In some occasion, some people are afraid to wear revealing clothes, particularly women. The problem might not be the unavailable size or the low confidence, but because of stretch mark. It forces people to cover the affected area. Luckily, there are ways to remove the disturbing skin pattern and one of the most recommended option is laser treatment.
What Are Stretch Mark?
Among the other body part, skin is probably the most elastic organ. Its ability to expand and contract is the strongest, extended as much as needed. The only condition is the alteration doesn’t happen too quickly or pass the limit. Skin is able to adapt in relatively short time, but the supporting tissue might refuse to cooperate, leading to skin damage.
Nonetheless, the rapid skin expansion happens quite often and causes stretch mark. It appears as cracks, lining up on the stretched area. This is the result of broken collagen fiber in skin connective tissue. In most cases, the blood vessels would be more visible in the area. Therefore, there might be red or purplish tone along the line for new stretch mark.
It doesn’t mean that the white colored lines are not stretch mark. The white lines appear as the skin heal the crack, covering just enough to hide the blood vessel and fail to connect the broken supportive tissue. Skin breaking process is not painful. In fact, not many of the patients know that they got stretch mark on their skin. However, in one way or another, it will affect the patients’ self confidence.
What Are The Causes?
Since this case has been around for years, dermatologists won’t have any problem listing the cause of stretch mark. While the process technically could happen to anyone, there are several groups that are more prone to this condition. The first group is for those with genetics carrier. If a mother has stretch mark after giving birth, the daughter would automatically share similar trait.
Losing and gaining weight in certain period also belong to genetics factor. These two cases also expose the patients to stretch mark. It is similar to young people who go through puberty stage. Since their cells are in the peak of growing period, stretch mark might appear as the skin cannot keep up with the rapid pace.
A paper published in American Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology claims that stretch mark often happen to women, particularly those who get pregnant in young age or gain weight during pregnancy. Even so, this theory doesn’t work on every new mother. There is no stretch mark found on some mothers who fit the mentioned condition.
One more possible group that might get stretch mark easily is the people who are building their muscle. It is not the work out session that break the skin, but the hormonal supplements consumed. The extra hormonal supply will raise the level of steroid, since the goal is to build the muscle. While pumping the muscle layer, steroid is weakening the collagen cells. As the result, it is easier to break the skin.
Where Does Stretch Mark Usually Appear?
Theoretically, stretch mark could appear in any part of the body, since it happens to the skin. After years of experiences, dermatologists find certain area where stretch mark often develop. The most fragile area is abdomen. The reason is simple: when people gain weight, the fat is usually stored under the belly, since it is rarely moved.
Some other areas include thighs, hips, buttocks, lower back, arms and chests. Believe it or not, the mentioned body part are often used and received high pressure. As the result of the high stress, the skin tissue is expanded.
Why Stretch Mark Laser Removal Is Better?
Compared to the other methods, laser removal is the newest technology. Despite its relatively short period in the market, many dermatologists approve that this machine could improve skin appearance. The machine used is called pulsed dye laser and the procedure should be done by either plastic, cosmetic or skin surgeon. Before accepting any other offers, the patients must have good consideration.
While having the laser treatment, the skin experts would use a machine that emits a beam of light. It works to erase the thin layers that hug the area around the stretch mark. For the best result, many dermatologists choose to use excimer laser. The patients won’t feel any pain. Laser light in the procedure doesn’t burn or cut the skin, but transferring high ultraviolet light to the intended skin layer.
The expected result is disrupted molecular bonds. If the process is successful, then the skin will go to the next progress; the ablation. In the end of stretch mark laser removal treatment, the heated skin will heal in rapid pace and trigger the growth of healthier skin.
What Should Be Expected After Stretch Mark Laser Treatment?
Before mentioning the other points, the patients should understand that the whole treatment might extend up to 20 visits before the stretch mark is completely gone. After each visit, the treated area might be red and tender as the result of being heated by the laser light. If observed through the microscope lens, the skin surface will not be seen. It is removed in purpose to give room for new skin to grow.
The redness experienced by each patient is different. Some of them report the burning symptoms as well as blistering. Luckily, these uncomfortable post treatment effects won’t last long. For most patients, the symptoms would be gone after a few days. For those who are recommended to undergo longer period of treatment, the healing process would take some time, too.
What Are The Possible Risk Of Laser Treatment?
From medical point of view, laser procedure to remove stretch mark has no side effect at all. It is even claimed as the most effective method, as the dermatologists could control the power of laser light used in the treatment. Compared to the other method such as skin removal surgery, laser procedure promises shorter healing period with no further complications or new scar.
