Stretch marks are a fiendishly difficult thing to treat. Anatomically, they represent a tear in the deep, strength layer of the skin (dermis). Stretch marks typically manifest after prolonged tension or “stretch” is placed on the skin. This can occur following pregnancy, rapid growth during adolescence, and prolonged weight gain. The dermis, which is comprised primarily of collagen and elastin fibers, gives way after this unabated stress.
How do you treat stretch marks? Historically, the simplest but also most extreme treatment involved cutting out the damaged skin. A common example of this approach is an abdominoplasty. For those patients who need an abdominoplasty due to skin redundancy and a damaged muscle wall, this is a great solution. However, many patients with stretch marks do not want or need an abdominoplasty.
Another less invasive option to improve the appearance of stretch marks involves the use of microneedling. By creating micro-injuries to the skin using very fine needles, the skin responds by creating new collagen. This increases the thickness and quality of the skin and can improve the appearance of stretch marks. At Providence Plastic Surgery and Skin Center, SkinPen from Bellus Medical is part of our armamentarium to treat stretch marks.
It typically is done with series of 2-3 treatments spaced 30 days apart, with minimal to no real downtime. For patients with more damaged and looser skin, another aggressive (but non-invasive) option to consider is microneedling combined with radiofrequency energy. Fine, micro-injuries combine with heat from radiofrequency injury, and is delivered deep to the dermis. The cascade of inflammation that leads to new collagen formation is augmented even further. At Providence Plastic Surgery, we are excited to offer patients the Vivace RF microneedling system. I have used RF microneedling for over five years, and Vivace is truly SOTA and the best I have come across to date. It uses very fine and robotically driven needles to almost painlessly deliver RF energy to the damaged dermis underlying stretch marks. Like SkinPen, it usually requires serial treatments but with minimal to no downtime.
Another exciting treatment for stretch marks that we offer at Providence Plastic Surgery and Skin Center is Stratamark, a paintable, silicone-based treatment developed by Stratapharma out of Switzerland. It is clinically proven and has been cleared by the FDA for use on stretch marks. Stratamark can soften and flatten raised or depressed stretch marks, reduced redness and discoloration, and relieve itching and discomfort. Stratamark is so effective it can even be used in the prevention of stretch marks during the pregnancy process.
Finally, stretch marks can often be red and inflammatory, causing them to be visually more obvious. A solution to this vexing problem is either IPL (Intense Pulsed Light) or the 532 nm KTP laser, both of which can target red or bluish tinge associated with some immature stretch marks. Providence Plastic Surgery is the first in the Charlotte area to have the SOTA EVO platform from Quanta. Produced out of Italy, the SOTA EVO platform incorporates both devices in one box.
The SOTA stretch mark protocols at Providence Plastic Surgery will involve a combination of the above technologies including microneedling (SkinPen) or RF microneedling (Vivace) plus Stratamark. If there is an inflammatory component, the EVO laser platform can be added.