Stretch marks, which appear as unsightly striations across the skin, are caused by scarring within the Dermis (the skin's middle layer) during periods of weight gain when for various reasons the skin is not elastic enough.
A major factor in the formation of stretch marks is the level of a certain group of hormones, the glucocorticoids, within the bloodstream. When present in large amounts, glucocorticoids prevent cells called fibroblasts from forming collagen and elastin fibers--structural proteins that are hugely important for skin elasticity. Glucocorticoid levels are at their highest during pregnancy and puberty, which are also periods of rapid weight gain.
So it is during these stages of life that stretch marks most commonly form. But how can they be treated? It has been suggested by certain spa professionals and estheticians that the technique of microdermabrasion might help remove stretch marks. But is this accurate? Is microdermabrasion a good treatment for stretch marks? To answer this question we must first understand what microdermabrasion is and how it works.
What Is Microdermabrasion?
Microdermabrasion is a noninvasive, non-surgical procedure in which the skin is sprayed with tiny abrasive micro crystals, usually of aluminum oxide, which exfoliate dead skin cells and are then vacuumed away. This result in a more even skin tone and smoother skin texture, making the procedure very effective at erasing fine lines, pigmentation irregularities, and other surface skin imperfections. But since the process only affects dead skin cells in the stratum corneum—the outermost layer of skin—how can microdermabrasion be for treating stretch marks?
Many estheticians advocate the use of microdermabrasion for treating stretch marks because they say that the process increases the production of collagen within the deeper layers of skin, but in reality there is little or no evidence of this. The topic is still under debate, but researchers have not yet found any connection between increased collagen production and the microdermabrasion procedure in clinical studies. It is probably not true, then, that microdermabrasion is a good treatment for stretch marks.
Alternatives to Microdermabrasion Treatment for Stretch Marks
Dermabrasion, another sanding procedure that involves not only surface skin cells but deeper levels as well, is much more effective for treating stretch marks than microdermabrasion. This procedure is more expensive than microdermabrasion and must be performed by a physician, but the results are far superior to microdermabrasion for stretch mark removal.
Another technique, fractional laser resurfacing, is gaining popularity as a stretch mark treatment. This procedure induces the production of epithelial collagen by carefully targeting stretch mark damaged skin with a laser. In clinical trials, as many as 75% of patients noticed improvement over the course of several treatments.
If stretch marks are very pronounced in the abdominal region, as can occur with pregnancy, some patients opt for a tummy tuck, in which the skin affected by stretch marks is removed altogether.
In short, there are many treatments available, and all of them should be considered before microdermabrasion for treating stretch marks, because they are simply more effective.