Dr. Van Dyke recalls how stretch marks, also known as stria, can be prevented and treated.
Dr. Van Dyke:
Stretch marks look like scratches on the skin initially, so in the first few months when stretch marks occur they are going to be slightly raised, they are going to be pink, and the reason they are pink is that there seems to be some inflammation under there.
Inflammation is something that occurs for instance when you have a rash; you get a little bit red and swollen. Well that appears in early stretch marks too, probably has something to do with why we get them, and then over time they will turn pale and white and silvery and they’ll become depressed.
If you do a biopsy or take a little specimen for the lab from a mature stretch mark, those being the white ones, what you are going to see is a scar. So the whole life of the stretch mark is this inflamed long thing that then turns into a long, thin scar, again, looking like stretch marks.
Because stretch marks are so common, 80-90% of women who are pregnant get stretch marks on their belly and a significant number of men and women get them on their thighs and buttocks, but because it’s so prevalent there are 100,000 treatments. I mean all you have to do is Google and you will come up with everything in the world.
So let’s start out with, what’s the best way to treat something is to prevent it. Pregnancy is the time to try to prevent stretch marks. So there are a myriad of creams that are massaged on the belly during pregnancy. The interesting thing is there aren’t any studies really that show that any of them do any good over and above another one. So we think that the reason that it helps is the massage itself and the moisturization from the product.
So for instance, hyaluronic acid, which is a moisturizing product, is used widely in stretch mark creams and prevention is really the key. And then there’s only one study that shows a product called centella asiatica and that seems to actually help in the prevention of stretch marks so that you might find that in some creams.
Now going beyond creams, once you have stretch marks I don’t really think that creams are going to do anything at all. Some people say the best truth over stretch marks is time, that they go away with time – not true. They don’t. They go from pink to white, but they do not go away.
Superficial chemical peels – they just don’t seem to have an effect really, and then lasers came along and lasers are really the answer for stretch marks and first I am going to say there is no cure for a stretch mark, but lasers are getting there. The original laser is too strong, took too long to heal, but now a laser called Fraxel is really showing promising results.
In my office, Van Dyke Laser & Skin, we actually recently did a study on stretch marks using Fraxel and we got some really remarkable before and after pictures.
About Dr. Susan Van Dyke, M.D.:
After completing 2 years of formal training in Internal Medicine, Dr. Van Dyke found what was to be the start of her dream job. She spent the next 3 years training intensely at Ohio State University and the University of Arizona Medical Centers. Her focus: Dermatology, particularly the cosmetic aspects. Founded in 1985, she formed her practice to deliver the best of Dermatology. In 1995, Van Dyke Laser & Skin became one of the first exclusively Cosmetic Dermatology practices in the world.