It sounds simple and enticing: Have a doctor zap your stretch marks away and be done with them. Unfortunately, stretch marks are a problem with no easy solution. Doctors disagree about what works and what doesn't. While some physicians embrace laser treatment of stretch marks wholeheartedly, others are skeptical. Nonetheless, various types of laser procedures are offered to lessen the appearance of stretch marks.
Stretch marks occur in the dermis, which is the middle layer of the skin, between the epidermis on the surface and the subcutaneous layer below. Creams and lotions tend not to penetrate beyond the epidermis. Any time the skin has to stretch rapidly to accommodate a larger you, such as when you're pregnant or developing muscles during weight training, the whitish lines we call stretch marks are a possibility. They happen when the elastin and collagen in the dermis are unable to stretch quickly enough to match your body's growth. Think of a rubber band stretched beyond its capacity, and you'll have a reasonable picture of what goes on in the dermis.
Pulsed Dye Laser
The pulse dye laser stimulates the growth of collagen and elastin in the dermis, causing indented stretch marks to fill back out. New stretch marks, which are still red, may respond better than older marks that have already turned white. You may have to go for multiple sessions, spaced as long as two months apart, to see the best results. Though the procedure may cause a bit of stinging, the surface of the skin remains largely unaffected as the laser targets the dermis beneath. The worst you'll end up with is bruising and perhaps a tiny bit of bleeding, all of which will clear within two to three weeks.
The exciser laser causes a spike in the production of melanin, rendering the stretch mark closer in color to the skin around it. One session won't do the trick; you'll need about 10 treatments with the laser -- one every two weeks -- to see the most significant results. Even then, you'll need continued treatment to maintain the new color. One session every two to three months is recommended. Keep in mind, the texture of the stretch marks won't change; the laser only affects the color. As with the pulsed dye laser, the skin is not damaged. All you'll see is a bit of redness.
Laser treatments for stretch marks are expensive. The cost per treatment is $350 and up, as of 2014. And remember, you're not going for just one treatment. To see pleasing results, you're likely to need 10 sessions or more. Health insurance is not likely to be of any help, because the procedure is considered cosmetic and not medically necessary. Your costs will run in the thousands for a treatment that some doctors don't believe is effective at all. As far as costs go, you'll be getting close to tummy-tuck territory. Tummy tuck surgery runs from $5,000 to $8,500.
Tummy tuck surgery is the one method proven to get rid of stretch marks. It's a procedure that yields several benefits. It rids the abdominal area of the loose extra skin that women are often left with after childbirth. That skin happens to be the tissue where the worst of the post-pregnancy stretch marks are located. And it tightens the muscles under the skin, for a smooth and taut appearance. If you're content with possibly lessening the appearance of stretch marks a bit, laser procedures may be the way to go. If you want a sure-fire way to be done with them forever, save up for a tummy tuck.
Is This an Emergency?
- InfoPlasticSurgery.com: Stretch Marks
- Resnik Skin Institute: Laser Treatment for Stretch Marks
- DocShop.com: Stretch Mark Removal Costs
- Plastic Surgery: How Much Does a Tummy Tuck Cost?
- Oprah.com: 15 Treatments for More Beautiful Skin
- Skin Laser and Surgery and Surgery Specialists: Vitiligo, Psoriasis and Stretch Marks