We asked Prof Niki Ralph:
‘Stretch marks or Striae are lines on the body that occur from tissue under your skin tearing from rapid growth or over-stretching. It is a common condition that does not cause any significant medical problems but can be of cosmetic concern for some people. Other names for stretch marks are:
• Stria (single) or striae (plural) — the original meaning for stria was a furrow
• Adolescent striae (stretch marks in adolescents)
• Physiological striae (which are not associated with an underlying disease or condition)
• Pathological striae (which are due to an underlying disease or conditions).
Stretch marks are very common, affecting 70% of adolescent girls and 40% of boys. They occur in certain areas of the body where the skin is subjected to continuous and progressive stretching. These include:
• Abdomen/stomach and breast in pregnant women
• Adolescents undergoing growth spurts (thighs, buttocks, breasts)
• Shoulders in body-builders
• Arms/thighs/abdomen if one gains rapid, significant weight and as a consequence of use or oral steroids or anabolic steroids.
An early sign of stretch marks developing is when an area of skin becomes flattened and thin with a pink colour. This may also sometimes be itchy. Soon reddish or purplish slightly swollen lines develop perpendicular to the direction of skin tension (striae rubrae). Over time (years), these lines lighten to become whitish or flesh-coloured and much less conspicuous (striae albae) however they still may be of cosmetic concern for some individuals. Stretch marks are usually several centimetres long and 1–10 mm wide. Those caused by corticosteroid use or underlying Endocrine disorders are often larger and wider and may involve other regions.
Treatment options include:
1) Time which allows fading of the stretch marks from red/purple to almost white/flesh-coloured.
2) Skinpen® Microneedling works by stimulating the production of new collagen in the skin. This is achieved by controlled micro-injuries to the dermis with microscopic needles that stimulate your body’s natural wound healing process, while minimising cellular damage.
The result is effective collagen production and remodelling of scar tissue, while keeping the overall structure of the skin intact. There is therefore minimal down time.
3) Laser – The M22 Lumenis is a non-invasive treatment that uses a device to deliver a laser beam divided into thousands of microscopic treatment zones that target a fraction of the skin at a time, analogous to a photographic image being enhanced or altered pixel by pixel. This fractional laser bridges the gap between ablative and non-ablative. It targets both the epidermal and dermal layers of the skin with minimal downtime and can be used to treat stretch marks, acne scars, fine lines and wrinkles and skin pigmentation.