Scars and stretch marks are considered unsightly, disfiguring, and ugly by beauty-conscious women and men. Incidentally, most of us have become beauty conscious today more than ever before.
Usual treatments for stretch marks include applying topical creams and lotions, natural remedies, essential oils, sophisticated in-hospital procedures including laser stretch mark removal treatments.
Stretch marks themselves aren’t painful or harmful to health. However, the existence of those white, pink, or reddish zebra lines on the body can make you feel uncomfortable about your body. You have to live with an awkward feeling of exposing those ugly marks when you have to be in skin-bearing styles.
Fortunately, it is easy to get rid of scars and stretch marks permanently. “We can reduce red stretch marks, diminish white marks, improve the texture and make them look better, even in some cases so that you can’t see them very easily,” says Dr. Brian Zelickson, Director of the Zel Skin and Laser Center in Minneapolis.
How Do Laser Treatments For Stretch Marks Work?
Photorejuvenation is a skin treatment that involves the use of lasers, photodynamic therapy, or intense pulsed light to treat skin conditions and remove the effects of photoaging like stretch marks, scars, spots, wrinkles, and textures (1).
The laser treatment process induces highly controlled tiny wounds on the skin, prompting those wounds to heal themselves by creating new cells. This process can help reverse the effects of photoaging by removing skin texture damages like scars and stretch marks (2).
Laser resurfacing is another method used in skin texture correction. This technique directs short, concentrated pulsating beams of light at irregular skin, precisely removing damaged skin layer by layer (3).
Types Of Laser Treatments For Skin Texture Correction
Here are some of the commonly used types of laser treatments applied in skin rejuvenation and reversal.
Intense Pulsed Light
Skin correction treatment using intense pulsed light (IPL) involves the use of laser flashlights to produce high-intensity light over broad visible and infrared wavelengths with filters that select the desired range. IPL is used to treat melasma, acne, photodamage, dyschromia, rosacea, vascular and pigmented lesions, and rhytides.
Several studies and researches have been done in the past to scientifically analyze the usefulness and side effects of using IPL on skin rejuvenation and removing wrinkles.
A 2004 study at Weill Cornell Medical College of Cornell University found IPL to be a “non-invasive, non-ablative method for rejuvenating photoaged skin with minimal adverse events.”
In some cases, overheating of the skin during IPL treatment may cause DNA damage to the cells and tissues which may lead to microscopic thermal injuries (4).
These days, laser therapy for skin using Intense Pulsed Light is a popular treatment for removing telangiectasias and pigmentation. It may also help in the removal of highly pigmented scars and stretch marks (5).
IPL skin correction treatment is safe and effective if it is correctly done without damaging the tissues by overheating.
Fractional Laser Photothermolysis
Fractional laser photothermolysis (FP) is a form of laser resurfacing extensively used by dermatologists now.
This is a novel laser treatment technique using a 1,550-nm erbium-doped fiber laser to induce fractional photothermolysis of treated skin to resurface photodamaged skin (6).
It is a non-ablative laser that delivers fractional photothermolysis via intradermally focused infrared light.
A fractional laser delivers tiny pinpoints of laser light to a specific part of the skin under treatment. In this treatment, a little area of the skin is flashed with thousands of laser pinpoints which leads to speedy epithelial recovery, thereby minimizing downtime and lower the risk of hurting the healthy skin between the ablated areas (7).
Atrophic scars caused by acne, sunburns, or stretch marks can be effectively and safely reduced with 1,550-nm erbium-doped fiber laser treatment.
Laser resurfacing is the technique of using a laser to remove a layer of skin correction skin flaws and improve the appearance of the skin.
The two most common types of resurfacing lasers are:
Carbon dioxide (CO2)
This type of laser is used to treat wrinkles, scars, warts, and other conditions.
This type of laser is used to remove superficial and moderately deep lines and wrinkles on the face, hands, neck, and chest. It has comparatively fewer side effects than the CO2 lasers.
LS skin rejuvenation treatment can be used for treating stretch marks, solar lentigines, wrinkles, actinic keratosis, scarring, telangiectasias, and sunburn.
According to some of the study reports, the success of stretch marks removal with the LS system is not that significant.
Dermatologists may combine the Laser Resurfacing treatment with liposuction to smoothen and tighten the loose skin especially after weight loss (fat reduction) or childbirth.
It is superior to dermabrasion, chemical peels, or other skin correction treatments. Surgeons can easily customize LS treatment according to the exact requirement of the skin issues being treated.
LS treatment may help in fast stretch marks removal through heating the deep dermis which stimulates fibroblasts to form new collagen and elastin; this increases the thickness and turgor of the skin.
Should You Consider Laser Stretch Mark Removal?
Laser treatments for getting rid of stretch marks may work well for you. Using this method you can get rid of ugly marks on the skin fast without waiting for the long recovery period to achieve optimal results, unlike other in-hospital treatments.
