Stretch Marks: What Causes Them and What Can be Done?

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Do you avoid two-piece bathing suits and cover up entirely when you go to the beach or pool, because of aggravated red stretch marks on your abdomen? Do you avoid certain clothing styles because you don't want people seeing the silvery stretch marks that appear on your upper arms or decolletage? It doesn't have to be that way anymore!

Why do I have stretch marks?

Stretch marks are the result of a loss of the body's normal structural components, including collagen and elastin. There are five main causes of stretch marks: pregnancy, growth spurt during adolescence, heavy weight lifting, extreme weight gain/weight loss and medications such as steroid creams or oral steroids. Unfortunately, genetics are also responsible for determining whether you'll develop them.

How can I prevent stretch marks?

Prevent stretch marks during pregnancy by keeping your skin well moisturized at all times. If you're genetically susceptible to stretch marks, stay away from oral steroid medications as much as possible and don't use potent topical steroid creams for conditions like psoriasis and eczema for prolonged periods.

What can be done about stretch marks?

While stretch marks have been difficult to treat in the past, we are fortunate to be in an age where there are finally some great treatments available. There is no magic wand, but now we finally have options that are effective in diminishing the appearance of unwanted stretch marks. Only topical vitamin A derivatives like Retin-A or Tazorac have shown to be effective in improving the appearance of stretch marks. However, we do have some new and exciting laser-based technologies, such as the new generation fractional lasers, which after one-to-three treatment sessions can markedly improve the depressed skin, whiteness and redness associated with stretch marks.

Other laser technologies, including pulsed dyed lasers and advanced light source technologies, have also proven helpful in making stretch marks much less visible - giving back the confidence needed to wear that bikini on any upcoming vacations.

Dr. Neil Sadick is one of the most renowned dermatologists and researchers whose multiple discoveries have strongly influenced and transformed the future of dermatology. He is a Professor of Dermatology at Weill Cornell Medical College and President of the Cosmetic Surgery Foundation. Dr. Sadick is author, or co-author, of more than 500 articles in peer-reviewed scientific journals and has contributed more than 75 chapters of medical books. Read more at