggests visiting a product’s website, contacting the manufacturer and asking them to send a small sample, along with studies that indicate the effectiveness of the product. Perricone, who has his own product line, NVPerricone, M.D. Cosmeceuticals, comes from a somewhat different place. He has been granted a patent on DMAE (dimethylaminoethanol), a firming ingredient found in the human body, salmon and other natural sources. Perricone claims that DMAE contains an anti-inflammatory property that lessens redness in fresh marks and makes the skin tighter, reducing the “crepe-y” look of older stretch marks and making the skin smoother overall. Still, the dermatologist adds that some cosmetic aspects of the DMAE action last only 24 hours.
Of course, the list of remedies continues to expand. The ever-popular Retin-A cream is another contender. According to Silverman, Retin-A affects the deeper layers of skin and may improve appearances somewhat. “It increases the hydration level of the dermis and has an impact on collagen production,” he says. Silverman is skeptical about Retin-A’s value as a long-term treatment. (Note: Retin-A is not recommended for women who are pregnant or nursing.)
stretch marks and lasers
If the controversy over topical preparations and herbal remedies isn’t heated enough, the practice of using lasers to treat stretch marks seems to be an equally scorching and polarizing topic. Silverman, who has used lasers very sparingly in his practice, has generally not been happy with the results. Carniol, however, specializes in laser treatments and has edited two books: Laser Skin Rejuvenation (Lippincott-Raven, 1998) and Facial Rejuvenation (Wiley-Liss, 2001). He says:
“Usually, the laser treatment for stretch marks takes less than 30 minutes and requires no anesthesia. It works by stimulating the production of collagen and elastin in the affected area, but the results vary from person to person. I would say some people have a 20%-50% improvement in the appearance of stretch marks after a series of treatments, with an uncommon result being as high as 80%.”
Carniol uses SmoothBeam Laser, a pulsed laser that heats the deeper layers of the skin to stimulate new collagen and elastic fibers to repair the stretch marks. He advises patients to seek treatment as soon as possible, since newer stretch marks respond more favorably to laser treatments.
acid peels for stretch marks
Meanwhile, other alternative treatments for stretch marks continue to garner attention. Silverman has had good results on marks that are less than a year old with the Obagi “Blue Peel,” a tricarboxylic acid peel. Basically, the procedure involves applying a solution to the affected area (he favors a 20% concentrated solution in two layers, with a five-minute break between the two applications). The solution’s interaction with the skin creates a “frosting” on the area, with a bluish tint that helps the physician determine the depth of the peel. The frosting is then washed off and for the next one to two weeks, the affected area peels like a “deep sunburn.” Once the area heals, Silverman claims the improvement in the look of the stretch marks can be as high as 60%-80%, but only with marks that are less than a year old.
microdermabrasion for stretch marks
Microdermabrasion uses a combination of salt crystals, antioxidant creams and ultrasound to minimize stretch marks. Patients may see improvements after about seven visits. Silverman, who performs microdermabrasion at his office, says it is a good method for exfoliation and “things that exfoliate are good for inconsistencies,” such as stretch marks. However, he explains that this has not proven to be an effective long-term treatment.
“When the stretch-mark solution comes along, that person is going to be very rich and we’re all going to know about it,” he says.
the quick fix for stretch marks
Finally, if you are on a budget and looking for the quickest fix possible, you can simply cover up your stretch marks with makeup. Dermablend is a very popular waterproof brand–good for both sweating and swimming. As a variation on the camouflage theme, self-tanning products have come a long way and have been suggested as a means of making red marks less noticeable by darkening the skin around them.
In truth, the development of stretch marks is almost inevitable for women, but the good news is that you can at least minimize their appearance by gradually losing or gaining weight–rapid changes makes them worse. If, despite your best efforts, you develop a bad case of marks, it’s wise to do your homework and check out the credentials and references of anyone who is proposing to perform laser surgery, microdermabrasion or any other procedure. Likewise, approach topical cures and over-the-counter products with a healthy skepticism, and when all else fails, simply shrug off stretch marks as one of life’s inescapable little evils–after all, they’re hardly in the realm of death or taxes!
- Deborah Meier Brown “The truth about stretch marks: here’s your guide to banishing the marks of physiques past”. Muscle & Fitness/Hers. FindArticles.com. 17 Mar, 2010. http://findarticles.com/p/articles/mi_m0KGB/is_5_4/ai_n6006188/, Deborah Meier Brown has written health and lifestyle articles for The Washington Times and a wide variety of national and regional publications. The Los Angeles-based writer covers medical, chiropractic and osteopathic subjects. Additional reporting by Brandy D. Colbert. ↩
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