However, a well-trained dermatologist will have to evaluate your skin’s characteristics for deciding upon the suitability and type of laser treatments for your skin.
Red Stretch Marks
According to Dr. Zelickson, Pulsed Dye Laser is a fantastic option for reducing the red or pink stretch marks on the skin. Laser treatment works by improving some of the inflammation-causing stretch marks.
White Stretch Marks
If you have white stretch marks or skin texture correction issues to be treated, your best bet might be fractional laser therapy. This might cause some amount of pain and small injuries in the skin where stretch marks having normal skin in between. The skin surrounding the laser-treated skin tissues creates a quick response in the body that accelerates the healing of the treated area, replacing it with new and healthy skin.
Fresh Stretch Marks
Pulsed Dye Laser is best for treating fresh stretch marks. The laser wavelength could be set around 585-nm to diminish the fresh stretch marks. It reduces or downs the initial redness and works best on fresh stretch marks that have not yet turned silver.
Older Stretch Marks
Fractional laser treatment is best for treating older stretch marks. Older stretch marks may be no longer discolored but are still indented; in such cases, fractional laser resurfaces the skin by focusing on small areas of the skin at a time. It helps to smoothen and reduce the edges of the older stretch marks.
Results You Can Expect From Laser Treatments
The laser treatments on the skin, normally, do not hurt you. You might feel some mild discomfort during treatment or till the complete recovery of healthy skin.
However, a well-experienced and trained surgeon must carry out the laser treatment session on you. Overheating or using a higher wavelength of the laser than the required amount can cause pain or damage the skin tissues in the treated area.
It is better than surgical skin correction methods for the fast recovery and removal of stretch marks. It does not require you to take a rest or skip your work while undergoing the treatment.
The patient is usually required to undergo three or more sessions of laser treatments to achieve the desired result.
Side Effects Laser Treatments
It is possible to diminish the stretch marks with laser therapy; however, this method also has shortcomings or side effects that may occur in some cases.
With the advancement in technology and continuous R&D, we are lucky to have very highly advanced equipment for laser treatment with high precision and accuracy. They have proven safety and protection from all possible side effects.
However, some skin conditions do not fully accept the abrupt changes in the skin tissues affected by laser skin resurfacing or photorejuvenation.
Here are a few possible side effects of laser treatment reported in the past:
- Laser treated area of skin can turn reddish or swollen temporarily for a few hours;
- Mild and transient pain may be felt by some;
- Slight discomfort or burning sensation be experienced by the patient while the treatment procedure is in progress;
- Improper fractional laser treatments can cause hyperpigmentation and scarring on the treated area;
- After ablative laser resurfacing, treated skin will be itchy, swollen, and red;
- Applying thick creams and bandages on the treated area can cause bumps and acne;
- Non-ablative laser resurfacing can cause a flare-up of the herpes virus;
- Patients with darker skin may experience hyperpigmentation in the treated area temporarily for a few days;
- Non-ablative laser resurfacing can cause blistering or scarring.
Laser skin resurfacing treatment is not everyone’s cup of tea. Your physician might forbid you from undergoing stretch marks or scars removal with the laser if you:
- Have done radiation therapy on face or skin in the past;
- Have taken acne medications like isotretinoin, Amnesteem or others any time during the past year;
- Have an autoimmune disease, diabetes, or a weak immune system;
- Are breastfeeding or pregnant;
- Have a history of ridged areas caused by an overgrowth of scar tissue (keloids).
Cost of Laser Treatment For Stretch Marks
Many factors go into the total cost of laser treatment for stretch marks and scars removal. The cost includes the surgeon’s fee, diagnosis tests, anesthesia, individual sessions of laser treatment, and also the expenses incurred for pre and post-treatment care.
The cost of laser treatment also varies from country to country and state depending on the hospital sophistication, local taxes, surgeon’s fee, and the complexity of the procedure.
You may require 3 – 6 laser treatment sessions to achieve the desired level of stretch marks reduction; the cost per session varies from $250 to $600.
Fractional laser treatment cost is usually higher than vascular laser treatments. The typical cost for Fraxel Laser ranges from 150 USD – 4,000 USD with an average cost of 1,650 USD.
You have to be prepared to shell out a chunk of money for vascular treatment which requires 3 to 6 individual sessions of treatment, each session priced around 400 USD on average.
The Bottom Line
More and more individuals today are going for laser treatments for stretch marks removal.
Lasers emit strong bursts of light at a particular wavelength or hue. Lasers can also be customized at different wavelengths, frequencies, and duration of the pulse depending on the specific requirements of the treatment.
For minimizing stretch marks, two different types of lasers are used – the Pulsed Dye Laser and Fractional Laser Therapy are two of the most common types.
Lasers are used either to resurface the damaged skin or to stimulate a fresh growth of collagen and elastin.
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