Laser stretch mark removal consists of removing striae (stretch marks) via laser resurfacing. It works by removing the outer layer of skin to help restructure the overlying skin.

During the procedure, beams of light are used in concentrated amounts to encourage new growth. While it can’t get rid of stretch marks completely, laser removal may help make striae smoother, thereby reducing their appearance.

Two types of lasers are used for skin resurfacing treatment: ablative and non-ablative lasers. Ablative lasers (CO2, Erbium YAG) treat stretch marks by destroying the upper layer of skin. The newly generated skin tissues will be smoother in texture and appearance.

Non-ablative lasers (Alexandrite, Fraxel) don’t destroy the upper layer of skin. Instead, they target the underlying areas of the skin’s surface to promote collagen growth from the inside out.

How much does laser stretch mark removal cost?

According to the American Board of Cosmetic Surgery (ABCS), skin resurfacing treatments of this kind have a vast cost range of $500 to $8,900.

Each ablative laser treatment costs an average of $2,681. Non-ablative laser treatments cost $1,410 each on average, according to the American Society for Aesthetic Plastic Surgery (ASAPS).

There are often other hidden costs outside of these estimated provider fees. Your total cost can depend on:

The good news is that in terms of time, each procedure is relatively quick. Ablative lasers can take about an hour and a half, while non-ablative treatments can be done in as little as 30 minutes at a time.

What’s the time cost for laser stretch mark removal? | Recovery time

Laser therapy is classified as a noninvasive treatment, which means that no surgical incisions are used. This makes the recovery time much quicker compared with traditional surgery. Still, you should plan to take time off on the day of your treatment at the very least.

Depending on the type of laser used, the total procedure time can last between 30 and 90 minutes. This doesn’t include time spent on filling out paperwork, as well as prep time before the procedure.

You might notice that your skin is slightly pink or red after each treatment. This is normal and should subside within a few weeks. Ablative lasers are the most effective in treating striae, but they also have the most side effects because of their aggressive nature. Such effects include raw skin and mild discomfort. Your skin will also scab over before revealing new tissues around the stretch marks.

Depending on the area being treated and the type of laser used, some people elect to take several days off work following the procedure.

It can also take several months to see the full results, especially with non-ablative lasers, says the ABCS.

Is it covered by insurance?

Stretch mark removal through laser therapy and other treatments is considered a cosmetic (aesthetic) procedure. Laser therapy may be covered in cases that are deemed medically necessary, such as pain management. However, medical insurance doesn’t cover laser therapy for stretch mark removal.

Are there any ways to reduce costs?

Laser stretch mark removal can end up becoming quite costly, considering the fact that insurance doesn’t cover it. Still, there are some ways you can potentially reduce your out-of-pocket costs.

First, talk to your provider about payment plans and discounts. Many offices offer no-interest financing for these types of procedures. Some medical spas even offer discounts for multiple sessions. Such offers vary by providers, so you may need to shop around.

There’s also the possibility of manufacturer rebates. This can help offset a small fraction of the overall cost of treatment. Ask your provider if they know of any current rebate offers.

How long does it last?

Generally speaking, the ABCS says that skin resurfacing treatments can “last for years.” The catch, however, is that this can depend on how well you take care of your skin.

Sometimes stretch marks only need one ablative laser treatment. Non-ablative treatments aren’t as aggressive, though. The ASAPS estimates you’ll need between one and six non-ablative laser treatments, on average.

Each treatment typically costs the same as the initial session. The exception might be if your particular provider offers any discounts for multiple sessions. You’ll need to wait three or four weeks between each session.

Once your skin has completely healed and you’re done with all your sessions, results may last for years, according to the American Society of Plastic Surgeons.

Laser treatments vs. microdermabrasion vs. surgery vs. microneedling

Laser skin resurfacing is just one of the available options for stretch mark treatment. Surgery is the most invasive, but may also provide the longest-lasting results. Consider the differences and similarities of laser treatments compared with microdermabrasion, surgery, and microneedling below.

Laser treatments
Microdermabrasion
Surgical removal
Microneedling
Procedure type
noninvasive
noninvasive
involves surgery
noninvasive
Total expected cost
depends on the type of laser used: On average, each ablative laser treatment costs $2,681, while non-ablative lasers cost $1,410 per treatment
$139 per treatment, according to the American Society for Aesthetic Plastic Surgery
depends on area being treated, for example, a tummy tuck can cost about $5,339 plus hospital and anesthesia fees
between $100 and $700 each session
Number of treatments needed
ablative lasers are used one or more times depending on desired outcome, non-ablative lasers may be scheduled up to six times at three to four weeks apart
several, usually once per month
One
on average, four to six treatments are needed
Expected results
noticeable changes after several weeks, as new skin regenerates
immediate changes may be seen, but they don’t last long
changes are designed to be permanent
immediate results, but these aren’t dramatic
Covered by insurance?
No
No
No
No
Recovery time
10 to 14 days, depending on the size of treatment area
no significant recovery time
two to four weeks on average
no significant recovery time

Make the most of your investment in your skin

hether ablative or non-ablative laser treatment is best for you and your skin type, there are ways of absorbing the cost through planning ahead and communicating with your provider.

