Stretch marks are scars that develop when the skin experiences a sudden stretch from weight gain or shrinkage from weight loss. The elastin and collagen which are supporting the skin get ruptured. As the skin heals gradually, scars may appear which are usually in the form of narrow bands.
It is advisable to consult a qualified medical professional, such as UK trained dermatologist in Singapore, Dr. Liew Hui Min. Your dermatologist should advise you on suitable treatment products and procedures after considering your age, medical history, lifestyle and other factors.
Causes of Stretch Marks
Common causes which play a role in the formation of stretch marks include fluctuating hormone level and hereditary factors amongst many others.
It is observed that stretch marks are most likely to develop during puberty, with associated growth spurts, pregnancy, or when a person gains or loses weight rapidly. A person who is undergoing weight training to grow his muscles rapidly may also have stretch marks.
Individuals who are suffering from Marfan syndrome or Cushing’s disease may find stretch marks appearing on their body. If corticosteroid is applied to the skin continuously for a longer period of time, it can cause stretch marks.
Depending on the color of the skin, the initial stretch-mark color will also vary from red, pink, purple, dark brown or reddish-brown. The skin is slightly raised and may itch at the places where the stretch marks appear. However, over a period of time, the stretch mark color will fade, and the bands may shrink slightly below skin level.
Treating stretch marks
Since stretch marks are scars, they are permanent, although treatment could help improve their appearance by making them less noticeable. Suitable treatment can reduce itching.
Pregnant and breastfeeding women should consult a doctor before treating the stretch marks, since some of the products available contain ingredients like retinol which can harm the baby. Research has noted that no treatment is effective for every person who has stretch marks and some products could no effect on stretch marks at all.
There are many creams, gels and lotions for stretch marks and their effectiveness vary. To increase the effectiveness of these products, they should be massaged into the skin and applied daily for many weeks. These products should be applied on the stretch marks soon after they appear as their effectiveness reduces over a period of time.
Research indicates the popular home remedies like vitamin E, olive oil, cocoa butter, almond oil are not effective in reducing stretch marks. Tanning will not get rid of stretch marks, though a self-tanner can help in camouflaging the stretch marks.
Hyaluronic acid is a prescription medicine. Studies indicate that applying the acid to the stretch marks immediately after they appear can make them less visible.
Tretinoin and retinol, are retinoids available on prescription which can also help in fading the stretch marks. Centella may also be used.
Dermatologists are offering a number of procedures like microdermabrasion, chemical peel, laser therapy, radio-frequency and ultrasound to reduce the appearance of stretch marks.
For optimal results, more than one procedure may be combined, such as the coupling of radio-frequency and laser treatment. You should be aware that there may be side effects, like redness and swelling. However, these side effects will usually resolve quickly.