Laser surgery for removing stretch marks offers fast results with little pain, other than the pain at the pocketbook. But it’s not for every kind of skin.
How Laser Stretch Mark Removal Surgery Works
Stretch marks are caused by atrophy of the skin where it is unable to grow fast enough to match the growth of the tissues beneath it. The damage to the skin is minimal at first. When stretch marks are still red or purple, the skin may respond to treatments with topical vitamin C (in the form of ascorbyl palmitate) or vitamin E, gotu kola, or natural plant butters.
At a slightly later stage, the skin may respond to medications usually used to treat acne, such as tretinoin, isotretinoin, or adapalene, and for a while, the skin may respond to massage, ultrasound, and microdermabrasion. The older the stretch mark, however, the more likely surgery is to be the only effective treatment. Different degrees of skin damage require different laser surgery methods.
Some laser therapies work by coagulating blood vessels beneath the skin. The flashlamp pulsed dye laser both reduces blood circulation, “taking the red out,” and enhances collagen production. It does not help heal stretch marks that have already become white.
UV-B lasers conceal stretch marks by triggering the tanning process in the skin. Using the same wavelengths of light that can cause sunburns and skin cancer, just the skin affected by the stretch mark is exposed to UV-B light long enough to replace lighter skin tones with darker, less noticeable skin tones. Darker skins, however, can actually be damaged by laser surgery stretch mark removal.
When Caution Is Required
Stretch marks are not as obvious on darker skins, but these skins are also much more susceptible to permanent skin tone changes after any kind of inflammation or irritation. Excimer laser treatment, for example, works by increasing the number of melanocytes, the cells that make antioxidant skin pigments. These cells easily can be stimulated to produce so much pigment that they cause permanent darkening of the skin overlaying the untreated stretch mark.
Asian and Middle Eastern skin types often can be treated with fractional laser therapy to prevent permanent discoloration. The process is slower and it is harder to find to a dermatologist with extensive experience in the technique.
What Your Doctor May Be Able to Do If Surgery Is Not Advisable
If you can’t have laser surgery, you are not limited to home remedies for stretch marks. Some dermatologists also offer intense light therapy that produces less intense changes in the skin with less risk of permanent discoloration. Doctors may be able to offer a combination of intense light therapy and acid peels that restart production of collagen in the skin for their patients of African or African-American origins.
Always be sure to ask about the potential pros and cons before getting any kind of surgery for stretch marks. Laser surgery is not 100 per cent free of side effects, and you need to be fully informed of the risks for your skin type before you have the treatment.