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Fraxel® for Treatment of Stretch Marks

Stretch Marks

Stretch marks are thin, linear scars that develop in males and females after rapid growth. It is a very common condition that can be very distressing, but is usually only of cosmetic concern. Stretch marks commonly occur in boys and girls during puberty, where there is rapid growth and weight gain, and during pregnancy. Bodybuilders, especially if they take dangerous steroid drugs, can develop stretch marks. Rarely, stretch marks can be related to a medical condition called Cushing’s disease, where too much cortisone is produced and medical attention must be sought.

What causes stretch marks?

It is believed that an increase in glucocorticoid hormone during puberty, pregnancy, and Cushing’s disease affects the dermis of the skin and prevents the formation of collagen and elastin fibres. There is decreased supportive structure of the skin and when the skin is stretched, small tears occur, leading to stretch marks. The epidermis is also affected and becomes thinner and flatter. Blood vessels dilate, or enlarge, and cause the red discolouration. With healing over time, there is loss of the pigment cells, causing the white or silvery colour of mature stretch marks. The use of long-term, potent steroid creams, especially in areas of thin skin, can cause stretch marks because of excessive thinning of the skin.

What is the appearance of stretch marks?

New stretch marks are purplish-red in colour. With time, they fade to silvery-white lines. Males commonly develop stretch marks on their shoulders, arms, back, abdomen, and thighs. Females can develop stretch marks on their breasts, abdomen, hips, buttocks, and thighs.

Can stretch marks be prevented?

Stretch marks commonly occur during puberty and pregnancy and they cannot be prevented. Avoidance of rapid weight gain at other times will prevent stretch marks. There are no creams that will prevent stretch marks.

Do any creams help stretch marks fade?

If treated early, tretinoin cream and alphahydroxy acid creams can help minimize the appearance of stretch marks. They exfoliate the skin and stimulate the growth of new cells so stretch marks appear improved. Tretinoin cream cannot be used during pregnancy. Moisturizers keep the skin soft and may help the appearance of stretch marks.

What treatments remove stretch marks?

Tretinoin cream, alphahydroxy acid creams, chemical peels, pulsed dye laser treatments, and intense pulsed light treatments have been used to treat stretch marks with varying degrees of success.

The most effective treatment for stretch marks is the Fraxel® laser treatment. The Fraxel laser’s energy penetrates into the dermis and stimulates fibroblasts and the production of new collagen. The new collagen thickens the skin of stretch marks to make it more closely resemble normal skin. Fraxel® laser also improves the red discolouration of new stretch marks and the silvery colour of mature stretch marks. A series of Fraxel® laser treatments is necessary and the stretch marks continue to improve for about 6 months after the last Fraxel® treatment. Stretch marks in any area can be treated by Fraxel® laser. A recent study showed that Fraxel® laser treatments improved the appearance of stretch marks by as much as 75%.

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Canadian Dermatology Association
Canadian Dermatology Association

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