It’s been estimated that between 50 and 75 percent of women either already have or will develop stretch marks. Thin lines of discolored skin that most commonly show up on the abdomen, thighs, buttocks and breasts. But what are they? How do they form? How can you prevent them, and what can you do if you already have them? HOW DO STRETCH MARKS FORM? Stretch marks form for exactly the way it sounds like they do. The skin becomes overstretched. To understand what exactly is going on though, you should know that the skin is made up of three different layers, the epidermis or surface layer, the dermis or mid layer, and the subcutaneous or hypodermis which is the deepest layer. When body growth occurs the skin has to stretch to keep up with the growth. If the growth occurs more rapidly than the skin can stretch, usually from pregnancy, rapid weight gain or muscle gain, the dermis or middle layer of skin will tear. These tears in the skin are what we see as stretch mark lines. WHO GETS STRETCHMARKS? Anyone can develop stretch marks, men and women, young and old. They most commonly appear on pregnant women or obese people of both genders. They also commonly show up as girls go through puberty. There may be a correlation to the body’s production of collagen which makes the skin more elastic to the development of stretchmarks. Stress and heightened cortisol levels can leave the skin weaker, thinner and with less elastin so people with higher stress loads may be more prone to developing stretch marks. HOW CAN I PREVENT STRETCHMARKS? The best way to prevent stretchmarks is to try to avoid extreme weight gain. This is not always possible however if you are pregnant or a young person going through a growth spurt. There are certain creams and lotions on the market that claim to aid in the prevention of stretchmarks if you are pregnant but these do not have consistent success. Taking steps to encourage healthier skin that won’t tear when stretched is the most effective means. Maintaining low levels of stress, drinking plenty of water, getting enough healthy fats and taking a good collagen supplement are your best bets for avoiding the development of stretchmarks no matter how the body shrinks and grows. HOW DO I TREAT EXISTING STRETCHMARKS? Despite best efforts, the majority of women will develop stretch marks at some point. Fortunately, there are several treatments options available that can dramatically reduce the appearance of stretchmarks. Accent XL is a radio-frequency body contouring therapy that can target the torn dermal layer of the skin and encourage new collagen growth, thus repairing the previous damage and eliminating or minimizing any visible signs of stretchmarks. Pixel laser resurfacing is a treatment that uses an ablative laser to resurface the epidermal layer creating a smooth appearance. Some of the best results have been achieved by combining these two therapies.