Stretch marks, also called striae, are one of the most frustrating problems I have encountered in my 25 years of plastic surgery practice. They are such a common problem, affecting a majority of women who have had children, no matter how careful they have watched their weight during pregnancy and no matter how hard they have worked to regain their shape and fitness after childbirth. In recent years, the use of steroids has caused stretch marks in many young men who have worked very hard at body building and fitness. What has frustrated me most is that I have had very little to offer my patients that effectively removes stretch marks.
Time and again I have read articles or seen presentations at meetings which claim that the laser can remove stretch marks and striae, but close observation of the results of good clinical studies have been too disappointing for me to try these therapies on my patients. Until now, I could only offer a tummy tuck or abdominoplasty surgery, which only partially removes the problem from the lower abdomen, and I have had no solution for other body areas.
Recently, however I have been very impressed with the significant removal of and improvement in stretch marks that I am seeing with a new laser stretch mark removal technique. I am using a combined technique with the Starlux 1540 non-ablative fractional erbium laser resurfacing technique combined with the Starlux LuxIR Deep infrared skin tightening technique. This technique was developed by an Italian doctor named Dr. DeAngelis and a man from Palomar Medical laser company named Richard Benkowski.
The results of this new laser technique are the first I have see that show nearly complete removal of even mature striae. See before and after pictures of the new laser stretch marks removal technique below:In the picture note above, before and below after combination Starlux 1540 fractional erbium laser and starlux luxir deep treatments have nearly completely removed the stretch marks (Photo courtesy of Dr. DeAngelis and R. Benkowski.)
I have been so impressed with these new comined laser and infrared therapy stretch mark and striae removal results I am now offering this new laser treatment for removal of stretch marks and striae in my own patients. Our initial results are very impressive.
What Causes Stretch Marks and Striae?
The skin covering our body consists of the outer surface that we see called the epidermis and a deep pink layer called the dermis. The dermis is the pink tissue we see after the epidermis has been scraped off for example when we scrape our knee. The dermis supports our skin, plumps the skin, gives the skin substance and elasticity. Elasticity is the skin component which allows our skin to stretch, move and return to a normal shape after being stretched.
During pregnancy, the skin of the abdomen stretches to many times its normal size as the baby grows. After the baby is delivered, the skin’s elasticity in the dermis, contracts to bring the abdominal skin back to its normal shape.
During skin stretching, if the dermis expands too much or too fast, the dermis can break, split or rupture. These breaks in the dermis of the skin cause a wide depressed scar which is called a stretch mark or striae.
If you look at a striae under the microscope you see a defect or space in the dermis where the dermis has been ruptured or split. The use of steroid medications also causes striae even without tension or pulling on the skin. The mechanism of the striae caused by steroids is a direct damage or dissolving of collagen in the dermis by the steroid medication.
Very rapid growth spurts during adolescence or even in adults who are weight lifting and have rapid muscle expansion, can also cause rupture of the dermis and striae.
The basic building block of the dermis is collagen. Collagen is the main ingredient in the dermis and collagen fibers are ruptured and damaged in the dermis beneath the striae.
How Do We Remove Stretch Marks and Striae?
Removal of stretch marks and striae requires building new collagen in the dermis of the skin to replace the lost collagen and tightening of the skin to bring the stretched skin back together. To date, the only mechanism available to produce new collagen in the dermis and to tighten skin has been with heat produced by lasers, infrared energy and other forms of heat energy.
When the collagen in the dermis is heated to 66 degrees centigrade, the collagen shrinks and tightens, and the collagen is stimulated to remodel and grow new collagen. This principle is used in all forms of laser and light energy skin rejuvenation, skin tightening, and wrinkle removal treatments. Examples are the Starlux 1540 and 2940, Fraxel, Fraxel repair, ActiveFX, DeepFX, Refirme, Affirm, Thermage, Titan, and LuxIR Deep technologies.
How Does the Starlux 1540 Laser Treatment and the LuxIR Deep Stretch Mark Removal Therapy Work?
The Starlux 1540 fractional erbium non-ablative laser beam goes deep into the dermis to heat the collagen to 66 degrees centigrade and promote the growth and production of new collagen to replace the collagen lost in the dermis in the stretch mark. The Starlux 1540 also causes collagen shortening which tightens skin. The Starlux 1540 works down to about 1000 microns deep in the dermis. That is about half of the depth or thickness of the skin.
The LuxIR Deep is a fractional Infrared device which delivers heat to the very deepest layers of the dermis, deeper than the 1000 microns affected by the Starlux 1540. These deeper layers are where the elasticity of the dermis resides. Thus the LuxIR Deep adds not only new dermal collagen production but also adds significant skin tightening.
Both of these devices are called fractional because the heat is delivered into small partial areas of the skin instead of the entire skin surface. Because untreated areas of skin are left, the skin does not slough or peel, thus no skin is removed or ablated. Thus the term non-ablative laser and light treatment.
These non-ablative treatments leave the skin intact so that no surface healing is required-no down time, unlike the old time laser resurfacing which required 2-3 weeks for skin healing.
What Is the Starlux 1540 Laser Treatment and the Starlux LuxIR Deep Treatment for Stretch Marks Like?
Topical anesthetic or numbing cream is applied to your skin before the Starlux 1540 treatment to make you more comfortable. Cold packs also are very helpful. The LuxIR Deep has its own skin cooling device and is not painful.
These combined treatments take time. A lower abdomen can take an hour and a half for the combined treatment. Larger areas can take longer.
Once your treatment is over, your skin will be pink but otherwise is usually normal. There is typically no blistering, peeling or skin injury which requires dressings and wound care. A soothing ointment is applied after your treatment and you go home. typically 5-6 treatments scheduled 3-4 weeks apart are required.
How long Until I See Results?
You will see some improvement after a month. However new collagen production does not reach a peak for 3 months. It will be 6 months after your final treatment to see a final result.
Remember, we are stimulating the dermis of your skin to repair and heal the dermis with new skin plumping collagen and skin tightening. It took 9 months to form the striae, so expect that it will take at least 6 months after your last treatment to see a good result and at least a year to see a full result.
Depending on the severity of your striae, you may need more treatments to get continuing improvements and when done you may need yearly touch up treatments for the first year or two.
Who Should Do My Starlux 1540 laser and LuxIR Deep Infrared Treatments?
Board certified plastic surgeons and dermatologists are the experts in laser treatments on the skin. Not all plastic surgeons and dermatologists use lasers, so you will have to do your homework to find an expert.
Ask your primary care physician for a recommendation. Also visit the websites of the American Society of Plastic Surgeons and the American Society of Aesthetic plastic Surgeons for information on lasers and board certified doctors in your area.
For more information on laser removal of stretch marks and striae call 978-369-4499 or email us. read our free newsletter to learn more about new face and body rejuvenation techniques. read Save Your Face to learn how to prevent skin aging.