Do radio frequency treatments work on stretch marks?
The more I research, the more it appears that there really is no hope for people with chronic stretch marks. I’ve suffered with stretch marks for years, mostly on my chest and love handles, and I’ve tried almost every natural remedy under the sun. Nothing works. Do radio frequency treatments actually work or is it just another “option” for people to waste their money?
It's great that you have carried out your own research into treatments for stretch marks. Unfortunately, stretch marks affect a large proportion of the population and there is no conclusive non-invasive way to eliminate them. While there are many topical products and non-surgical treatments that claim to correct stretch marks, many of these are ineffective, or can only reduce the appearance of stretch marks but not eradicate them completely.
Stretch marks or striae are a type of scarring that occurs when the skin is stretched beyond its capacity, causing the connective skin fibers to break. The deeper layers of the dermis are affected while the most superficial layer of the skin is spared. The overstretched dermis can never return to its original size, so aesthetic treatments that claim to improve skin laxity, such as radiofrequency skin tightening, can encourage the production of new collagen in the area but cannot completely remove stretch marks as they are a full thickness injury to the skin.
You need to determine whether you wish to remove your stretch marks completely or improve the redness of the marks. If you wish to completely eradicate your stretch marks, the only proven method of doing so is to excise the skin through a surgical procedure such as a tummy tuck. If you want to improve the appearance of your striae and have realistic expectations about the results, some patients have experienced success with treatments such as fractional and non-ablative laser technologies.
Fresh stretch marks that are still red or raised have a better chance of being lightened by treatments such as laser. Some individuals have found that Retin-A creams have helped improve the appearance of stretch marks when they are still red or pink, as this means there is still a blood supply to the area. These fresh stretch marks will usually get better on their own. Unfortunately, when the stretch mark scar is white there is no longer active nutrients or oxygen being delivered to the area so treatments will have little effect. The appearance of stretch marks may diminish over time, but will never completely disappear.
Consider scheduling an appointment with a board-certified dermatologist or plastic surgeon. He or she will be able to examine your stretch marks and present you with surgical and non-surgical options that may help to improve the appearance of your skin.
Radiofrequency devices are presently enjoying popularity as a method of non-surgical skin tightening. RF treatments use radio wave energy on the electromagnetic spectrum to produce heat and stimulate collagen production, which can improve the appearance of loose skin, fine lines, and acne scarring, as well as correct facial skin laxity around the jawline.
However, there are mixed reviews regarding whether radiotherapy constitutes a successful treatment for stretch marks. Stretch marks are notoriously difficult to treat, particularly when they are no longer red and have become silvery or white in color. There are multiple treatment options available that claim to improve the appearance of stretch marks, however, many products lack clinical evidence of their efficacy.
There are, however, some clinical studies that have emerged asserting that rf devices can improve the appearance of stretch marks. One particular clinical study used radiofrequency on 16 subjects with stretch marks and found that the treatment helped reduce both the length and width of the stretch marks and also led to an improved appearance in the skin of 14 subjects. These 14 subjects agreed there was a visible difference in the treated area. However, this was a small sample of subjects and further research would need to be conducted to ensure these results are generalizable.
Some dermatologists and plastic surgeons have also found success using a treatment or a combination of treatments to reduce the appearance of stretch marks such as microneedling, platelet-rich plasma (PRP), laser treatments, such as Erbium or Pulse Dye Laser, and skin creams such as Stratamark or retinoids such as tretinoin.
The success of these treatments in reducing the appearance of stretch marks is highly variable, depending on the individual's immune system, skin type, and the age of the stretch marks. Some individuals get a good result from treatments, while others do not. Multiple sessions are generally needed to see any improvement at all. The only definite way to get rid of stretch marks is to excise the skin. Not all areas of the body where stretch marks may occur are amenable to surgery, however.
If you set up a consultation with a board-certified dermatologist, they will be able to explain if you are a good candidate for non-invasive options or surgery, and the kind of results you can realistically expect from each. However, it is important that you realize that non-surgical methods are unable to completely eliminate stretch marks, and the older the stretch marks, the more difficult it is to improve them.
In my experience RF treatments do NOT improve stretch marks, with topical / transduction treatments (such as Theramage). There are some new devices based on RF that actually enter the skin through tiny needles or thin probes, but in my opinion the jury is still out on those.