Laser Treatment for Stretch Marks: Questions and Answers

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Laser surgery for stretch marks is one of the latest treatment options to hit the market. While it may be a good choice for some people but for others, there are other treatment options that are better fit for their lives. Here is some information about stretch marks, what causes them, and some answers about laser surgery.

What Are Stretch Marks?

Stretch marks are caused by small tears or rips in the epidermal layer of the skin. This causes the marks to appear on the dermis. The skin’s collagen level helps determine how far it will stretch. When the skin is stretched too far, these tears and rips occur. The newer the stretch marks, the more reddish and purplish they will appear. As time passes, these marks take on a white or silverfish hue.

Pregnancy, rapid weight loss or gain, and even some hereditary issues can all contribute to the development of stretch marks. Even some health conditions, such as Cushing’s Disease or diabetes, can contribute to these marks. As the amount of collagen in the skin decreases, the skin becomes less elastic. These lines are the result of the loss of elasticity.

What Is Laser Surgery?

Laser surgery is a process that is carried out by a dermatologist who uses a specially designed light or pulsed dye laser to remove tiny layers of skin. It helps to loosen the collagen in the skin and also makes the skin swell in order to promote skin cell regeneration.

This procedure can make the stretch marks seem less noticeable as it removes these layers of skin. It is effective as a stretch mark reducer, but the jury is still out on whether it can completely remove stretch marks.

Reasons to have laser stretch mark removal include:

  • Much less time consuming than at-home treatments
  • About 90 percent successful when used on the right skin types
  • Very useful for treating striae rubra, red stretch marks only recently formed

Reasons not to have laser stretch mark removal treatments include:

  • Much more expensive than creams, microdermabrasion, or other at-home therapies
  • Can leave permanent pigmentation on dark brown or black skin
  • Not very useful for treating striae alba, white stretch marks that formed months or years before treatment
  • Unusual sensitivity to pain, although most people say the procedure is unpleasant but not especially painful

People who have rich, dark skin tones usually should not try laser treatments of any kind. The risk of permanent pigmentation is just too great. For them, an alternative to laser treatment, also provided by the dermatologist, is intense pulsed light.

Not a laser light, intense pulsed light is visible light, but very high intensity. Oddly enough, this method is used with considerable success to treat age spots caused by excessive sun exposure, and also stimulates the growth of collagen to fill in stretch marks.

Intense UV-B light, the same wavelengths of light that cause sunburn and skin cancer, can be used in small doses every few weeks to treat striae alba, the white stretch marks that do not usually respond to laser treatment.

How Does Laser Surgery Stretch Mark Removal Work?

The process of removing stretch marks with laser surgery works like this:

  1. The skin is cleaned with a special cleanser designed to remove the oil and dirt from the skin.
  2. A concentrated laser is used to remove extremely thin layers of skin, which cause a reduction in the appearance of stretch marks or how it can fade stretch marks.
  3. The procedure feels like you are repeatedly getting pinched or stuck with a needle.
  4. Many separate treatments are need to get noticeable results
  5. Your skin may be red or irritating for several days after this treatment.
  6. Treatments can cost between $400 and $1500 each at a dermatologist’s office.

Thelaser removal of stretch markshas been subject to scrutiny, as many people do not experience the results they would like to see.

Many times, the effectiveness will depend on how severe the marks are, as well as the skin type of the individual. Since the procedure is so expensive, it is often cost-prohibitive for many women as well.

How Many Laser Treatments Are Necessary?

The sooner treatment begins, the better the results. Nearly all stretch marks, however, fade with time, over a period of 5 to 10 years, even without treatment.

Depending on your skin tone and the size of the area treated, laser treatment for stretch marks should take about 10 to 30 minutes per treatment. Most people required at least six procedures about a month apart.

What Are the Different Types Of Laser Surgeries Available?

It’s important to understand that not all laser interventions are the same, however. We’ve talked a bit about how a laser removal for stretch marks should work, but now let’s have a look at the many different types of lasers out there.

Laser procedures are usually divided into two main categories: ablative lasers and non-ablative lasers.

Ablative lasers, as the name suggests, work by destroying the topmost layer of the skin. By doing this, it then allows newer, healthier skin cells to emerge to the surface, and this, in turn, improves the overall appearance of the skin. By regularly resurfacing new, healthy cells, in time, stretch marks will look less strident and less deep, until they become barely noticeable at all.

