Treatments to improve the appearance of stretch marks include laser treatments, dermabrasion, and prescription retinoids. Additional treatments include radiofrequency treatments (RF) and abdominoplasty, or tummy tuck, which removes the skin below the navel where stretch marks often occur, as well as fractional laser resurfacing.
Fractional Laser Resurfacing is a form of photorejuvenation, which uses intense pulsed light to treat stretch marks. The intense heat creates small wounds in the affected areas. The controlled wounds gradually heal over time and significantly decrease the appearance of stretch marks as new, healthy skin grows.
The process was originally conducted with a CO2 laser; however, it is now performed with a fractional laser. Fractional lasers use tiny laser beams to apply intense heat to areas affected by stretch marks and other blemishes. The newest lasers have been developed to remove skin more precisely, layer by layer with minimal damage to the surrounding healthy skin.
Fractional lasers are also used to eliminate the appearance of scars, sun-damaged skin and spider veins.
Abdominoplasty, more commonly called a tummy tuck, is a cosmetic surgery that is used to make the abdomen firmer and reduce lower abdominal stretch marks. The lower abdominal region is part of the body where stretch marks frequently occur. Abdominoplasty is especially useful for people who have recently lost a great deal of weight.
As part of the surgery, excess skin and fat are removed from the abdomen with an incision that begins at one hip and extends to the other in a line extending just below the navel. The excess fat and skin are removed and the abdominal muscles and fascia are tightened using sutures. Liposuction is often used as part of the procedure to redefine the shape of the abdomen.
Recovery from a full abdominoplasty can take as long as six months for the largest of scars to heal.
There is little proven evidence that creams can help prevent or treat scars. Trofolastin is a cream that contains Centella asiatica extract, vitamin E, and collagen-elastic hydrolysates, has been associated with fewer stretch marks during pregnancy. Verum is another cream and contains vitamin E, panthenol, hyaluronic acid, elastin and mentol. It has also been associated with a decreased number of stretch marks during pregnancy, but only when compared to no treatment at all.
Cocoa butter is effective as a moisturizer but has not been proven to prevent the formation of stretch marks or treat stretch marks that have already formed.
Dermabrasion is a procedure that removes the epidermis of the skin with abrasion. Performed with a dermabrader, this process often removes sun-damaged skin andcan also be used to remove or lessen scars and other dark spots on the skin. Dermabrasion is painful, requiring the patient be under general or twilight anesthesia and often leaves the skin red and appearing “raw.” Over a process that takes several months, the skin regrows and heals. This procedure works better for raised, prominent scars and is less effective on scars or stretch marks that are level with or sunken into the skin.
Retinoids are also sometimes used to treat stretch marks as well.
Medical Review: Gauri Khurana, MD, (01/10)