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  Stretch Marks - There is Hope

Stretch Marks - There is Hope

By Mariusz J.A. Sapijaszko, MD FRCPC (Dermatology)

Stretch marks - All of us hate them and yet most of us have them. Fortunately, not all is lost. Is there anything that can be done to prevent them? Most experts say no. Is there anything to treat them? The answer is YES. (Read other articles on stretch marks and looking after your skin on )

Who Gets Stretch Marks?

Stretch marks are a common skin abnormality that is of significant cosmetic concern. They occur mostly in women (up to 90% of pregnant women and 70% of adolescent women) than men (up to 40% of adolescent men). Visibly, stretch marks are thin linear scars that initially appear red to purple and then, over time, become lighter in color. The main causes of stretch marks are pregnancy, adolescent hormonal and weight changes, exercise (enlarging muscles) as well as the application of potent cortisone creams. The distribution of stretch marks on the body varies but the most common locations are breasts, abdomen, buttocks and shoulders.

Topical Treatment of Stretch Marks

Although many preparations have been marketed as prevention against forming stretch marks, the studies failed to show consistent benefits. Once the stretch marks are present, our attention should be directed at treating them. One of the most studied and documented substances is tretinoin and, related compound, retinol. These substances are derivatives of vitamin A and likely act by modulating collage production.

Laser Treatment of Stretch Marks

Laser and IPL (Intense Pulsed Light) also have an important role in the treatment of new as well as more mature stretch marks. Gradual, incremental improvement in the color, texture and irregularity of stretch marks rather than complete elimination is the reasonable goal. IPL is a device that emits light composed of multitude of wavelengths. Visible improvements demonstrate less obvious, shorter and narrower stretch marks whereas microscopic changes show increased thickness of the epidermis, improved quality of the collagen and less inflammation in post treatment specimens.

Despite the fact that preventative modalities have proven largely unsuccessful, there is hope in terms of treating stretch marks once they occur. The most efficacious methods include topical tretinoin or retinol products as well as laser and IPL phototherapy. All patients are encouraged to seek medical help as not all is lost and the improvements can be achieved with relatively safe methods.

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About the author:

Mariusz J. A. Sapijaszko, MD FRCPC is the Director of the Western Canada Dermatology Institute located in Edmonton, Alberta. He is also the Clinical Assistant Professor at the Division of Dermatology, University of Alberta, in Edmonton. His areas of expertise include cosmetic and laser surgery. Learn more on his