Microneedling for Stretch Marks Q & A
Cutting Edge Stretch Mark Protocols at PPS!
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 compromised primarily of collagen and elastin fibers, gives way after this unabated stress.
Stretch marks are a type of scarring. The narrow stripes of discoloration are a result of an injury caused by stretching. The skin is naturally capable of this, but only to a point. When the skin is stretched too quickly or too far, collagen and elastin fibers rupture. Stretch marks occur as the body heals these ruptures.
Stretch marks are most often associated with pregnancy and the rapid expansion of the stomach. This may be only one reason why pregnant women develop stretch marks. Studies have also suggested that hormones may play a role in a person’s susceptibility to stretch marks. In addition to pregnancy, stretch marks may be caused by growth spurts during puberty, rapid weight gain or muscle growth from working out, and obesity that lasts several months or years.
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, for 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. Another, more aggressive but non-invasive option for stretch marks for patients with more damaged and looser skin is microneedling combined with radiofrequency energy. The combination of fine, micro-injuries with heat from radiofrequency injury delivered deep to the dermis, the cascade of inflammation that leads to new collagen formation is augmented even further. At PPS, we are excited to offer patients 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 the 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 cleared by the FDA for use with stretch marks and 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, and this can make them visually even 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 of bluish tinge associated with some immature stretch marks. PPS is the first in the Charlotte area to have the SOTA EVO platform from Quanta out of Italy which incorporates both devices in one box.
The SOTA stretch mark protocols at PPS 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.
Microneedling treatment is comfortable because a topical numbing cream is usually applied for 30 minutes before the procedure begins. Microneedling is also performed using an automated device that stamps the skin very quickly. The depth of needle penetration is only a few millimeters; enough to stimulate collagen remodeling to reduce scarring but not enough to cause pain. Because most stretch marks appear on parts of the body that have more subcutaneous fat, discomfort during treatment is unlikely. Patients may feel something like a sandpaper sensation as the skin is treated with the tiny needles.
Experts agree that microneedling is a safe and effective treatment for all skin types and tones, even darker skin. However, if you are very prone to scarring, talk with your provider. When the skin is reactive to minor injuries, the body may form new scars over old scars. We want our patients to achieve the best possible results and may recommend alternatives to microneedling when necessary.
Studies indicate that stretch marks can be significantly improved if not eliminated with a series of microneedling treatments performed over several weeks. As new collagen infuses the skin with healing protein, stretch marks become less visible. Many people who undergo microneedling schedule yearly touch-ups to sustain the process of collagen production in the area of concern.
One of the significant benefits of microneedling is that this minimally-invasive treatment does not incur serious side effects or risks. When performed in the clinical setting, the risk of infection is very low. After treatment, some patients notice redness and slight swelling. In areas of stretch marks, this is usually hidden beneath clothing. The skin also typically returns to normal within an hour or two.
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Providence Plastic Surgery
Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery located in Charlotte, NC
Microneedling for stretch marks can help treat stretch marks caused by pregnancy or an injury that lead to rapid growth. Dr. Andrew Gear of Providence Plastic Surgery & Skin Center in Charlotte, North Carolina offers consultations if you would like to learn more. If you’re ready to transform your body, schedule an appointment to learn more about what microneedling can do for you. You can book your visit online or by calling (704) 771-1747.