Non-ablative lasers, on the other hand, leave the topmost layer of skin (the epidermis) alone. Instead of destroying anything, non-ablative interventions focus on stimulating the skin’s natural healing process. They delve into the deeper layers of skin and encourage the production of collagen and elastin, which will improve cell turnover in a more natural manner.

Besides the obvious difference in approach, one should also consider the downtime necessary for each laser procedure. For ablative lasers, it takes a lot longer to recover. Your skin might be red and swollen and might even form a thin crust. It is, after all, healing. When using a non-ablative laser, on the other hand, the results aren’t as potent, but your skin won’t be visibly affected.

Fraxel Laser, A Destructive Option That’s Not Too Aggressive

If you’re not keen on non-ablative’s milder effects but are also scared of undergoing ablative laser, then Fraxel Laser might just be the thing for you. It’s a destructive procedure, but it’s not nearly as invasive or as harsh as other ablatives.

The way it works is the laser destroys tiny fragments of your uppermost layers of skin, to encourage new layers to emerge. Fraxel Laser also penetrates the skin in-depth and stimulates the production of collagen and elastin.

By destroying the damage and stimulating natural healing, Fraxel Laser seems to be the best of both worlds, which is what makes it such a popular option, it would seem.

What is CO2 Laser Therapy?

Laser therapy with carbon dioxide works by sending short, pulsed lasers to remove thin, outer layers of skin. Again, this allows new, healthy skin to come to light and can improve the appearance of various skin issues, including stretch marks.

Similarly to the Fraxel Laser, the CO2 also boosts collagen production and healing. For these reasons, both Fraxel and CO2 are particularly recommended for use on older, white stretch marks. Though, they might not be best for patients with darker skin tones. CO2 lasers help smooth out the surface of the skin, and the good news is, if you’re scared of the destructive aspect of the procedure, you can opt for a milder, fractional CO2 laser, instead.

When dealing with white streaks, it’s best to combine collagen production and improved elasticity with the destruction of some layers of skin, as this can make the stretch marks appear less severe.

When dealing with red or purple stretch marks, however (newer marks, typically less than a year old), it’s recommended that you opt for a non-ablative laser instead, that only stimulates the skin’s natural regeneration and healing process.

So, overall, the best laser treatment for stretch marks depends on the age and status of your scars.

Halo Laser, The Best of Both Worlds?

Halo Laser is a hybrid form of therapy that might just be revolutionizing the world of laser cosmetic treatments. Halo Laser is an ablative laser masquerading as a non-ablative one, meaning that it works to destroy tiny layers of the skin. Still, it does not require any of the downtime typically associated with ablative laser resurfacing, nor is it as painful.

It provides both ablative (targeting the epidermis) wavelengths and non-ablative (targeting the dermis) wavelengths. And it has a cooling mechanism that soothes the skin as soon as it is used.

Halo Laser Therapy can be highly effective in treating your stretch marks and would be a good idea, perhaps, if you’re on the go or if (as if the case for most new moms), you just don’t have the time to recover from ablative.

What is Pulsed Dye Laser Therapy?

PDL is an excellent procedure, especially for new (red or purple) stretch marks. It uses a concentrated beam of light that targets the blood vessels underneath the skin (which is what’s giving your stretch marks that bright color).

Pulsed Dye Laser works well in fading away the color and redness of fresh stretch marks and is a very safe, and relatively painless option because it leaves the topmost skin layers untouched.

A Little Known, But Highly Effective Method

The excimer laser is another big favorite. Though less well known than pulsed dye, for example, it’s an excellent way to fade the appearance of fresh stretch marks. Excimer is a fractional laser that uses UV beams to remove thin layers of skin around the stretch marks and encourage more rapid cell turnover.

Cool Beam Laser – The Treatment of The Stars?

Similar to most procedures, this star-adored CoolBeam (used by the likes of Kim Kardashian, no less) destroys microscopic fragments of old, damaged skin while stimulating the production of collagen and new, healthy layers.

How Much Does Laser Surgery for Stretch Marks Cost?

Laser surgery for stretch marks is very expensive. Depending on where you have the treatments completed at the skin area and the type of laser used, you can expect to pay between $400 and $1500 for each treatment. This can add up quickly if you require multiple treatments. Laser stretch mark removal is seldom covered in any way by health insurance, so you’ll more than likely have to pay for it out of your own pocket, but depending on the severity of the marks, as well as the type of treatment you opt for, the high sum can be worth it.

In rare cases, such as if the marks are causing considerable pain, then insurance might consider it, but we wouldn’t bank on that.

