How Effective Is Microdermabrasion For Stretch Marks?
Is microdermabrasion for stretch marks really an effective method? Keeping the skin clear, smooth, and free from wrinkles and stretch marks is a challenge that millions of people face daily.
Microdermabrasion is seen as an effective method for treating stretch marks. It promises to reduce the appearance of stretch marks, and in some cases completely eliminate them from the skin.
It is a non-invasive, chemical free cosmetic treatment with no side effects other than some temporary redness. It almost sounds too good to be true which begs the question then of whether it really works for this condition or not.
Fortunately, science is on microdermabrasions side regarding efficacy.
In order to get into how and why microdermabrasion works on stretch marks, we will need to identify how microdermabrasion works, and how stretch marks develop in the first place.
What is Microdermabrasion?
Microdermabrasion is a non-invasive, chemical-free, treatment for various skin conditions. It was introduced in 1985, and has since grown to be hugely popular as a non-invasive technique to remove:
- Stretch marks
- Sun damage
It is reported by The American Academy of Cosmetic Surgery to be the second most widely used cosmetic procedure. The first is the toxic injection of Clostridium botulinum.
Microdermabrasion as a process
The process of microdermabrasion involves blasting a stream of tiny crystals at the skin to remove the dead outer layer.
This exposes the newer cells below and stimulates the production new skin cells, along with the protein elastin and collagen.
Thus tightening up the skin, and improving blood flow to the area.
How is microdermabrasion different than traditional dermabrasion?
Microdermabrasion is different from the more traditional dermabrasion (notice the lack of “micro”) because it removes the skin with a thin layer of microscopic crystals instead of a rotating instrument during dermabrasion.
Dermabrasion can be much more damaging on the skin, and although it can remove a greater degree of skin cells from the surface, it can be damaging to the skin, especially in cases where the skin is frail and weak already.
Microdermabrasion is a safe, and effective treatment not nearly as aggressive as dermabrasion is on the skin.
What is microdermabrasion used for?
Microdermabrasion is used for a range of skin conditions including:
- Stretch marks
- Deep facial lines
- Sun damage
- Undesired pigmentation
- Crows feet
There are a number of other uses for microdermabrasion, all relating to the skin, but it is especially useful for age related skin conditions, and stretch marks.
Some of the other conditions that microdermabrasion has been reported to be effective for includes:
- Improving age spots and blackheads
- Improving hyperpigmentation
- Exfoliating the skin
- Refreshing the appearance of skin
- Reducing fine lines
- Eliminating large pores
- Treating acne and acne scars
- Reducing the depth of large wrinkles
How Does Microdermabrasion Work?
Microdermabrasion works by forcefully removing the top layer of skin with tiny crystals, usually made from aluminum dioxide, diamonds, or another abrasive.
The actual process works as follows:
Step 1: Crystals are shot at the skin at high speed to blast away the first layer of dead cells.
Step 2: With a simultaneous suction action, the micro crystals are then vacuumed up with the same apparatus.
Step 3: The top layer of skin is designed to be brushed off as we go throughout the day so as to protect the newer skin cells below.
This is a useful function of the skin because its ability to slough off and absorb scrapes and scratches keeps the younger skin cells alive in the deeper, more vascular layers.
In some cases however, as with wrinkles, and stretch marks, there is a problem with the middle and lower layers, and removing the top layer is useful to reach these problem areas and stimulate their growth.
With microdermabrasion we remove this protective top layer, and stimulate the blood flow in the layers below.
Microdermabrasion can even stimulate it to produce new cells with enough elastin and other proteins that make it strong, and tight, which is especially helpful with wrinkled, and sun damaged skin.
Microdermabrasion can be compared to removing a coat of paint with a sandblaster to remove any scrapes and scratches, and then giving it a shiny new coat of fresh paint after.
The surface is left smooth, and free from any blemishes or impurities.
Treating Your Stretch Marks With Microdermabrasion
Microdermabrasion is well known for treating stretch marks on the skin.
Now that we know how microdermabrasion works, we can identify how stretch marks form on the skin, and connect the two together.
How stretch marks are formed
Stretch marks form when the tissue below the skin swells due to pregnancy, muscle, or weight gain.
When this happens in a short period of time, the middle layer of skin is unable to grow and divide fast enough to accommodate this extra mass and ruptures.
This damage shows up as a red striae or lines on the skin. Over time this heals, and fills up with collagen, slowly turning them white over the next couple of weeks.
It’s important to note the difference between white stretch marks and red because it will affect which treatments are the best options to use.
Understanding The Layers Of The Skin
The epidermis is the outer most layer of the skin, it is made of dead keratinocytes, which is a special type of skin cell.
They form a layer of tough, dead cell bodies that are used for protecting the layers underneath. When the skin is scraped, the dead cells take the hit and no damage is done to the layers below.
This is the layer targeted by microdermabrasion. During the process, the first layer is blasted away, exposing much of the second layer to the elements.
This stimulates the body to focus more energy on growing a new epidermal layer. It helps the skin to hit “the reset button” on the scarred middle layer affected by stretch marks or other discolorations.
The dermis is the middle layer of the skin. It is made up primarily of connective tissue.
