Striae, or more commonly known as stretch marks, are deep scars on the skin that alter both skin color and texture through lesions on the surface. At the earliest stage, they appear as reddish, pinkish or purplish lines with soft lesions, then later on turn to grayish or whitish lines that may or may not slowly fade over time. As the name implies, this skin condition happens when the skin stretches more than it can naturally handle with the help of collagen and elastin, resulting to wounds within the dermis and scars on the surface.
Pregnant women, bodybuilders, obese people and teenagers who are on the growth phase are most prone to having stretch marks. Hormonal imbalance and certain medical conditions, such as Marfan syndrome, also contribute to the severity of cases. Stretch marks commonly appear on areas that stretch faster due to natural growth or increase in muscle mass. These include the abdomen, breasts, underarms, thighs, buttocks, hips and back.
Although manageable, the medical consensus on stretch marks is that they are permanent, without necessarily implying prominence in discoloration and lesion.
There is a popular belief that stretch marks are incurable and permanent. However, for most people, that is simply not the case. At the earlier stages of stretch marks, they respond better to treatments, making them appear lighter and smoother throughout the whole treatment. Unfortunately, for older stretch marks, the success rate of treatments drastically drops to not more than 20%.
There are medically approved topical, non-invasive and invasive treatments used to reduce the skin damages caused by the striae, but genetics still plays a major role in the acceleration of healing, mostly dictated by hormone and collagen productions. Retinoid and glycolic acid are the most common chemical solutions recommended by dermatologists because they can increase the production of elastin and collagen of the skin. Wrinkle creams also use them as their major ingredients to smoothen and lighten the skin faster.
Laser therapy is also well-received by dermatologists as it can accelerate the synthesis of collagen from the surface. At the same time, some laser treatments can have mild abrasive effect to scrape out dead skin cells that might be causing the darkening of certain stretch mark spots (most discolorations are from within). A drastic measure for severe cases, like in the case of striae gravidarum or pregnancy stretch marks, is a reconstruction surgery, although this is a solution rarely dealt with since the condition is neither fatal nor painful anyway.
Other popular stretch mark treatments that lack scientific merit are peptide-based creams, vitamin C (although oral supplement of 500 milligrams is said to enhance collagen production from within), wheat germ oil and vitamin E. Derma-roller, a clinical device with micro needles, was also believed to be an effective way to force the skin to heal and produce collagen by inducing lesions in the dermis. However, the use of this device has significantly dwindled in recent years due to concerns over its safety