Stretch marks or "tiger stripes" can pop up as a result of weight gain, pregnancy, or rapid growth. Stretch marks are lines or bands of broken collagen fibers in the middle layer of skin. They appear red or purple when underlying blood vessels show through but usually fade to a white or silver color as the blood vessels heal. Although many creams, oils, and lotions are on the market to prevent stretch marks, there is no clear evidence that these topical preparations will prevent their appearance. Topicals made from glycolic acid, cocoa butter, and vitamin E may be soothing to the skin, but they don't necessarily treat stretch marks.
A few other treatments are available to combat the appearance of stretch marks. Retinoid creams (derived from vitamin A), can help to restore collagen in recently-formed marks. Laser therapy is designed to stimulate the growth of collagen and elastin in the dermis, while microdermabrasion removes the top layer of skin to encourage new, smoother growth underneath.
In more intense cases, these treatments may not produce the desired effect. Another option for concealing stretch marks is called scar camouflage, or medical tattooing, which helps the marks blend in with the surrounding skin. Here are a few basic facts about scar camouflage:
1. First of all, it's important to remember that even after treatment, no scar will be completely invisible. The goal of scar camouflage is to even out the color and texture of the skin in the treatment area.
2. Since each case is different, a personal consultation is recommended to evaluate an individual's stretch marks (location, size, color, etc.) before designing a treatment plan. Most camouflage tattoos are performed on stretch marks that have healed to a white color.
3. High-quality medical tattoo specialists understand that normal skin is not uniform in color, so a technique called pointillism is used to create a mix of tones to match the naturally occurring pigments in the skin. Make sure to work with a fully licensed, experienced healthcare provider who is familiar with this method.
4. Most cases will require multiple sessions, and results can last for about three to five years, depending on how well the person cares for the area post-treatment.
Stretch marks are just "part of life" for many people, and even celebrated by others, but if their appearance causes emotional distress, stretch mark camouflage treatment is a solution definitely worth consideration.