Here are some general sums to give you a better idea of what to expect:

According to the American Society of Plastic Surgeons, non-ablative procedures average about $1,000 per session, while ablative lasers can go up to $2,300 per session.

CO2 Laser Therapy generally costs around $2,700 but can cost more (or less) depending on the area of the body or the clinic you choose.

Fraxel Therapy, again, averages around $2,000.

The average price of a Halo laser session is $1,500, which is cheaper than many ablative procedures and might prove as effective.

Pulsed Dye Laser generally averages around $725 per session, so it might be a budget-friendly way to fade away those new stretch marks.

The cost of Excimer Laser is unclear, at the moment, though we assume it averages around the same sums as the other lasers.

And of course, CoolBeam, being such a celebrity-favorite, is by no means cheap. According to Women’s Health Mag, one procedure can average between $2.900 and $4.900.

Attention: None of these lasers are technically FDA approved for the treatment of stretch marks. The only laser resurfacing for stretch marks that is FDA-approved is the ICON 1540 Fractional Laser.

Is Laser Surgery Painful?

Each burst of the laser feels like a sting or a pinch as if you were struck with a rubber band. Some people may require anesthesia, depending on their pain tolerance level. You may notice some redness, swelling, or tenderness to the treated area, but that should go away within a few days.

How Should I Care for My Skin After A Laser Treatment?

Make sure to keep the area cool. Use a wet compress or thermal water spray to keep the skin gently hydrated and chilled for the next 2 or 3 days (or however long you feel the need for it).

Also, avoid heavy exercise (the sort that would make you sweat a lot) for at least 2 or 3 days after the procedure.

Don’t take hot showers, or if you must, avoid the lasered area. Don’t go in for any massages or tanning sessions about a week after laser treatment (or less, if using a non-ablative laser). Lastly, don’t wear tight-fitting clothes over the area for the first few days.

If you generally use make-up on the respective area, we suggest taking a 24-hour break (at least), to allow the skin to heal and avoid infection.

Naturally, you may require more (or less) care, depending on the type of laser therapy you’ve opted for.

What Do Customers Say?

We’ve gone through dozens of reviews for laser therapy in the treatment of stretch marks, and we can safely say people seem to be quite happy with the procedure. Several customers pointed out seeing an improvement in the glow and softness of their skin (crediting laser therapy with taking 10 years off).

Several pointed out that it is rather pricey, though, but most seemed to agree that it is well worth it and that you can get your money’s worth.

Lastly, Are There Any Side Effects of Laser Resurfacing?

Some, though nothing major. Of course, you will experience redness and swelling after most ablative lasers. Very rarely, ablative lasers can lead to scarring and/or infection. Sometimes, if the herpes virus is present in the body (it can be present, but dormant, and you might not even know you have it), laser therapy might cause it to flare up.

In darker-skinned individuals, laser therapy can cause skin discoloration, which is why it is not generally recommended, and why you should discuss the pros and cons of it with your dermatologist.

Other Treatment Options for Removing Stretch Marks

There are several other treatment options available to get rid of stretch marks.

Microdermabrasion has shown some results in removing stretch marks but is also very expensive and may cause additional scarring in some instances.

Cosmetic surgery, such as a tummy tuck, may indeed remove some stretch marks, but this surgery is costly and requires considerable downtime to heal from.

For those that need a less expensive treatment option, you may find that stretch mark creams and lotions are your best bet. These will not only help to prevent stretch marks, but many help to significantly reduce the appearance of stretch marks.

Many women have had great success in preventing stretch marks by using a cream or lotions specifically designed to improve the skin’s elasticity.

Cocoa butter penetrates very deeply and is often useful in preventing stretch marks.

However, it does require frequent application. Most of these creams recommend a twice-daily use for the best preventive results. Some of these creams are also very effective in reducing the appearance of stretch marks.

How Effective is Laser Removal of Stretch Marks?

While the jury is still out on whether laser removal of stretch marks is effective, some women report good results. Others report there is no difference before or after treatment. It all comes down to the individual’s skin type as to whether it’s effective. Preventing stretch marks before they occur is a much less expensive than dealing with these embarrassing cosmetic issues later.

The Best Way to Get Rid of Stretch Marks

Laser surgery is not an option for everyone. First and foremost, the expense can be too stiff for many people, and the results are not guaranteed. It also can take several appointments to see any results at all. For those who are contemplating the best way to rid themselves of stretch marks, a cream or lotion may be the best solution.