Steven J. Smith, M.D., FACS
I have extensive stretch marks on my breasts, thighs, hips, and stomach, which I have had for over 20 years. Is there anything that can be done to remove or reduce the appearance of stretch marks?
Stretch marks can occur following rapid growth, weight gain, pregnancy, steroid use or other health conditions which adversely affect the skin's health and elasticity. Skin characteristics such as color, tone, texture and elasticity are inherited traits but can also be affected by environmental factors. At this point, there is no "cure" for stretch marks. Areas of stria vascularis (stretch marks) that are located in zones of skin excess such as the lower abdomen can be removed at the time of abdominoplasty surgery. On the breast area, stretch marks can be removed during mastopexy (breast lift) or breast reduction surgery. These incisional surgeries require a surgical scar in order to remove the excess skin and tighten the "skin envelope," thus improving the shape or contour. A stretch mark represents a full thickness tear in the skin when the limit of elasticity has been reached. Direct removal of stretch marks in the thigh region would require a scar revision procedure, which could possibly make a very wide scar less noticeable; however, the scar would still be present. Therefore, until a new technology emerges, we do not have a perfect answer for most of these problems.