Skin Care Problems Stretch Marks Scars

Stretch marks are considered to be a particular type of skin scaring that occurs independent of some injury. Both stretch marks and scars arise as a result of the body’s process of healing itself.

Although neither stretch marks nor scars are serious, life-threatening conditions, both can be unsightly and, depending on their location, can be extremely embarrassing. As a result, understanding how to minimize them can save you from suffering unnecessary emotional distress.

Causes of Stretch Marks and Scars

While the skin is a highly elastic organ, it can be overstretched, upsetting the natural production of underlying collagen. Because collagen is one of the key substances that help the body and skin maintain its shape, when a certain area of the skin no longer produces collagen, stretch marks form. In general, stretch marks are caused by dramatic weight fluctuations and rapid growth spurts. Consequently, they tend to occur on:

  • bodybuilders who rapidly develop their muscles
  • overweight or obese people who lose a lot of weight
  • pregnant women who quickly gain a lot of weight
  • teenagers whose bodies are rapidly developing.

Because the category of scars refers to a more general type of skin problem, scars have a lot more associated causes than stretch marks. Causes of scars include (but aren’t limited to):

  • acne
  • burns
  • improper healing
  • previous injury.

The precise cause of the scar will determine what type of scar you have. The four types of scars include:

  • acne scars: Severe cases of prolonged acne causes these scars that appear as concave pits or irregular, wavelike skin on the face.
  • contracture scars: Burns cause contracture scars, which strip the skin of its flexibility and, as a result, generally impair movement. More serious burns and contracture scars can affect underlying muscles and nerves.
  • hypertrophic scars: These raised, red scars occur at the site of some previous injury.
  • keloid scars: When the body’s healing process is accelerated, keloid scars develop at the injury site and extend out around it. Like hypertrophic scars, keloid scars can impair movement.

Symptoms of Stretch Marks and Scars

Stretch marks are characterized by:

  • glossy skin
  • red or purplish skin
  • ripples in the skin
  • saggy, loose skin
  • silvery or white skin
  • streaked skin
  • wavelike appearance of skin.

Because stretch marks are caused by a dramatic growth or loss of weight in a particular area of the body, they tend to occur in areas where the body first gains weight. The most common areas for stretch marks are the:

  • breasts
  • buttocks
  • hips
  • lower back
  • thighs
  • tummy
  • upper arms.

Alternately, scars are marked by any combination of the following symptoms, depending on the type of scar you have:

  • depressed skin
  • itchiness
  • raised skin
  • redness
  • pain
  • pink or white skin
  • tenderness
  • thickened skin
  • wavelike skin.

Unlike stretch marks, scars can affect nearly anyone who has ever been injured, burned or has had acne.

Treatment for Stretch Marks and Scars

Unfortunately, there is no way to restore collagen or “normal” skin cells to an area skin that has already been affected by stretch marks or scars. However, while no cure exists for these skin problems, you can take measures to significantly minimize their appearance.

In general, newer stretch marks and scars respond to treatment better than older ones. Depending on the severity of your skin problem, topical creams or cosmetic procedures can help. Effective topical creams, such as Retin-A, should contain tretinoin cream. Alternately, contrary to popular belief, lotions containing cocoa butter and Vitamin E aren’t effective are reducing stretch marks or scars.

For more serious stretch marks and scars, the following cosmetic procedures can help reduce their unsightly appearances:

  • microdermabrasion: This cosmetic procedure uses tiny crystals to exfoliate and remove the top layer of damaged skin. Once the lower layer of skin has healed, the skin takes on a smoother appearance.
  • pulsed-dye laser (PDL) therapy: Using rapid firing laser beams, PDL removes damaged skin, revealing the smoother skin below the surface.
  • radiofrequency dermal remodeling: This cosmetic procedure invokes sound waves to try to stimulate normal collagen production in a specific area.

Talk to your doctor about the appropriate course of treatment for your stretch marks and scars.

Resources

Hyde, Patrice MD (updated July 2007). Stretch Marks. Retrieved November 2, 2007 from the KidsHealth Web site  http://www.kidshealth.org/teen/your_body/beautiful/stretch_marks.html.

MayoClinic (updated October 4, 2006). Stretch Marks: How do you get rid of them? Retrieved November 2, 2007 from the MayoClinic Web site  http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/stretch-marks/AN01421.

MedicineNet (updated January 1, 2005). Scars. Retrieved November 2, 2007 from the MedicineNet Web site  http://www.medicinenet.com/scars/article.htm.