This is a special type of tissue that can be found throughout the entire body that houses the blood vessels and nerves.
It acts as a connection between the functional layers on both sides, and provides the blood flow to the different areas of the body.
The dermis is the site where stretch marks mainly occur. As the tissue grows, the slow growing connective tissue struggles to keep up, and will eventually tear. The area becomes inflamed and will eventually scar over.
During microdermabrasion, this layer is exposed through a thinner epidermis, and blood flow is stimulated in the area.
This fresh blood flow brings with it the oxygen and nutrients needed to remove and replace the scar tissue with normal skin cells.
Although microdermabrasion directly targets the epidermis, the dermis is affected secondarily as the two are intimately connected.
This increase in blood flow is the reason why the skin becomes so red in appearance for the next few hours after a microdermabrasion treatment.
Hypo means less than or under. This is a fitting name then since the hypodermis sits under the dermis. It is the base layer of skin, and is actually not technically even a part of the skin.
This area contains a lot of adipocytes (fat storing cells). When we consume large amounts of energy, like a heavy pasta, or potatoes, the excess energy is absorbed into the blood stream, and converted to fat. It is then stored in the special adipocytes found throughout the body as fat.
This is not an area directly targeted by microdermabrasion, but is affected as a tertiary action from microdermabrasion.
When the dermis is affected and layers are removed, the body needs to replenish this layer, which will require energy. Thus, energy can be obtained from the fat stored in the adipocytes, especially if combined with low caloric intake after the process.
This forces the body to get this energy from the hypodermal layer and other fat stores instead of from the diet. This reduces their size, and further lowers the chances of developing or worsening stretch marks.
When the hypodermis, and other fat stores swell too fast, stretch marks can occur. Preventing this is mainly done through diet rather than superficial treatments like microdermabrasion.
This technique is best used as a treatment to stretch marks, rather than a prevention involving the hypodermis.
Different Types Of Stretch Marks
There are multiple different types of stretch marks including:
- Striae atrophica
- Striae distensae
- Striae gravidarum
These are the scientific names for the different types of conditions, mainly categortised into their causes. These classifications are for the most part unimportant, and microdermabrasion will work equally on all of them.
The real classification in terms of microdermabrasions effectiveness comes down to the other division which is either red stretch marks, or white.
This classification is based off the appearance of the marks, and is related to how new the stretch marks are.
Red stretch marks will always have a higher chance of elimination than white, simply based on the fact that the damage is only new, and the area has not yet layed out the scaffolding of scar tissue.
Scar tissue is hard, and does not have much blood flow, making it hard to treat.
Red stretch marks
Red stretch marks are the first stage of stretch marks. They form in the acute or early stages of the skin damage.
When the skin tears under the pressure of the mass beneath it, generally only from rapid weight gain, including muscle, fat, or pregnancy weight gain, the tear initially looks red or pink.
This is because there are red blood cells in the wound, helping to clean out and repair the fresh damage.
In all cases, this is the easiest stage to clear up and repair. Treating stretch marks in this stage will always have the best outcome, and if treated right away can actually be removed completely.
White stretch marks
White stretch marks are the result of the initial stretch mark injury (called striae) healing over and filling in with the hard, sticky protein known as collagen, and other tough tissues.
These stretch marks are much harder to heal, and will take longer to recover from completely.
Microdermabrasion And Stretch Marks: Some Practical Advice
Microdermabrasion has been found to reduce stretch marks in a large number of individuals.
The location and type of stretch marks (red or white) will make the biggest difference on how effective the treatment will be.
After you had your treatment
After the microdermabrasion is complete, it is a good idea to regularly apply a soothing moisturiser.
Applying something high in vitamin A will be especially helpful in replenishing the epidermal layer, and promoting optimal healing for the skin. It also helps to protect the skin in an area that has now lost its protective barrier.
Follow up treatments
Microdermabrasion offers long term effects for those suffering stretch marks, even after just one treatment.
Depending on the severity of the stretch marks however, it will most likely be optimal to have multiple treatments.
This usually involves two treatments the first month, followed by monthly follow up treatments until the issue is resolved.
This can take anywhere from 1 month to a year depending on the severity.
The cost of microdermabrasion
According to the American Society of Plastic Surgeons, the average cost of microdermabrasion is about $150 per treatment.
Additional expenses may incur if anesthesia or other facility costs are needed.
The other main factors include the location of the clinic, and the type of microdermabrasion given.
This could mean which abrasive substance is used, as well as where the microdermabrasion will be applied.
Microdermabrasion is a popular treatment for a range of conditions.
Most which are skin related, including crow’s feet, wrinkles, sun damage, acne, oily or greasy skin, and scarring.
Some newer methods have been experimenting with the use of microdermabrasion to treat diabetic conditions with dermal insulin treatments.
Microdermabrasion is in fact an effective treatment for stretch marks.
It is a treatment that is most effective in the early stages of stretch marks (red stretch marks), but is also effective with later stage (white) stretch marks, and may in fact be the best option for long term white stretch marks.
It functions to remove the top layer of skin, exposing the damaged middle layer and stimulating its repair.
The treatment can be found at nearly any plastic surgeon’s office, as well as spas and cosmetic clinics.