Striae is the medical term used for what are more commonly referred to as stretch marks. They are in fact more associated with a form of scarring, than a mark, and are where tears or fractures occur in the dermal layers of skin. This breakage creates raised lines which are red or purply-blue in colour, fading and reducing in prominence over time to thin, white lines on the surface of the skin.
There are many myths and incorrect facts surrounding stretch marks, both in terms of how they happen, how and if you can prevent them, who they affect and how to treat them. So, let’s look at a few:
Stretch marks only affect women
This is not true. Yes, many women get stretch marks due to pregnancy and childbirth, but men can get stretch marks too, and women can get them due to reasons other than having a baby. Stretch marks are incredibly common and are caused by a variety of changes in the female and male bodies, from adolescent growth spurts to rapid weight or muscle gain. Stretch marks can appear on the inner and outer thighs, the female breasts and male chest (especially in body builders), the hips, buttocks, lower back, stomach and even the arms. Your genes also play an important part in why you may be prone to developing stretch marks, as well as skin type, hormones, and your body fat.
You cannot prevent stretch marks
Preventing stretch marks is a very tricking business as you may just have a predisposition to getting them due to your skin type and genetic make-up, but there are things you can try which may help to stop them from forming or reduce their severity. Keeping your skin hydrated with regular application of moisturisers and oils when skin stretching is anticipated, such as during pregnancy, will help to keep the skin supple. Clinical research has shown that no one ingredient is ideal for the prevention of stretch marks, but keeping the skin hydrated by massaging in hydrating topical creams containing cocoa butter, coconut oil or shea butter will aid prevention. Regular exercise is also recommended to help tighten the skin to make it more elastic and capable of stretching without tearing. A healthy, balanced diet will also aid prevention of rapid weight gain which could cause stretch mark development.
Losing weight will get rid of stretch marks
Although stretch marks can be caused by rapid weight gain and stretching of the skin, sadly it does not work in reverse and stretch marks will not be eliminated by subsequent weight loss. This is because stretch marks are scarring in the dermal layers of the skin caused by a thinning and over stretching of the middle layers of skin during weight gain; scars do not reverse without intervention.
Skinny people do not get stretch marks
This is not true. Stretch marks can occur due to hormonal and genetic factors as well as weight gain, so teenagers and young adults, for example can get stretch marks as they grow up, regardless of their weight, Growth spurts, leading to a rapid growth in height can cause stretch marks on the hips and lower back for example.
Tanning gets rid of stretch marks
Tanning may cover up stretch marks, but it may also make them stand out more. It will not eliminate them. If you have older stretch marks which are now just white lines, then having a tan can make them more obvious as the surrounding skin will darken but the stretch mark will not; scar tissue does not tan.
You cannot treat stretch marks
At Hilton Skin Clinics we treat stretch marks using two different treatments, depending on the nature and age of your stretch marks. We use medical skin needling using either the hand-held Genuine Dermaroller or the automated EDS – Electronic Dermastamp. We also treat stretch marks with our laser skin resurfacing iPixel erbium laser.
With the Dermaroller or EDS we can encourage the skin to repair itself and create new collagen to regenerate the stretch marked area. Tiny needles penetrate quite superficially into the area, and this micro-trauma causes the body to start healing the scarring over the following 6 to 8 weeks, with further improvement after additional treatments and time.
The iPixel skin resurfacing laser works by delivering pulses of ablative laser energy to the stretch marks which creates tiny ‘damage’ zones about the size of a pixel on a computer screen. The creation of these small trauma zones, with entirely untouched and intact skin surrounding them also triggers the body’s natural healing processes and it sets about producing new collagen to repair the stretch mark.
For more information and to book an appointment to discuss your stretch marks and suitable treatment options, please contact us today.