FDA Clears Fractional Laser for Stretch Mark Removal
by Edie Pastis
Stretch marks, also known as "striae," are a harmless yet unsightly skin condition that affects most age groups and skin types. Traditionally, stretch marks are caused by fast, dramatic weight gain, and are most commonly experienced by:
- Pregnant women
- Obese individuals
- Body builders
For years, popular stretch mark removal treatments have included cocoa butter, stretch mark creams like Strivectin, exfoliants, retinoids, and even radio frequency therapy. Unfortunately, these stretch mark treatments haven't proved very highly effective at total stretch mark removal.
Laser skin treatments are an incredible force in today's cosmetic industry, correcting everything from wrinkles to acne scars. Now, for the first time, the FDA has cleared a fractional laser for stretch mark removal—and stretch mark patients everywhere are rejoicing!
Stretch Mark Facts
We already identified weight gain as the main cause of stretch marks, but other stretch mark causes and contributors include genetic skin factors, weight lifting, hormonal fluctuations, steroid use, and even nutritional deficiencies. Stretch marks are also more likely to affect women over men.
WebMD reports that "stretch marks affect as many as 90% of all women". Women allegedly develop stretch marks more often because of the unique structure and layering of women's connective skin tissues—these same skin factors have been used to explain the higher prevalence of cellulite in women compared to men. Men have thicker epidermis and dermis skin layers, more natural collagen, and their connective tissue layers boast a sturdier, cross-hatched design. All of these characteristics make men less susceptible to stretch marks and cellulite.
Stretch marks usually develop on the:
However, patients may exhibit stretch marks on their upper arms and lower legs as well. Stretch marks are most common on the body areas where we naturally distribute excess weight gain. Initially, stretch marks appear as red, purple or brownish scars on patients' skin. Stretch mark treatment is recommended as soon as stretch marks appear, while stretch mark tissue is new and more susceptible to corrective procedures. Once stretch marks fade to white or silver scar tissue, they are more difficult to remove.
How Fractional Lasers Treat Stretch Marks
Fractional laser devices can be either ablative or non-ablative. The FDA-cleared fractional laser device for stretch marks, the Lux1540™, is a non-ablative fractional laser. According to Palomar, the manufacturer of the Lux1540, non-ablative fractional lasers "coagulate the affected tissue," while ablative fractional lasers "vaporize the affected tissue".
Fractional laser resurfacing specifically treats a "fraction" of skin at a time, using narrowly spaced microbeams of laser energy. This enables fractional laser resurfacing treatments, like Fraxel, to target individual stretch marks without harming the surrounding skin.
It's essential to use a non-ablative fractional laser to treat stretch marks. Since stretch marks are literally fissures in the dermis (middle) skin layer, only the deeper penetrating non-ablative fractional laser microbeams can treat stretch mark scars. By comparison, ablative fractional lasers target the epidermis and are more appropriate for surface skin imperfections.
Fractional laser coagulation of stretch mark tissue involves breaking down the damaged cells to prompt healthy new tissue growth in their place. More specifically, Fraxel or fractional laser resurfacing treatments create deep lines of coagulation in stretch-marked skin, triggering the healing process. As the damaged dermis and epidermis produce new collagen and skin tissue where stretch marks are present, the appearance of stretch mark scars are visibly reduced!
How Effective are Fractional Lasers at Stretch Mark Removal?
While fractional lasers are cleared to treat stretch marks, how effective are they? Results will differ among various stretch mark removal patients, but multiple cosmetic practitioners have reported high patient satisfaction ratings with fractional laser stretch mark removal.
A recent Palomar press release cites clinical studies that claim "subjects treated with the Lux1540 achieved an average improvement of between 51% and 75% in the appearance of their striae". Additionally, non-ablative fractional laser treatments require no recovery time, and boast the added benefits of improved skin tone, texture and quality.
In addition to stretch mark removal, Fraxel and fractional laser resurfacing treatments can provide age spot removal, acne scar removal, and wrinkle removal! Fractional laser resurfacing is also an effective means of skin tightening.
To find out if fractional laser resurfacing for stretch mark removal is right for you, we recommend consulting with a licensed skin care specialist in your area. By meeting with a qualified cosmetic skin care professional for a consultation, you can learn more about stretch mark removal risks and costs, and find out how fractional laser treatments can help you personally remove stretch marks!
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