stretch-marksWhat woman hasn’t complained about the stretch marks that have been left behind after a preganancy? To date there are no conservative measures that have been proven to improve the appearance of stretch marks (striae distensae or SD). This very common dermatologic condition has plagued women for centuries. Sadly, all of the creams and home remedies to date have fallen short of patient and physician expectations. While surgery remains the mainstay of treatment for stretch marks, the advent of lasers has produced a viable option for women that want to improve the appearance of stretch marks without resorting to surgical intervention.

What are stretch marks and what causes them?

Stretch marks (striae distensae or striae gravidarum) are often the result of the rapid stretching of the skin associated with rapid growth or rapid weight changes. Stretch marks in most cases may also be influenced by hormonal changes associated with puberty, pregnancy, hormone replacement therapy. They occur in 50% to 90% of women who become pregnant. Typically, they appear as red or purple lines or streaks that fade slowly to leave pale lines or marks on the skin. The abdomen, breasts and thighs are commonly affected. The mechanism of formation is not fully understood, but glucocorticoid hormones responsible for the development of stretch marks affect the dermis by preventing the fibroblasts from forming collagen and elastin fibers, necessary to keep rapidly growing skin taut. This creates a lack of supportive material, as the skin is stretched and leads to dermal and epidermal tearing which then leads to the marks left on the skin.

Management of Stretch Marks over the Years

Since ancient times, pregnant women have sought remedies to prevent stretch marks during pregnancy. The Greeks and Romans used olive oil as a home remedy, while Ethiopians described the use of frankincense for treatment of stretch marks. Both of these treatments have surged in their use in recent years; however, neither has proven effective in eliminating their presence. Conventional treatment includes topical 0.1% tretinoin cream (Retin A) mixed with various moisturizers such as Shea butter and cocoa butter. Some unconventional prevention therapies include applying castor oil, taking thiosinaminum, applying seaweed wraps, using topical glycolic or fruit acids, and various other homeopathic creams and/or oil. To date, nothing appears to definitively prevent striae gravidarum from forming and nothing seems to definitively improve their appearance until now…

Resurfx Non-Ablative Fractional Laser Therapy for Stretch Marks

The Resurfx laser (Lumenis Ltd, Israel) provides an option for improvement of stretch marks that is lasting and visibly improved from pre-treatment status. Research performed in China and Italy has demonstrated the effectiveness and safety of non-ablative fractional 1565 nm laser (ResurFX) on the appearance of stretch marks.   This research has demonstrated a greater than 50% improvement in the volume of depressions and an 80-90% improvement in lesion color. All this comes with minimal discomfort and an observed downtime of approximately 4 days. Transient erythema (redness) and swelling were noted immediately after the procedure, but long-lasting severe adverse effects were not observed.*

*Tretti Clementoni M, Lavagno R. A novel 1565 nm non-ablative fractional device for stretch marks: A preliminary report. J Cosmet Laser Ther. 2015 Jun; 17 (3): 148-55.