Stretch marks are white, pink or bluish streak like marks on skin commonly noticed during pregnancy and when body is growing rapidly during adolescence.
Pregnant women notice the stretch marks on their growing belly after 4th or 5th month. Stretch marks in adolescents and men are usually seen on a variety of body parts parts like abdomen, hips, thighs, chest, breasts, shoulders and arms. People who are on a muscle building exercise program, and those who take supplements containing steroids, also tend to develop stretch marks.
Stretch marks are medically called’Striae”.The term stretch mark is misleading. Stretching of skin is not the real cause of these marks. Stretch marks are seen is thin individuals as well. When plastic surgeons actually stretch the skin 2-3 times its size during some surgeries like tissue expansion, stretch marks do not appear. When someone is suffers from Cushings disease ( excess steroid hormones) the body develops stretch marks. Stretch marks happen due to excess circulating steroid hormones in the body- like during pregnancy, vigorous exercise etc and also due to increased sensitivity of skin to those hormones. Indian women are more prone to develop stretch marks during pregnancy than their white skinned counterparts.
All stretch marks are not the same. Mild stretch marks are like faint scratches whereas severe stretch marks are as wide as half a centimeter and also deep. You can feel the thin papery skin at the bottom of a wide stretch mark. All stretch marks look pink initially but gradually turn pale white over next few months. Deep and wide stretch marks tend to look bluish due to visibility of blood vessels through the thinned out skin.
Variety of stretch mark creams containing cocoa butter, Vit E etc sell like hotcake because people are desperate to treat stretch marks. These creams provide moisture but do not really do much for stretch marks. So what is the alternative? How do some actresses continue to wear skimpy clothes even after pregnancies without a sign of stretch mark?
Certain vascular lasers like Pulse dye laser can lighten bright pink stretch marks to pale white. If the stretch marks are already pale vascular laser will not be of any use. Other treatments like chemical peels, microdermabrasion can slightly improve certain superficial stretch marks only. A lot of sittings over many months are needed and the results are unpredictable. Recently fractional laser has been used for treatment of stretch marks. Light stretch marks can be improved up to 50 percent. Like with most lasers 6 to 10 sitting are required at one month intervals. Cost of laser treatment of marks on lower abdomen can be 1 to 2 lakh(2000-4000USD) rupees.
The fact remains that the most common type of deep stretch marks on the abdomen, post pregnancy can not be treated by any of the above methods. Tummy tuck or abdominoplasty is a surgical option. Apart from stretch marks there is also loose skin and bulging abdomen after pregnancies, which is resistant to proper diet and exercise. All these issues can be tackled with tummy tuck, which involves removal of fat, tightening of muscles and removal of all the skin below naval. Abdomen ends up looking pretty much same as it did before pregnancies. Even if the marks are extensive and going above the naval, they can be shifted very low down. Downside of tummy tuck is a long scar. Fortunately this scar is placed very low near pubic hair and it can be cleverly hidden in bikinis and low waist jeans. Cost of tummy tuck in India is Rs and 75000-1.5 lakhs( USD 1600-3000) upwards depending on geographical location and surgeon.