Your Guide to Stretch Marks: What Causes Them & How to Treat Them

posted on:
March 29th, 2022
posted by:
Dr. Mulholland

As we age, it is very common for both men and women to develop stretch marks to some degree. Stretch marks can appear on both the young and old alike, and while they are purely cosmetic and not harmful, many find themselves embarrassed or unhappy by their appearance.

Due to this, many of those with stretch marks seek out ways to remove them, whether through cosmetic solutions or plastic surgery. But what exactly causes stretch marks, do stretch marks go away, and are these treatments effective in their removal?

Before we talk about how to get rid of stretch marks, let’s first talk more about what they even are.

What are Stretch Marks?

Stretch marks are a form of scarring that can occur when the skin either stretches or shrinks itself too quickly for it to keep its form. The abrupt change can cause the collagen and elastin in the skin to rupture and scar as stretch marks.

Stretch marks usually first appear as a noticeable red, pink, purple or brown, similar to the colour of a bruise, but over time the colour will fade to be closer to your skin tone.

At first, stretch marks may also be raised and slightly itchy at first, but later will narrow themselves and sink, possibly leaving a slight depression in the skin.

Stretch marks commonly appear during times of intense bodily changes, such as the following:

  • growth spurts during a time of puberty
  • Rapid or extreme weight gain
  • Rapid or extreme weight loss
  • Pregnancy, both as the skin stretches as well as when it shrinks back following pregnancy
  • Rapid muscle growth during times of weight training
  • Intense change or fluctuation of hormone levels

Stretch marks can appear in multiple places on the body where fat is stored, including the stomach, thighs, breasts, hips, and buttocks.

Treating Stretch Marks

Do stretch marks go away on their own? Generally, the answer is no, unless they are minor. Stretch marks are a form of scar, and like most scars, can be permanent. However, there are different types of stretch marks treatment available that may help reduce the appearance of stretch marks to the point of almost invisibility, especially while they are in the early stages of forming.

Topical Skin Treatments

There are many products on the market, such as gels, lotions, and creams. These products help keep the skin moisturized, supple, and more able to stretch along with changes to the skin.

When using these products, there are a few tips to consider.

Firstly, it is important to use these products as early as possible, at first signs of stretch marks, or even before if you know an intense bodily change is about to take place. In short, the earlier you can get your skin more elastic and less susceptible to tension, the better. Not only this, but once stretch marks begin to age and fade, they become harder to remove, and topical treatment may have little to no effect.

Another tip is to take your time massaging the product into your skin correctly, so it can more deeply penetrate the skin and increase its effectiveness, rather than sitting on the surface of the skin.

Lastly, it is important to ensure that you are using these products frequently and consistently. The application frequency of your treatment will vary depending on your specific product, but in general, this means using the product in the morning and again at night and re-applying when removed after showering. These products often take time to use and can sometimes take months before making noticeable improvements. In short, if you don’t see any changes after a few weeks, give it more time.

It is also important to note that many of these products contain retinol, and thus if you are pregnant or breastfeeding, you should first check with your doctor before using these types of products, as they may be harmful to your baby.

Home Remedies, Do They Work?

Home treatments for getting rid of stretch marks are widely debated on whether they are effective.

However, most studies have shown that popular remedies have little to no effect on stretch marks. This includes coconut butter, almond oils, olive oils, or vitamin E treatments.

However, these products are hydrating for the skin, and some people still swear by their effectiveness despite what research has shown.

It is also notable that tanning does not reduce the appearance of stretch marks. In fact, in some cases, it can make their appearance even more noticeable, as the scars themselves do not tan. However, a fake self-tanner can help camouflage the signs of stretch marks, as it stains the surface of the skin. This does not remove stretch marks, however, and will once again be visible once the tanner wears off.

Stretch Marks and Plastic Surgery

Can stretch marks by lift procedures such as a tummy tuck? The answer is yes, sort of, although it is not usually a procedure’s primary purpose. Here are some of the procedures that can help with stretch marks in specific areas of the body.

Thigh Lifts

Like the tummy tuck, a thigh lift can help remove excess skin and stretch marks on the thigh. The process is largely the same, with incisions being made, excess skin removed, and the remaining skin drawn tight.

Like the tummy tuck, a thigh lift will only remove stretch marks on the sections of skin removed during the procedure. However, it is also possible for residual scarring to minimize the following recovery, as the skin has been tightened.

Breast Lift & Augmentation

A breast lift is a procedure that helps restore a person’s breasts to a more youthful, firm, and perky appearance. This treatment is meant for those whose breasts have started to sag down and become flat due to excess weight fluctuations, pregnancy, or aging.

Like other lifts, a breast lift in Toronto can help to remove stretch marks, but usually only when they are located on the underside of the breast where the surgical skin removal takes place. However, it is unlikely to help remove any markings on the top or sides of the breasts.

However, it should be noted that if a breast lift is paired with a breast augmentation, further stretch mark reduction may be possible, as the augmentation filling out the breasts may make the markings less visible.

Tummy Tucks

Often performed as part of a mommy makeover, the tummy tuck is a surgical procedure that helps to remove loose and excess skin from the body and tighten up the underlying muscles, resulting in a firmer, more streamlined abdominal figure.

To do this, incisions are made in a discreet location, usually along the bikini line, and the skin is pulled tight, and the excess skin is removed. If stretch marks appear on skin on the area where excess skin is being removed, then they too are removed along with it.

However, this is as far as a tummy tuck in Toronto, can help with stretch mark removal, and any marks outside of the surgical area (such as on the hips or breasts) are not treatable through this procedure. Furthermore, if a stretch mark extends outside of the surgical area on the stomach where excess skin is being removed, only part of the mark will be removed.

As you may be seeking a way to remove stretch mark scarring from your stomach, It should also be noted that new surgical scarring may be present following your surgery depending on your type of tummy tuck. In most cases, however, scarring from tummy tuck incisions are very discreet and purposely made in areas such as the bikini line where it is not visible beneath underwear or swimsuits, especially in less invasive procedures such the mini tummy tuck, as they focus only on the lower part of the stomach from under the belly button. This method does. However, in some cases, small scarring around the belly button may be present.

In most cases, patients still prefer this option, as a discreet and well-placed scar that is more easily faded is almost always preferred to deep purple lines that appear against a person’s will.

Book With Us Today!

If you’re interested in any of the above services or other treatments and procedures that our clinic offers, don’t hesitate to schedule a consultation with us today by booking online or calling us at 647-723-3739 to speak with a member of our team. Our clinic has some of the best board certified plastic surgeons who are dedicated to helping you achieve your cosmetic surgery goals.

Posted by:

Dr. Stephen Mulholland, Md

Dr. Stephen Mulholland has been practicing plastic surgery for over 20 years. He is one of Canada’s most renowned and best plastic surgeons in Toronto with his wealth of experience, artistry, and humbleness towards his patients.

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