Breast augmentation can occasionally cause stretch marks in women. Surgeons have only recently begun to assess the causes for this uncommon side effect, and little is known for sure.

A 2012 study determined that 4.6 percent of patients develop stretch marks within one year of implantation. Let’s take a look at stretch marks, risk factors and potential treatments.

What Are Stretch Marks?

Known officially as “Striae Distensae,” stretch marks are caused when the skin rapidly changes size. They come in red or purple but eventually become glossy silver or white. Stretch marks are a form of scarring, and are thus considered a permanent condition.

What Causes Them?

The basic cause of stretch marks is unknown; some women get them while others do not. They occur in 90 percent of women, but most develop them after pregnancy or rapid weight gain or loss, not breast augmentation. The study looked into the various risk factors for developing stretch marks as a result of breast augmentation.

Breast Implants And Stretch Marks: Known Risk Factors

  • Genetics: Surgeons cite family history as the most significant risk factor for stretch marks in general. Less is known in the specific instance of breast-augmentation related striae, however.
  • Implant size: Larger implants are more likely to cause stretch marks, for the same reason that rapid weight gain and preganancy are risk factors: the more you stretch your skin, the more likely you are to develop stretch marks.
  • Age: Younger women are significantly more likely to develop stretch marks as a result of breast augmentation. Furthermore, women who have never had a baby, as well as women who take oral contraceptives are more likely to develop stretch marks. The increased rates in these cases are likely on account of higher estrogen levels.
  • Weight: Overweight women are significantly more likely to develop stretch marks from breast implants.
  • History: Women who have previously developed stretch marks are also at a greater risk, which makes sense given that genetics are a significant risk factor.

Common Concerns In Dealing With Stretch Marks

  • Can I prevent them? Unfortunately not. A common rumor advocates the use of cocoa butter, but a 2008 study disproved the theory. However, a similar study determined that vitamin E creams may help prevent stretch marks for some women.
  • Can I eliminate them? Not completely. But those who treat them early on may significantly reduce their visibility. Medical professionals recommend a number of lotions, oils and supplements that may or may not reduce the effect of stretch marks. More simply, many surgeons suggest that hydration and breast massages, recommended for all augmentation patients, may reduce the likelihood of stretch marks.
  • Can I have them surgically removed? Laser surgery is considered a viable method for reducing stretch marks. There is even a new treatment aimed specifically at older stretch marks that are no longer red with flowing blood. This cosmetic surgery costs roughly $1000 per session, and most women need at least three sessions.