What Causes Stretch Marks to Form?

Stretch marks affect millions of people of all ages, shapes, and sizes each year. Yet in spite of how common they are, many of us are still misinformed about what causes them, and how, or even if, they can be treated. At Plastic Surgery Group of Memphis, we aim to provide expert information, resources you can trust, and customized cosmetic surgery. Let’s take a look below at what causes stretch marks to form, what they actually are, and what our team can do to help you look your best!

What are stretch marks? What causes them?

Throughout our lives, our skin has many important jobs to do. It protects us, regulates our temperature, and keeps up with our bodies as they grow and change. Collagen and elastin give our skin an elastic quality that allows it to expand or contract in response to moderate fluctuations that occur in our shape and size. However, during periods of rapid growth, it may not be able to produce collagen and elastin fast enough to keep up with the changes. This can result in small tears that eventually form the indented scars we know as stretch marks, or striae, as they are sometimes called. 

While people tend to associate stretch marks with mainly weight gain and pregnancy, they can affect anyone undergoing a period of rapid growth, including men, teens, and even bodybuilders. There are also certain habits that can damage your skin’s elasticity, increasing the chance of developing stretch marks with weight fluctuation or rapid growth. These include smoking and excessive sun exposure. Natural hormone shifts and certain medications can affect collagen and elastin production, as well. 

With skin that is naturally thinner, and more hormonal shifts throughout life, women do tend to be more likely than men to get stretch marks, especially during pregnancy. Men are not immune to that, however. Many males experience stretch marks during puberty, after gaining a significant amount of weight, or as they rapidly increase their muscle mass by working out. That being said, it is genetics that tends to play the most significant role in the development of stretch marks. This is why some people will never get them, while others can have them from a young age. 

Can stretch marks be prevented? Are there treatments for stretch marks?

Although the advertising industry would have you believe otherwise, there is no real way to prevent stretch marks from forming if you are genetically prone to them. Aside from preserving your skin elasticity with sunscreen and moisturizer, there are some treatments that can help remove or fade stretch marks significantly. 

Can a tummy tuck remove stretch marks?

A tummy tuck is a surgical procedure that removes excess fat and skin from the abdominal area. The structures underneath the skin are also tightened for a more natural appearance. During a tummy tuck, the skin below the navel is typically removed. If your stretch marks are mostly concentrated in this area, they would be removed or greatly minimized with this procedure. If you have stretch marks above the navel, they are unlikely to be impacted by a tummy tuck. However, this skin may be pulled further down the abdomen during the surgery, making the stretch marks less noticeable.  

The only way to completely remove stretch marks is to surgically remove the affected area of skin, and this is one benefit of the tummy tuck for many patients. If you do not need or want to undergo surgery, there are other options that can help fade your stretch significantly.

What Causes Stretch Marks to Form?

Pigment & Vessels treatment with the Lumenis M22

The Lumenis M22 uses innovative laser technology to improve stretch marks as well as acne scars, skin discoloration, wrinkles, and more. It is non-ablative, which means it does not destroy any skin cells. It’s also fractional, so it only affects a fraction of the skin, minimizing recovery time. The wide range of functions within the Lumenis M22 allow us to tailor it to each patient’s unique needs, factoring in the skin texture, color, and quality in order to achieve superior results.

The Lumenis M22 has two different lasers: the IPL, or Intense Pulsed Light laser, and the ResurFX laser. The IPL uses optimal pulse technology to administer varying wavelengths of light into the skin. This generates heat in order to treat pigmentation and vascular imperfections in the skin. The ResurFX uses fractional rejuvenation technology to stimulate deep collagen regeneration in order to improve the texture and quality of the skin, which can help reduce the signs of aging.

Skin resurfacing treatment with the Lumenis ResurFX laser

As noted above, the ResurFX is a fractional laser. It allows small laser dots to penetrate only a chosen area of the skin, stimulating collagen production. The increased collagen helps tighten and firm skin, making shimmering stretch marks much less noticeable in the process. The ResurFX requires only one pass over the skin to produce effective results, reducing your total treatment time.

The Lumenis M22 and the ResurFX procedures are generally completed as a series of treatments for the best results. These average about 3-4 treatments at least one month apart, although this will vary from patient to patient. While there will be some redness and swelling after either procedure, you should be able to return to your normal activities within 24 hours or so. The recovery time is short, with any side effects subsiding within a few days in most cases. 

Sun exposure should be avoided and a sunscreen with SPF of 30 or higher should be worn daily immediately following the procedure. Once you have completely healed, take care to wear a sunscreen of SPF 15 or higher every day to provide long-term protection for your skin. 

Look and feel your best with Plastic Surgery Group of Memphis

Stretch marks are a perfectly normal part of life and nothing to be ashamed of! But if you are bothered by the way yours look, you don’t have to put up with them forever. The expert team at Plastic Surgery Group of Memphis would love to answer any questions you have about safe, effective options for reducing the appearance of stretch marks. Get in touch today for a consultation!