Laser therapy or laser resurfacing treatment is a cosmetic procedure. It is often used for improving the appearance of stubborn stretch marks. It may not completely erase your marks but can enhance their appearance to a great extent.
Most of us are bound to feel skeptical before opting for such procedures, thinking about the results and cost. Let us help you decide by giving you all the information you need on laser stretch mark removal. Scroll down to find how laser therapy may help improve stretch marks, how much it costs, and other factors associated with the therapy.
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Is Laser Therapy Effective In Reducing Stretch Marks?
Laser therapy may help improve the appearance of stretch marks. However, results are inconsistent.
This is because the results mostly depend on the severity of the stretch marks, skin type, and medical history (1). Laser therapy on two different skin types may not give the same results. However, it promises some improvement.
Lasers are intense monochromatic lights with different wavelengths. These are targeted on your skin to stimulate the fibroblasts (cells producing collagen and elastin). This boosts collagen and elastin production to cover up the stretch marks or scars (1).
Collagen and elastin are crucial parts of the basic structure of your skin. They give strength, structure, and elasticity to the skin. Most treatment options for stretch marks, including laser therapy, focus on collagen and elastin production. In the next section, let’s understand how the different types of lasers can help reduce stretch marks.
How Does It Work? What Are The Types Of Lasers Used For Stretch Marks?
Two types of lasers are used for treating stretch marks:
- Ablative Lasers: These lasers have a wavelength above 1000 nm. The water in your skin tissues can absorb ablative lasers easily. As a result, the tissues heat up and are remodeled. The most common ablative lasers used for treating stretch marks and scars are CO2 (10,600 nm) and Er.YAG (2940 nm) lasers.
- Non-Ablative Lasers: These lasers are as effective as ablative lasers. However, compared to ablative lasers, non-ablative lasers are well-tolerated and patient-friendly. Common non-ablative lasers used for treating stretch marks include Erbium glass (Er glass 1540 nm), pulsed dye laser, Nd: YAG 1064 nm, and 308nm Excimer laser.
Here’s what research has to state about the efficacy of lasers for stretch marks:
1. Fractional CO2 Laser
Six women (between ages 20 and 35 years) with stretch marks were treated with a 1550 nm FP laser.
After eight weeks, the results were evaluated, and the study noted a substantial improvement in their stretch marks (2) (1). The study also noted an increase in epidermal thickness, collagen, and elastin levels.
2. Pulsed Dye Laser
A study evaluated the effect of a 585-nm flash pump-pulsed dye laser to treat stretch marks on patients between the ages of 23 and 52 years. The study used lasers of different energy densities.
They found that treating stretch marks (10 mm spot) using 3.0 J/cm2 fluence improved the appearance of the marks better than lower frequencies of laser (3).
3. Excimer Laser
While other lasers focus on promoting collagen and elastin production for treating stretch marks, this laser focuses on repigmentation.
Several studies found that Excimer laser could improve the appearance of stretch marks by re-pigmenting the area. However, it needs multiple sessions to show results (1).
4. Erbium Laser (1550-nm)
This non-ablative fractional laser (NAFL) helped to improve the stretch marks in 16 patients who developed abdominal stretch marks following pregnancy.
The width of the stretch marks decreased from 6.94 mm to 3.25 mm at the first follow-up visit and to 3.13 mm at the second follow-up visit. The length of the stretch marks decreased from 6.06 cm to 2.88 cm at the first follow-up visit and 2.75 cm at the second follow-up visit (4).
5. Nd: YAG Laser
A study used Nd: YAG lasers in two different intensities for striae alba (white stretch marks) and striae Rubra (red stretch marks). The study reported improvement in white stretch marks at a higher energy of 100 J/cm2 and red stretch marks with a lower intensity of 75 J/cm2.
The results were evaluated after four sessions and on 45 patients between the ages of 11 and 36 years with Fitzpatrick skin types III-IV (5).
6. Er: YAG Laser
Er: YAG laser (2940- nm) showed clinical improvement in treating stretch marks when combined with rb-bFGF (recombinant bovine basic fibroblast growth factor).
Thirty subjects with white stretch marks were treated with Er: YAG laser six times with four-week intervals and then treated with rd-bFGF spray for a week at home. After that, they received a light-emitting diode-red light (LED-RL) treatment once every seven days (three sessions).
At the end of the study, researchers found improvement in stretch marks, epidermal and dermal thickness, and collagen and elastin density (6).
Doctors often use a single laser or a combination of lasers or a combination of laser and other treatment methods to treat stretch marks. The method employed depends on the degree of severity of your stretch marks and your skin type. If you are wondering how much laser therapy for stretch marks may cost, check out the next section.
How Much Does Laser Stretch Marks Removal Cost?
