Blurred lines

Those un­flat­ter­ing streaks known as stretch marks show up when fat ex­pan­sion takes place faster than skin ex­pan­sion does. Here’s how to pre­vent and treat them, re­ports

Prestige (Singapore) - - BEAUTY - Pearlyn tham

if you scratch or hurt your skin, it may not heal well and a scar forms, go­ing from red to white. De­pend­ing on the health of your skin, the whitish mark may fade with time. But some­times, it stays that way.

A sim­i­lar idea ap­plies to stretch marks, also known as striae. “They are tears in the skin as a re­sult of the skin be­ing stretched dur­ing preg­nancy or a bout of rapid weight gain,” Dr Joyce Lim, der­ma­tol­o­gist at Joyce Lim Skin and Laser Clinic, says. She adds that “new” stretch marks are red or pur­ple as they are fresh scars but turn white when they set­tle into skin and be­come more ma­ture.

The doc­tors and body care spe­cial­ists we spoke with for this story all agreed that the ini­tial red or pur­ple streaks are eas­ier to treat. Says Dr Karen Soh, med­i­cal di­rec­tor of Privé Clinic: “As soon as fresh red stretch marks de­velop, one should treat them im­me­di­ately.”

So, how does skin get “in­jured” so much that stretch marks form as a re­sponse mech­a­nism? First, there’s the com­mon cul­prit of weight

fluc­tu­a­tion, es­pe­cially one that hap­pens rapidly dur­ing preg­nancy or a pu­berty growth spurt.

“When weight gain is sud­den, fat ex­pan­sion is faster than skin ex­pan­sion, es­pe­cially on the tummy, back of thighs and but­tocks (where stretch marks are of­ten seen). This re­sults in the col­laps­ing of sup­port within the skin and the for­ma­tion of striae,” says Dr Wong Kee Seng, med­i­cal di­rec­tor of Kowayo Aes­thetic Clinic.

Dr Sabine Leone, co-founder of French medi-spa Es­the­clinic, ex­plains that those un­der­go­ing med­i­cal treat­ments that cause cor­ti­sone lev­els to be raised are more prone to get­ting stretch marks. For in­stance, some peo­ple need cor­ti­sone shots to re­lieve pain and in­flam­ma­tion in joints.

“An in­crease in cor­ti­sone lev­els can in­crease the prob­a­bil­ity or sever­ity of stretch marks be­cause the fi­brob­lasts are pre­vented from form­ing col­la­gen and elastin fi­bres,” she says. “By cre­at­ing a lack of sup­port­ive ma­te­rial as the skin is stretched, there will be der­mal and epi­der­mal tear­ing, which in turn can cause scar­ring or stretch marks.”

Ac­cord­ing to Dr Lim, rare skin con­di­tions such as Mar­fan’s syn­drome and Eh­lers-dan­los syn­drome can also cause the pa­tient’s col­la­gen and elas­tic tis­sues to form ab­nor­mally. Dr Wong adds that an­other un­com­mon fac­tor is a tu­mour in the adrenal gland.

Privé Clinic’s Dr Soh says ge­net­ics can play a role too and so can skin type. “Some of us have more elas­tic skin than oth­ers. It is also not ad­vis­able to em­bark on a sud­den phys­i­cal ac­tiv­ity af­ter a pe­riod of in­ac­tiv­ity as do­ing so can cause the skin to stretch.”

Keep­ing skin strong

Once stretch marks be­come white, they are harder or im­pos­si­ble to treat. Preven­tion is the best, which is why Dr Soh ad­vises hav­ing a diet rich in vi­ta­mins E and C, zinc and sil­ica, which are said to help form col­la­gen in skin. She also sug­gests drink­ing about two litres of wa­ter a day to strengthen and re­new skin.

“Col­la­gen and elastin fi­bres are nec­es­sary to keep rapidly grow­ing skin taut. The stronger these fi­bres are, the less likely they are to ‘break’ and leave stretch marks. Through­out preg­nancy, one’s best de­fence against them is to make sure skin main­tains its max­i­mum elas­tic­ity, which is achieved by keep­ing it well-hy­drated and sup­ple at all times,” she ex­plains.

The eas­i­est way to do this, it seems, is to slather on co­pi­ous amounts of body mois­turiser, es­pe­cially when one is ex­pect­ing. In fact, mod­el­host Chrissy Teigen was re­ported to have used La Mer The Con­cen­trate dur­ing her re­cent preg­nancy and found it ef­fi­cient in pre­vent­ing stretch marks. A check with the brand, for which she is a spokesper­son of, re­vealed the prod­uct is said to help strengthen and pro­tect the skin’s bar­rier, while also stim­u­lat­ing its re­newal.

In terms of in-clinic treat­ments, Es­the­clinic’s Dr Leone says the CO2 laser is one of the old­est tech­nolo­gies used. How­ever, it can cause bruis­ing and re­quire down­time, and is not suit­able for darker skin tones. She adds the lat­est pro­ce­dure is the non-in­va­sive and pain­less LED pho­to­mod­u­la­tion, which is be­lieved to stim­u­late su­per­fi­cial cir­cu­la­tion, re­duce flac­cid­ity in skin tone and soften and flat­ten stretch marks. This is com­bined with a ra­diofre­quency treat­ment to tighten, firm up and smoothen out skin. The two pro­ce­dures, which cost about $200 to $300 per ses­sion de­pend­ing on the area tar­geted, are used in her medi-spa’s Smooth Be­gin­nings Stretch Mark Treat­ment. About 10 to 15 ses­sions are rec­om­mended for best re­sults.

Dr Soh says be­sides con­sult­ing your doc­tor on CO2 laser treat­ments and ra­diofre­quency ones such as Ther­mage CPT, chem­i­cal peels can be in­cluded to even out the dis­coloura­tion on stretch marks. The acid used is said to pen­e­trate skin lay­ers to re­new skin cells and en­cour­age fur­ther col­la­gen and elastin growth.

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