Many candidates for breast augmentation may be concerned that undergoing the procedure will lead to the formation of unsightly stretch marks. Stretch marks are formed when skin tissue is overly stretched, causing reddish, whitish or purplish stripes, similar to scars, to appear in the affected area. When the skin is overly stressed by changes such as rapid weight loss/gain, the inner layer of the skin (dermis) tears and creates underlying scar tissue that is visible on the skin’s thin top layer (epidermis).
Whether or not a patient develops stretch marks following breast augmentation depends on a number of individual factors. The most important of these elements are the patient’s predisposition toward developing stretch marks, the size of the implant used in the procedure (larger implants cause greater skin stretch) and the techniques used during the augmentation procedure itself.
Stretch marks, however, are most commonly seen in situations where the skin is stretched, and then relaxes. Some examples are pregnancy followed by giving birth, or gaining lots of weight followed by weight loss. Fortunately, with breast augmentation, we are only going in one direction, up, but not back down.
Implant size plays a large role in the appearance of stretch marks. Patients are encouraged to work with their surgeon to determine the best size for their bodies and their intended results. Implants in sizes of 500cc or above are often too large for most patients, especially if they’re petite.
The surgical technique used in the breast augmentation procedure can help to determine whether or not a patient will develop stretch marks. Many surgeons will choose to place implants below the muscles (sub-muscular or sub-pectoral technique) rather than on top of muscles (sub-glandular technique) in order to minimize the risk of creating post-surgical stretch marks.
Physicians believe that sub-glandular implants may increase the chance of developing stretch marks due to the weight of the device only being supported by skin and tissue in these cases. When implants are placed using the sub-muscular technique there is greater support and coverage, minimizing stretching and, ultimately, stretch marks.
Individual factors are important to consider as well. Patients who have suffered from stretch marks before are more likely to develop them again after breast augmentation while the opposite (no history of stretch marks and no development following surgery) is also true. A reasonable implant size and proper implant placement will help to reduce this risk if a patient is predisposed to stretch marks.
In surveys that look at the connection between patient age and the development of stretch marks following breast augmentation, findings have established that a link between the two factors may exist. These studies suggest that younger women (in their 20s or younger) may be more likely to suffer from post-surgical stretch marks than older patients.
Luckily, even patients who do develop stretch marks after their surgery are likely to notice a visible improvement over time. Most patients report that within three to four months reddish/purplish stretch marks begin to turn silvery and continue to fade with time until they’re barely noticeable.