If you have carried children or experienced weight fluctuations, you are likely all too familiar with stretch marks. While it is perfectly natural to have stretch marks, many of us wish we could go back to having a smooth, unblemished abdomen. If you struggle with stretch marks across your belly, chances are you have wondered if a tummy tuck can eliminate them. Below, we take a look at the causes of stretch marks and discuss whether or not a tummy tuck is the best option for removing them.
What causes stretch marks?
Stretch marks, clinically referred to as striae, are a type of scar caused by sudden weight fluctuations, such as those experienced during and after pregnancy, that tear skin’s elastin fibers. They typically occur on the abdomen, breasts, hips, or buttocks, and can vary in their appearance, ranging from red to purple and light to dark. Interestingly, stretch marks can worsen when a person is stressed due to the damaging effects of cortisol on elastin fibers.
Can stretch marks go away on their own?
Over time, stretch marks may fade in color and become less raised; however, like other scars, stretch marks are permanent if left untreated. We’ll discuss various stretch mark treatments below.
Stretch marks can worsen if left untreated.
Can a tummy tuck get rid of stretch marks?
Since a tummy tuck specifically removes excess skin between the belly button and the bikini line, it can also eliminate stretch marks in that area. And, since a tummy tuck tightens stretched abdominal skin, it can improve the look of nearby stretch marks, such as those on your upper abdomen or flanks.
However, a tummy tuck cannot address stretch marks that are on other areas of the body, such as those on the back, thighs, buttocks, or breasts. If you have stretch marks in these areas, the following treatments may help:
- Retinoid creams: These topical creams utilize vitamin A (retinol) to improve the appearance of stretch marks by lightening the blemished skin and rebuilding elastin and collagen fibers. While some people find retinoid creams to be effective, they have a few drawbacks: they are not effective at treating stretch marks that are more than a few months old, and they have been known to irritate the skin.
- Thigh lift: If you have stretch marks on your thighs and/or buttocks, a thigh lift may be able to alleviate them by excising (removing) the stretched skin. Similar to a tummy tuck, a thigh lift may also reduce the appearance of stretch marks near the treatment area.
- Breast lift: A breast lift can help improve the appearance of stretch marks that occur on the underside of the breasts, but it is not effective at addressing stretch marks on the upper or lateral portions of the breasts.
- Laser skin resurfacing: Laser skin resurfacing can improve the appearance of stretch marks by removing layers of damaged and dead skin, prompting your body to produce healthy, new skin cells in their place. At Cosmetic Surgeons of Michigan, PC, we use an Erbium YAG laser to correct stretch marks because it has a significantly lower risk of causing hypopigmentation (skin lightening) in patients with darker complexions, and it doesn’t have the downtime associated with surgery.
Most patients begin to see improvements in their stretch marks within a few weeks after Erbium laser treatments, with full effects typically developing within 1-3 months. This healing process is well worth the wait, as your skin quality will improve over time as new collagen and elastin fibers continue to grow.
- Chemical peels. Chemical peels using trichloracetic acid (TCA) or glycolic acid can help fade stretch marks by removing outer layers of skin and replacing them with new, collagen-rich skin cells, similar to laser treatments. While chemical peels can significantly diminish the length, depth, shape, and color of stretch marks, they usually are unable to fully eliminate them.Higher concentrations of acid affect deeper layers of the skin and will therefore achieve more noticeable results, although it will take some time to build up a tolerance to chemical peels; you may start with a 30% TCA or glycolic acid peel and eventually work up to a 50% concentration. Similarly, subsequent treatments will build upon one another, gradually improving the appearance of your stretch marks.
A tummy tuck can eliminate stretch marks between the belly button and the bikini line, and may be able to soften their appearance in surrounding areas.
Can stretch marks be prevented?
Although tummy tucks and other body lifting procedures can significantly improve and even eliminate the appearance of stretch marks in a certain area, they will not prevent future stretch marks from occurring. You should maintain a stable weight following surgery to avoid developing new stretch marks.
Aside from maintaining a stable weight, drinking plenty of water and eating nutrient-rich foods (look for those containing zinc, vitamins C, D, and E, and protein) may help you avoid developing stretch marks. If you do notice stretch marks occurring, be sure to treat them as soon as possible to minimize their severity.
Treat your stretch marks with the Detroit-area cosmetic experts
At Cosmetic Surgeons of Michigan, PC, our board certified cosmetic surgeon, Dr. George T. Goffas, and aesthetics team have the training, skills, and experience necessary to help you reduce the appearance of your stubborn stretch marks. Together, they can help you create a customized procedure plan that includes one or more of the above-mentioned treatments during your personal consultation. Schedule yours online or call (586) 773-6900 today!