- Stretch marks are caused by the tearing of the dermis, the layer below the epidermis, and are typically due to sudden weight gain or loss.
- Microdermabrasion is a treatment that fades these marks by encouraging the growth of new skin cells.
- It may take up to 10 microdermabrasion treatments to achieve desired effects.
- Alternative treatments include topical creams and laser treatments.
Stretch marks, or striae gravidarum, are scars on the body caused by the tearing of tissue below the surface of the skin as a result of rapid weight gain or loss, such as during pregnancy or puberty. Many dermatologists advise microdermabrasion for stretch marks, as it is an effective treatment that can reduce their appearance by exfoliating the skin.
These marks are a very common skin complaint; they are considered unsightly and may cause some individuals to feel self-conscious about their body.
What Are Stretch Marks and What Causes Them?
Stretch marks are lines and streaks that appear across the skin due to rapid changes in weight. This has a negative impact on collagen and elastin that functions to support the skin as these proteins are not able to keep pace with the rapid growth of the body. Scars form when the skin attempts to repair itself and revert to its original state.
These marks form anywhere on your body, but are most common in areas that store the most fat, such as the:
- Upper arms
Stretch marks occur in the middle layer of your skin, known as the dermis. They may first appear as red or purple in color before losing pigmentation over time, and will vary in length and width.
Severe stretch marks are usually darker in appearance, and there will be a noticeable difference in texture from the surrounding unblemished skin. These scars are more difficult to treat, and usually require more invasive treatments to effectively reduce their appearance.
Stretch marks are caused by a variety of factors, including:
- Gaining or losing weight quickly
- Prolonged steroid cream use
These marks affect up to 90% of women during pregnancy. The rapid growth and weight gain around the abdominal area causes the skin around the stomach and hips to stretch, especially during the last trimester.
Can Microdermabrasion Remove Stretch Marks?
While microdermabrasion will not completely remove these marks, multiple studies have demonstrated that this treatment can effectively reduce their appearance. However, regular sessions are essential – some patients may need up to 10 treatments before they see significant results. The amount of sessions needed will ultimately depend on the severity of the stretch marks.
As a standalone skin care treatment, microdermabrasion is most effective for those with mild-to-moderate stretch marks. Those with more severe, deeper marks would benefit from a combination of treatments, such as a chemical peel and a retinoid cream, to achieve comparable results.
How does it work?
Microdermabrasion works by buffing the epidermis, the top layer of the skin. During treatment, a handheld device is used to spray a stream of exfoliating microcrystals over the skin, which sands away dead skin cells. This exfoliation stimulates the growth of new, healthy cells.
You shouldn’t feel any pain or discomfort while the treatment is being performed. It is a relatively quick procedure, with each treatment taking an average of 30 minutes to complete.
Cost of Microdermabrasion
In-office microdermabrasion costs can vary depending on location and the provider. Typically, the cost per session ranges from $75–$300. As repeat sessions are required (often between 5–10), treatments can become costly.
At-home microdermabrasion kits are a less expensive alternative, ranging from $75–$300, but there are associated risks. Improper use of these devices may damage skin, causing abrasions and scarring. As well, results from at-home devices are unlikely to be as effective as an in-office treatment performed by a professional dermatologist.
Other Benefits of Microdermabrasion
In addition to reducing the appearance of stretch marks, microdermabrasion also provides several other benefits:
- Lightens postinflammatroy hyperpigmentation that is associated with acne flare-ups
- Improves skin tone and texture, resulting in a brighter complexion
- Targets the major signs of aging such as dry skin, age spots and fine lines
- Reduces the appearance of enlarged pores, fine lines and scarring
Alternative Treatments for Stretch Marks
If you feel microdermabrasion is not appropriate for you, several alternative treatments are available, ranging from topical creams to chemical peels and laser treatments.
Tretinoin, a form of retinoid, works by stimulating collagen production within the skin. These creams are used as a prescribed treatment, and are considered to be as effective as dermabrasion treatments. However, due to their potency, tretinoin cream may cause skin irritation.
Chemical peels use a combination of acids, such as glycolic and salicylic acid to deeply exfoliate the skin and stimulate collagen production. Chemical peels have been shown to reduce the appearance of stretch marks, however they do involve a longer healing process than microdermabrasion due to the powerful ingredients used.
There are two main forms of laser treatments: ablative and nonablative
Ablative laser treatments will not eliminate stretch marks completely but they are effective in significantly reducing their appearance. These treatments use intense wavelengths of light energy that removes surface layers of skin. This stimulates the regeneration of fresh, new skin cells. Ablative treatments may cause redness and irritation after the procedure.
Nonablative laser treatments are a milder alternative that stimulates collagen growth deep within the skin, without affecting the topmost layer of skin. These treatments have few associated side effects, and provide effective results by fading stretch marks. Much like ablative laser treatments, they are unable to completely remove these marks.
Stretch marks commonly occur during rapid weight loss or gain, such as during pregnancy and puberty when skin stretches and cannot revert to its original state. Microdermabrasion is an appropriate treatment for these marks as it deeply exfoliates and stimulates the growth of new skin cells to fade their appearance.
Microdermabrasion is effective in reducing the appearance of stretch marks with 5–10 treatments recommended to achieve the desired results. This may become costly if you have moderate-to-severe scarring.
When performed by a professional, microdermabrasion is a quick and pain-free treatment, with very little risk of complications. Alternative treatments include topical creams, laser treatments and chemical peels. It’s important to consider the severity of your marks to understand which treatment would work best for you.
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