Stretch marks are a form of scarring in the middle layers of the skin that occur when skin stretches and tears due to rapid changes in the shape of the body. Stretch marks commonly appear during pregnancy, adolescence, and periods of extreme weight gain or loss.
While their color may fade over time, stretch marks are permanent and will not go away on their own without intervention.
In the past, undergoing surgery for the removal of stretch marks was popular because there were very few alternative options to consider. Today, however, the variety of options available for removing stretch marks has made surgery much less common. In part, this is due to the high cost and significant risk associated with undergoing a serious surgical procedure for a cosmetic concern.
What is an Abdominoplasty?
More commonly referred to as a tummy tuck, an abdominoplasty is a surgical procedure where excess skin is removed from the abdomen. When undergoing a tummy tuck, all stretch marks below the navel can be removed along with the excess skin in that area.
Keep in mind that traditional surgical options like an abdominoplasty can only remove stretch marks on the abdomen. There is no surgery available for removing stretch marks on other areas of the body, and isn’t recommended given the risks involved. There are more non-invasive alternatives listed below
Good candidates who do opt for a tummy tuck surgery though are typically healthy nonsmokers who have excess skin on their stomachs. Excess skin is typically caused by gaining and later losing a significant amount of weight due to pregnancy, bodybuilding, or obesity. Individuals looking to have stretch marks removed but who do not have loose abdominal skin may not qualify for the surgery. Consult with a doctor to be sure.
How Much Does Surgery Cost?
Undergoing a tummy tuck to get rid of stretch marks is by far the most expensive stretch mark treatment. According to the American Society of Plastic Surgeons, the average cost of an abdominoplasty is more than $5000. However, the cost of the surgical procedure can vary widely depending on the technique being used by the doctor. A tummy tuck is a wholly cosmetic procedure, so it is extremely unlikely that the procedure would be covered by health insurance.
What Are the Risks of Surgery?
An abdominoplasty is a surgical procedure, and with any surgical procedure, there are serious risks involved. Before undergoing a tummy tuck, the benefits should be seriously considered against the possible risks.
Superficially, tummy tuck surgery may cause scarring, so you may be exchanging stretch marks for surgery scars. Complications due to anesthesia administration during surgery, though rare, can result in nerve damage, brain damage, or even death. After surgery, there is a risk of developing blood clots, skin necrosis (death of the skin), infection, and fluid accumulation beneath the wound.
Full recovery from an abdominoplasty will take between three and six months, though most patients are able to return to work sometime between one and four weeks after the surgery is performed. Within 3-6 months, bruising and discoloration should disappear and scars from the surgery will heal and fade to white.
Alternative Treatment Methods
Because surgery for stretch marks is expensive, risky, and only potentially effective for removing stretch marks on the abdomen, it is not a good option for most people. In good news, there are many other ways to potentially get rid of stretch marks that do not require undergoing surgery.
- Stretch Mark Removal Products: Many lotions and creams are available that can greatly reduce the appearance of stretch marks. These products can be cost-effective, safe, effective, and available for purchase over the counter. We’ve compiled a list here.
- Microdermabrasion: Microdermabrasion is a professional exfoliation treatment performed by a dermatologist or esthetician that removes dead skin cells and enlivens skin. By improving the overall appearance of skin, microdermabrasion has in some cases shown to help reduce the appearance of stretch marks. It may require multiple treatments though and could be costly.
- Laser Treatment: Laser treatment is the process of damaging tissue with an ultraviolet laser, causing skin to regenerate. The regeneration process can remove stretch marks by generating regrowth of the stretched, damaged skin. Keep in mind that laser treatment is time consuming and expensive—seeing results may take months of recurring treatments and may cost more than $5,000—but since the cost is comparable to that of a tummy tuck surgery, it may be a more preferential option because it carries significantly less risk than surgery.