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What are stretch marks?

What are stretch marks?

Charlotte, Lake Norman, Davidson, Cornelius, Mooresville tummy tuck

Stretch marks are extremely common. While they’re purely a cosmetic issue and don’t affect the function of the skin, many people are bothered by them. What are stretch marks? What causes them to appear? Is there anything that you can do to get rid of them?

Stretch marks are scars

Stretch marks are medically known as striae. They’re actually scars in the deeper layer of the skin, called the dermis. These scars form when the skin is rapidly stretched. This causes ruptures of the proteins collagen and elastin, and when the skin heals from these ruptures, a stretch mark results.

Stretch marks can result from anything that causes a rapid increase in size of a body part. Pregnancy is a common time for stretch marks to form, especially on the abdomen and breasts. Many people also get them during puberty, when there are dramatic changes in the distribution of fat and muscle tissue around the body. Gaining a large amount of weight can also cause them. Sometimes, the stretch marks aren’t obvious as long as the skin remains stretched, but they become visible when the person loses the excess weight. Even gaining a large amount of muscle in a short amount of time can lead to stretch marks.

Although a rapid change in size triggers stretch marks in many people, there are also others who don’t get them even when the skin has stretched significantly. It’s still not entirely clear why some people end up with stretch marks while others don’t. Hormonal factors are believed to play a role, because stretch marks are more common in puberty and pregnancy, which are two periods of hormonal change in the body. There is also a genetic contribution – people who have family members with stretch marks are more likely to get stretch marks themselves.

Will stretch marks go away on their own?

When a stretch mark first forms, it’s generally red or purple, and is raised above the skin around it. However, as the stretch mark heals, it won’t stay like this. Instead, it will fade to be slightly paler than the skin around it, and is usually just slightly indented below the surface. If you’re dealing with early stretch marks, then you may be comforted to know that they generally become much less noticeable after healing.

However, after reaching this point, stretch marks are permanent. Once it has reached the stage of being pale and flat, you can’t expect a stretch mark to continue to change, and it won’t go away on its own. While stretch marks don’t cause any functional problems, some people are bothered by their appearance and would like to get rid of them. 

Can you get rid of stretch marks?

There is no nonsurgical method to completely eliminate stretch marks. Some treatments can help to minimize their appearance. Certain creams or lotions might make some difference, but they have to be applied early (while the stretch mark is still red and raised) in order to have any effect. Chemical peels, microdermabrasion, or laser treatments may also help to make stretch marks appear somewhat less obvious, but will not completely eliminate them.

The only way to completely eliminate stretch marks is to remove the skin that they’re part of. This isn’t always possible, but in certain cases, it can be done. For example, during a tummy tuck, when the plastic surgeon removes excess skin from the lower abdomen, this will also remove any stretch marks in that area. As another example, a body lift can be helpful for people who have stretch marks after losing a lot of weight, and involves removing excess skin from various areas of the body. During this procedure, the plastic surgeon can often remove many of the stretch marks, though it might not be possible to get rid of all of them.

Charlotte, Lake Norman, Davidson, Cornelius, Mooresville tummy tuck

If you’re bothered by stretch marks and would like to find out whether plastic surgery might be able to remove them, then a consultation with a plastic surgeon is your next step. After an exam, your surgeon will be able to tell you whether it would be possible to remove the skin that has stretch marks.

If you’re in the greater Charlotte area, then we invite you to book a consultation with Dr. Miles. We also have patients travel from farther away to see Dr. Miles, because he’s so highly trained and well regarded. He has chosen to set up his consultation appointments in a unique way, which means that you’ll get to spend a significant amount of focused time getting his honest advice. Unlike what unfortunately happens at some plastic surgery offices, this consultation is not a sales pitch, and there’s no pressure to proceed with any procedure afterwards. It’s simply an opportunity for you to gather information. Simply contact our front desk if you’re interested in booking an appointment.

Dr. Erik J. Miles
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