As per the 2016 Cosmetic Surgery National Data Bank Statistics by The American Society of Aesthetic Plastic Surgery, a physician or surgeon may charge $2681 for laser skin resurfacing treatment. That’s the national average (7).
However, the costs may vary, depending on the severity of your stretch marks and the number of sessions you may need. It may also depend on whether you need a combination of treatments or not.
Usually, early and fresh stretch marks respond well to treatment and may need fewer sessions compared to striae alba or white stretch marks (the old ones).
Moreover, not all lasers have the same effect on all skin types. The doctor needs to evaluate every aspect before starting your treatment, and only then you may understand how much it is going to cost you. It is better to consult a doctor to get a complete idea.
Do the results may last or not? Find out next.
How Long Does The Effect Last?
The results of laser treatment for stretch marks may not be permanent, and you may need follow-up treatments for maintaining the results.
According to the American Academy of Dermatology Association, you may need to undergo a series of follow-up therapies for lasting results (8).
While laser treatment for stretch mark removal seems promising, there are side effects that you should be aware of.
Are There Any Side Effects Of Using Laser For Stretch Marks?
You may experience a few side effects right after undergoing laser resurfacing therapy for stretch marks. They include:
- Post-treatment erythema (inflammation) (1)
- Edema (water retention in tissues) (1)
- Dyschromia or change in skin color (1)
- Hyperpigmentation (especially in people who tan easily) (9)
Right after the treatment, you may notice redness. But that is common and goes away in a few days. In case you experience any of the above symptoms, consult your doctor.
Apart from laser therapy, there are other treatment options for stretch marks that you might want to explore.
What Are The Other Treatment Options?
Your doctor may suggest several treatment options (other than laser therapy) after evaluating your skin, stretch marks, and medical history. The common treatment methods include:
- Chemical peeling
- Retinoids and ointments
They may also combine laser therapy with other treatment options after evaluating your skin condition.
If you decide to treat your stretch marks (by laser or by any other option), it is best to consult with a doctor before deciding on the method. They can help you understand what results you can expect and what needs to be done to improve the results further. This helps prevent unnecessary complications and side effects.
Expert’s Answers For Readers’ Questions
How long does it take to remove stretch marks with a laser?
It may take several sessions (minimum four), depending on the severity of your marks and your skin type.
What is the recovery time for laser treatment for stretch marks?
It takes a minimum of 10-14 days, depending on the size of your marks and the area of treatment.
Is laser stretch mark removal painful?
You may feel mild discomfort, but it shouldn’t be painful.
Does this stretch mark laser work on dark skin?
Laser often targets melanin and may cause changes in skin color. However, there are a few lasers that may even work on darker skin. The doctor is the best person to suggest the best type of laser suited for darker skin types.
- Lokhande, Archana J, and Venkataram Mysore. “Striae Distensae Treatment Review and Update.” Indian dermatology online journal vol. 10,4 (2019): 380-395. doi:10.4103/idoj.IDOJ_336_18
- Kim, Beom Joon et al. “Fractional photothermolysis for the treatment of striae distensae in Asian skin.” American journal of clinical dermatology vol. 9,1 (2008): 33-7. doi:10.2165/00128071-200809010-00003
- McDaniel, D H et al. “Treatment of stretch marks with the 585-nm flashlamp-pumped pulsed dye laser.” Dermatologic surgery : official publication for American Society for Dermatologic Surgery [et al.] vol. 22,4 (1996): 332-7. doi:10.1111/j.1524-4725.1996.tb00326.x
- Gokalp, Hilal. “Long-term results of the treatment of pregnancy-induced striae distensae using a 1550-nm non-ablative fractional laser.” Journal of cosmetic and laser therapy : official publication of the European Society for Laser Dermatology vol. 19,7 (2017): 378-382. doi:10.1080/14764172.2017.1342040
- Elsaie, Mohamed L et al. “Comparison of the effectiveness of two fluences using long-pulsed Nd:YAG laser in the treatment of striae distensae. Histological and morphometric evaluation.” Lasers in medical science vol. 31,9 (2016): 1845-1853. doi:10.1007/s10103-016-2060-2
- Shen, Jie et al. “Combination of a 2940 nm Er:YAG laser with recombinant bovine basic fibroblast growth factor (rb-bFGF) and light-emitting diode-red light (LED-RL) for the treatment of striae alba: A pilot study.” Journal of cosmetic dermatology vol. 17,2 (2018): 176-183. doi:10.1111/jocd.12376
- 2016 Cosmetic Surgery National Data Bank Statistics, The American Society of Aesthetic Plastic Surgery.
- “10 Things to Know before Having Laser Treatment for Your Scar.” American Academy of Dermatology.
- Ramsdell, William M. “Fractional CO2 Laser Resurfacing Complications.” Seminars in plastic surgery vol. 26,3 (2012): 137-40. doi:10.1055/s-0032-1329415