Stretch marks are a normal part of life. So normal, in fact, that it’s reportedly estimated that 80 percent of Americans have them. And thanks to the body positivity movement on social media and brands being more authentic and inclusive with advertising campaigns, the message that stretch marks are normal and nothing to stress over, is finally being spread further.
While there’s no medical reason to get a treatment that reduces the appearance of stretch marks (other than if that’s your own personal decision), it’s a topic that creates a lot of confusion. Many creams and lotions really don’t do much to treat stretch marks. One of the methods of treatment that does work, however, is laser stretch mark removal.
According to the American Society for Dermatologic Surgery (ASDS), laser therapy can significantly improve the appearance of stretch marks — by as much as 20 to 60 percent after several sessions.
Interested in learning more about the treatment? Here's everything you need to know about laser stretch mark removal, according to Kathleen Cook Suozzi, M.D., a Yale Medicine dermatologic surgeon and director of aesthetic dermatology
According to the Mayo Clinic, stretch marks are caused by the stretching of the skin. This can be caused by rapid weight gain or weight loss at different times in life, but Suozzi says they can also be caused by certain medical conditions where elevated cortisol levels are a play. Cushing's disease and syndrome, chronic use of corticosteroids (e.g. prednisone), and genetic conditions that affect the skin may all lead to stretch marks.
Suozzi says there are some steps you can take to minimize their appearance — namely, laser therapy.
"[Stretch marks]are notoriously very difficult to treat, but can be improved with laser modalities," she says.
That's because laser therapy uses concentrated beams of light to stimulate collagen production, and, therefore, improve the appearance of skin. There are two main types of lasers used to treat stretch marks, ablative and non-ablative lasers. According to the American Board of Cosmetic Surgery (ABCS), the former removes outer layers of skin and encourages new skin to generate, while the other heats the skin below the surface (no layers of skin are removed) and encourages new collagen production.
Suozzi says non-ablative lasers — like pulsed dye laser (PDL) treatments — are typically used for treating striae rubra (red stretch marks), while either type of laser may be used for reducing the appearance of striae alba (white or skin colored stretch marks).
A specific price tag is hard to pinpoint for laser stretch mark removal, and that's because the time spent treating various areas can vary widely. According to The American Society for Aesthetic Plastic Surgery, ablative laser treatments cost an average of $2,681 per treatment, while a non-ablative procedure costs about $1,410 per treatment.
In addition to laser therapy, Suozzi says there is increasing interest in microneedling for treatment of stretch marks.
"Similar to fractional resurfacing (ablative or non-ablative laser treatments), the concept behind microneedling is to introduce micro wounds into the skin to induce a controlled wounding response that leads to dermal remodeling."
ABCS notes that these tiny skin wounds "trigger the natural healing response, prompting your skin to produce new collagen and elastin and regenerate new, healthy skin cells."