Getting stretch marks on your skin is a condition almost no one wants to endure. Stretch marks is the common name for a condition medically referred to as striae. There are many causes for stretch marks and many avenues available for treatment, but relatively few cures. When people with darker pigmentation seek medical treatment for stretch marks, it is critical they include experience working with patients with skin of colour to their list of criteria for finding a professional.
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Causes of Stretch Marks
According to the US National Library of Medicine (USNLM), periods of rapid growth, such as pregnancy, puberty or weight gain can all cause stretch marks to appear. The marks usually appear on the breasts, hips, thighs, buttocks, abdomen and/or flank.
Abnormal collagen formation or any substance that interferes with normal collagen formation such as a medications or chemicals is also known causes of stretch marks. Additionally, diseases that involve the longtime use of cortisone compounds, such as diabetes and Cushing disease can lead to stretch marks.
Appearance of Stretch Marks
Stretch marks (striae) are irregular areas of skin that look like bands, stripes or lines. According to the USNLM, they appear as parallel streaks of red or brown, thinned, glossy skin that over time become whitish and scar-like in appearance. The stretch marks may be slightly depressed or raised and have a different texture than normal skin.
Effects of Stretch Marks
Having stretch marks is not detrimental to your health, but aesthetically, some people find them difficult to live with. Some people alter their wardrobes by not wearing sleeveless tops if they have stretch marks on their arms or not wearing shorts if the stretch marks are on their legs. Some do not go swimming because of concerns about stretch marks being visible in a swimming costume. Others believe that stretch marks are a normal part of life and do not hide them.
According to WebMD, there are many treatments options available for stretch marks. Many factors including your age, skin tone and even your diet will determine how well these treatments work for you.
Dermabrasion is a plastic surgery technique used to smooth out the skin by controlled surgical scraping. Chemical peels are also a technique used to smooth out the skin by using a chemical agent. According to the website PlasticSurgery.com, black skin may become permanently disfigured or blotchy after a skin refinishing treatment.
Laser treatment is another option. The treatment emits light, and because the darker pigmentations are designed to absorb light, it can be difficult to treat black skin. Improper treatment can result in injury, hypopigmentation (unwanted lightening of the skin) or hyperpigmentation (unwanted darkening of the skin).
All surgery involves risk. Laser surgery, dermabrasion and chemical peels are all available to people with darker pigmentation, but it is critical that you choose a physician who has experience treating the skin of people with darker pigmentation.
Lotion and Cream Treatments
According to Web MD and USNLM, while there are may over-the-counter lotions and creams available, most do little to get rid of stretch marks. Unfortunately, most insurance does not cover treatment of stretch marks because it is considered a cosmetic procedure. Still, the best course of treatment is to be under the care of a dermatologist who can determine which method of treatment is best for you.
Prevention of Stretch Marks
According to Dr. Bernstein, medical director of Mainline Cosmetic Laser Center and former president of Yale School of Medicine, the best way to prevent stretch marks is through the application of topical creams such as alpha hydroxyl acids or retinol products during pregnancy or at times of rapid weight gain.
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