Esty Protocols: What Are Stretch Marks
By Danné Montague-King
Human bodies are agents of change. We start as infants with delicate new skin covering our tiny bodies. Over time, we grow. Our organs and brains develop, we gain mass, and the skin expands, stretches, and adapts with us. Everybody bears marks on their skin from their life’s journey, whether those are freckles from the sun or scars from falling off a bike. Regardless, two little words can still strike fear and dread into the hearts of many: stretch marks.
Stretch marks, or striae distensae, are internal scars that develop when the skin stretches or shrinks too quickly. In a stretch mark, the epidermis is flat and has lost the typical rete ridge pattern. The dermis may be thinner, and dermal collagen bundles are in a parallel array, resembling a scar. There is an increase in glycosaminoglycans, and the numbers of vertical fibrillin and elastin fibers beneath are significantly reduced. This imbalance is further linked to an influx of activated macrophages—immune cells that envelop and consume fragmented elastin fibers, and an increased production of alpha-SMA (smooth muscle actin) in fibroblasts.1
What Causes Stretch Marks?
Stretch marks are typically associated with silvery stripes along the stomach, lower back, buttocks, upper thighs, arms, or breasts during pregnancy. However, the familiar striations can also result from rapid weight gain or loss, rapid muscle gain, growth spurts during puberty, hormonal fluctuations, and genetics. In rare cases, striae may indicate the presence of a more concerning condition, such as Cushing’s disease, or the overuse of systemic or topical corticosteroids.
What Do Stretch Marks Look Like?
Much like scars, stretch marks can vary in appearance. The standard stretch mark is asymmetric hypopigmentation with glabrous skin. It can be indented with white, silvery threads, usually indicating an older stretch mark that has healed. A person’s skin color can determine the color of their stretch marks, but reddish-purple striations often indicate a newly formed stretch mark on a variety of skin tones. Regardless of their appearance, all stretch marks share the same root cause: a dysfunction or rupture in the elastin and collagen elements that lend the skin strength, flexibility, and elasticity.
How To Get Rid Of Stretch Marks
The skin needs exfoliation at this juncture, followed by a boost of strength that gives the cells a chance to re-knit into healthy epidermal tissue. There are several ways to approach getting rid of stretch marks. Resurfacing with microdermabrasion and deep chemical peels is risky, as it targets dead and healthy cells alike and can lead to even more scarring. Instead, it is more useful to exfoliate by “playing the pH scale” of the skin, gently manipulating the balance toward acidity or alkalinity. An alkaline treatment is most effective for established stretch marks and deep revision. Ingredients like calcium hydroxide, calcium carbonate, magnesium oxide, and calcium thioglycolate can help bring the pH from about 5.6 to 12, causing the skin to swell and soften, dissolving keratin and protein bonds at the surface. When the skin’s pH returns to normal, the skin is ready for enzyme therapy. This is the nourishing, re-knitting stage, where oxidase, transferase, and transporter enzymes in the skin are activated. They cause the capillaries to dilate, allowing fresh blood to oxygenate and nourish the cells, while stagnant lymph fluid is flushed out and the extracellular matrix is renewed.
With continued treatment, the malfunctioning skin cells can be removed and replaced with robust, healthy skin. Results will improve with consistent home care and topical applications of vitamin C, which is especially important to nourish fibroblast cells and increase collagen production.
Alkaline Wash Stretch Mark Removal Treatment
Cleanse the treatment area with Hydra Louffa. Rinse thoroughly or remove cleanser with a warm towel and pat dry.
Add Alkaline Wash depilatory powder to a bowl with a small amount of Aqua D’Herb. Combine with a synthetic brush until the mixture reaches a creamy, easy-to-spread consistency.
Apply the solution to stretch marks with a gloved finger. Apply across the area, then up and down until the skin is pink.
Remove the solution with a cool towel. Immediately apply Exoderma Peel with a synthetic brush to neutralize. Wait 2–3 minutes and remove.
Apply Melanotech Drops and Fibromax C. In a bowl, combine Body Masque with Aqua D’Herb. Mix until a thin paste forms.
Apply the mixture to the treatment area with the Body Brush, directing brushstrokes toward the heart. Leave on for 30 minutes before softening with hot towels.
Remove the mask with Hydra Louffa and water. Complete the treatment with Melanotech Drops, Fibromax C, Direct Delivery Vitamin C, Beta Gel, Contraderm, and Actrol Powder.
Caroline Baudouin et al., “Improving Stretch Mark Pathophysiology Knowledge by Specific In Vitro Models,” Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology 74, no. 5 (May 2016), doi.org/10.1016/j.jaad.2016.02.229; David Weedon, Weedon’s Skin Pathology, 3rd ed. (London: Churchill Livingston, 2009) 303–29.