One of many women’s unending quests is to be rid of stretch marks. Some people are more prone to them than others due to genetics, and they result when the deeper skin layer, the dermis, expands rapidly.
It splits and raptures with the collagen and elastic bonds breaking. This results in the telltale marks that appear most often during teenage growth spurts, pregnancy and during times of intense weight gain or loss.
However, as much as they appear easily, they are notoriously difficult to remove. According to Dr Salome Kivanguli Muravvej of Allure Laser, Skin and Aesthetic Medicine Centre based in Mombasa, it is easiest to reduce the visibility of these marks within the
first two years of appearance, and while they are still red. “Once they turn white, it is much harder,” she says. In addition, no single treatment can completely clear stretch marks; they can generally only be reduced by about 50 per cent.
“They might indicate (endocrine imbalances such as) Cushing’s syndrome.” This syndrome may be caused by excessive steroid use. “Bleaching creams can also give you stretch marks,” she adds. All these medical causes will have to be ruled out before
cosmetic treatment can proceed.
For cosmetic relief, one can apply topical retinoic acid (Retin A), a form of vitamin A, which promotes the healing of the skin. “Pregnant and breast feeding women can’t use it,” Dr Kivanguli points out, “although this is when most women get stretch marks.”
Other treatments one can try are:
Microdermabrasion: This uses a slightly abrasive instrument to ‘sand’ the skin. Multiple treatments are required.
Micro needling aka Collagen Induction Therapy: A tool such as Dermapen ™ is used to create controlled micro tears in the skin in order to encourage collagen to grow, which is how the skin naturally repairs itself.
Pixel laser treatment: This is the newest form of stretchmark treatment. According to Dr Pranav Pancholi of Avane Clinic, it is similar to micro needling, except that it uses laser.
“The laser penetrates the skin causing painless micro wounds. This stimulates new collagen bonds to form, which fills in the vacant collagen area caused by the stretch marks. This results in smoother skin,” he says.
It is part of a combination therapy and is used in conjunction with topical retinoids.
Ultimately, Dr Kivanguli says that the best way to get rid of stretch marks is to do one’s best not to get them in the first place. “Avoid rapid weight loss or gain, and improper use of steroids.”
However, remember that why they appear is largely genetic, and that once present, they will fade on their own with time.