The only problem that might arise is the mishandling. As far as the laser machine could be controlled, there is certain standard set by the manufacturers and medical rule to maximize its function to heal the patients. If the patients choose less experienced surgeon, the chance of having superficial tissue damage is quite high.
Is There Any Other Options?
In medical world, there is no such thing as sole savior. For each problem, there are usually more than three ways to solve it. This is not an exception for stretch mark case. Laser might be recommended by the patients to their families and relatives, but some other nice medication option should not be disregarded. One of them might work better for certain case, after all.
There was a research finding, stating that 0.1 percent of tretinoin (retinoic acid) could help erasing the stretch mark in its early stage. Sadly, some other researches who repeat the study to different group bring back different findings. The pioneer researcher might use retinoic acid after learning that this compound could be absorbed by the upper skin layer and help rebuilding the missing collagen.
However, similar topical medication has side effects such as redness and peeling, specifically for mother wanna be and nursing women. For this reason, retinoic acid could only be bought when the patients bring a prescription. Moreover, this treatment only works best on early stage. Once the stretch mark turns white, applying retinoic acid won’t help much.
- Platelet-rich Plasma With Ultrasound
If the patients hope to gain noticeable result since the first treatment, then this option is the best bet to try. It might not be as brand new as laser technology, but PRP paired with ultrasound also provides promising result. Since the problem in stretch mark is the lack of collagen, PRP aims to increase the production. As the pre requisite condition for the procedure, the patients will draw certain amount of blood.
In the laboratory, the blood will be processed, taking only the platelet rich plasma for the treatment. On the same day, the procedure is going to be carried. Thus, the PRP used is fresh. For this reason, about 70% of the patients who try this procedure give “good” or “very good” feedback to praise the final result.
- Plastic Surgery
It has been mentioned previously that pregnant women who gain more weight are more likely to have stretch mark after giving birth. In this case, plastic surgery might be the best solution. The procedure includes cutting the excess skin as well as rejuvenating the remaining skin layer and tissues. Another option to remove the sagging skin is by doing intense work out, which will be quite difficult for the mothers.
When the patients choose this option, there are several conditions they should meet. First, their weight must be stable, which might be used as a proof of healthy body. If the patients tend to gain and lose weight easily, then plastic surgery is out of option, moreover if the patients are active smokers. For those who had stopped smoking and wish to have the plastic surgery, it is better to have consultation first.
Keep in mind that surgery is not actually removing the root of stretch mark problem. It actually does the opposite: removing the whole skin that has stretch mark on it. In the end, the patients might find some stretch mark left on the skin; the area that is not touched by the scalpel. Should the patients have no problem with excessive skin, plastic surgery must be the last option.
Is There Any Way To Prevent It?
Old people say that it is better to prevent than cure an illness. If stretch mark is scarring the patients too much, there are several medication that could help. The products mostly marketed in cream and oil, categorized as skin product. Several popular items are cocoa butter, almond oil and olive oil. Unfortunately, none of these products clinically proven to stop stretch mark happening.
Why is it so? Because the breaking process happen in deeper skin layers, out of the ointment reach. There are some patients who are told by the shop keeper that applying the cream on stretch mark will improve the appearance. Sadly, it doesn’t work that way. If the patients are really eager to avoid the terrifying skin look, they might do proper skin care instead of depending on certain item.
The first rule is avoiding sun. In most cases, sunlight brings bad effect to the skin, especially when the individuals expose their skin to direct sun. It will break down collagen, so it is easier to break the layer. The proper skin care for this case is applying sunscreen. It is written nowhere in the label about preventing stretch mark, but sun screen helps to improve skin’s overall health as well as appearance.
Those who already have stretch mark on their body are suggested to avoid sunlight, as it could make the mark worse and more noticeable. Moreover, the habit will increase the possibility of skin cancer. Prevention step could also be done by providing enough moisture for the skin. Every morning after taking a bath, it is good to apply lotion on damp skin. The effect of it is soft and healthy look skin.
During the pregnancy, it is normal for the mothers to feel itchy in the expanded area. Applying lotion will help to relieve the itchiness. It is also important to keep healthy lifestyle to push the skin care from the inside. For instance, drinking a lot of water, consuming nutritious food and joining regular exercise would be a good start. Since gaining weight is normal for pregnant women, try to make it between 25 to 35 pounds only.
Since there are more than three reasons for having stretch mark, nobody is safe from this skin problem. Once the stretch mark shows, the individual has to step up and take action. Laser option is tempting, but if the budget doesn’t fit, some other options are available.