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What to Do About Stretch Marks

Stretch marks are bands of parallel lines of scar tissue that run along your skin. They’re a different texture than your regular skin, and they can range in color from purple to red, bright pink to grayish-silver. Sometimes you can feel a slight ridge or indentation when you run your finger over them, and sometimes they feel itchy or sore. They aren’t, however, medically dangerous; they’re more of a cosmetic concern.

Stretch marks can appear most anywhere on your body, but they’re most commonly found on your stomach, thighs, breasts, upper arms, and buttocks. They also tend to affect women more than men.

At Best Impression Med Spa in Blue Bell, Pennsylvania, board-certified plastic surgeons Robert Mirabile, MD, and Vivian Hsu, MD, bring a combined 40 years of experience to this community-oriented practice. They understand that stretch marks can make you self-conscious about your appearance, so they offer minimally invasive treatments to remove them quickly and safely. Here’s what they want you to know.

The causes of stretch marks

Skin contains three primary layers: the outer epidermis, the middle dermis, and the inner hypodermis. Stretch marks form in the dermis, when its connective tissue stretches beyond its inherent elastic properties. Most commonly this is caused by a rapid expansion or contraction of the skin, such as during a growth spurt, a sudden weight gain or loss, or pregnancy. About 50-90% of pregnant women develop stretch marks after delivery.

The dermis’ connecting fibers stretch to accommodate your body’s normal growth as you age. However, rapid growth taxes the tissues and leads to tears, permitting the deeper skin layers to show through as bands of colored lines — stretch marks.

Stretch marks are also more likely to form, and become more noticeable, when the body has high levels of circulating cortisone, which is derived from the stress hormone cortisol produced by the adrenal glands. Cortisone weakens the elastic properties of the tissue. Adrenal gland disorders, including Cushing’s syndrome, Marfan’s syndrome, and Ehlers-Danlos syndrome, can also cause stretch marks by increasing cortisone levels in your body.

How stretch marks are treated

There are many different types of treatments for stretch marks, each targeting a different aspect of the skin’s properties. They include:

Topical creams

Tretinoin cream (Retin-A®, Renova®) restores the skin’s collagen, a fibrous protein in the dermis layer that helps give your skin elasticity. It works best on recent red or pink marks. However, it may cause skin irritation and isn’t suitable for pregnant women.


This treatment uses tiny crystals scrubbed over the skin’s surface to remove the top layers containing the stretch marks. Microdermabrasion may improve the look of older stretch marks.

Chemical peels

A peel is an acidic solution used to burn off the top skin layers, removing dead and damaged cells and boosting new skin growth. While this treatment may help a bit, it won’t completely get rid of any type of stretch marks.

Heat treatments

Heat treatments use different delivery systems, including radio wave energy and ultrasound, to heat up the dermis layer, triggering collagen production.

Laser therapies

There are a number of different types of laser therapy which use light instead of heat to reduce or remove the appearance of stretch marks:

At Best Impression Med Spa, we use the Palomar Laser Stretch Mark Removal Treatment. It’s a fractional technology (but not CO2) that uses pulsed laser light to specifically target and break down stretch mark scar tissue. At the same time, it triggers new skin production to improve both the texture and color of the treatment area.

This in-office procedure is quick, easy, and just about pain-free. 

Are you embarrassed by those bands of colored lines running across your skin? We can help. Call our office or request an appointment online today.

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