One way you can get the most out of your laser skin resurfacing is to understand what results you can expect and to follow steps to maximize those results.

It’s important to follow your provider’s instructions for laser treatment aftercare. This will help prevent complications such as infections, hyperpigmentation, and scarring. Let your skin completely heal before engaging in any vigorous activities.

Also, no matter how long it’s been since your last session, you need to apply sunscreen to the area every day. This will not only reduce the chances of age spots, wrinkles, and cancer growths, but it will also help prevent any remaining signs of stretch marks from darkening and becoming more visible.

The benefits of dermarolling

You may be wondering, “How in the world is inserting hundreds of little needles into your face relaxing? And why would anyone want to do that?” It sounds crazy, but microneedling has a ton of benefits, including:

You may be wondering, “How in the world is inserting hundreds of little needles into your face relaxing? And why would anyone want to do that?” It sounds crazy, but microneedling has a ton of benefits, including:

What’s microneedling?

Microneedling, often referred to as dermarolling or collagen induction therapy, is a cosmetic procedure in which thousands of tiny little needles are inserted into the surface of skin via a rolling or stamping device.

Dermarolling works by creating microscopic wounds which induce collagen and elastin production. If you didn’t know, collagen is the most abundant protein found in the human body and is responsible for holding together connective tissue like skin, muscles, tendons, cartilage, and bones.

This lovely protein is also what keeps us looking young and gorgeous. Unfortunately, it’s believed that collagen production slows down by about 1 percent per year after the age of 20, which translates to the big A word — aging.

Despite how terrifying dermarolling may seem, it’s actually considered a minimally invasive procedure with little to no downtime. However, the recovery process does depend largely on the length of the needles used. Obviously, the longer the needles, the deeper the wound — and that means the longer the recovery time.

What size derma roller is best?

This will depend largely on what you’re trying to accomplish. Since we’re all about simplicity, here’s a table summarizing what length should be used depending on what you’re trying to treat.

Concerns
Needle length (millimeters)
shallow acne scars
1.0 mm
deep acne scars
1.5 mm
enlarged pores
0.25 to 0.5 mm
postinflammatory hyperpigmentation (blemishes)
0.25 to 0.5 mm
skin discoloration
0.2 to 1.0 mm (start with the smallest)
sun damaged or sagging skin
0.5 to 1.5 mm (a combination of both is ideal)
stretch marks
1.5 to 2.0 mm (avoid 2.0 mm for home use)
uneven skin tone or texture
0.5 mm
wrinkles
0.5 to 1.5 mm

Note: Microneedling won’t help postinflammatory erythema (PIE), which is redness or pink blemishes. And be aware that derma rollers or microneedling instruments that are greater than 0.3 mm in length are not approved or cleared by the Food and Drug Administration.

How to use a derma roller

Follow these steps precisely to avoid any hazards and unwanted infections.
Step 1: Disinfect your roller
Disinfect your derma roller by letting it soak in 70 percent isopropyl alcoholTrusted Source for approximately 5 to 10 minutes.
Step 2: Wash your face
Thoroughly cleanse your face using a gentle pH-balanced cleanser. If you’re using a derma roller with needles longer than 0.5 mm, you’ll also need to wipe down your face with 70 percent isopropyl alcohol before the rolling process.
Step 3: Apply numbing cream, if needed
Depending on your pain tolerance, you might need to apply an anesthetic cream. However, you’ll most certainly want some numbing cream for anything above 1.0 mm, since that needle length will draw blood via pinpoint bleeding. If you use numbing cream, follow the instructions the manufacturer provides, and make sure to completely wipe it if off before you start rolling! Numb Master Cream 5% Lidocaine ($18.97) is a great option.
Step 4: Begin derma rolling
The technique is very important, so listen closely! Splitting up your face into sections makes the whole process easier. Here’s a visual of what that looks like:

Avoid rolling in the shaded area, which represents the orbital (eye sockets) area.

  1. Roll in one direction 6 to 8 times, depending on your skin tolerance and sensitivity, and make sure to lift the roller after each pass. So, roll in one direction. Lift up. Repeat.
Lifting the derma roller after each pass prevents the dreaded “track marks” that make you look like a cat clawed your face.
  1. After you roll in the same place 6 to 8 times, adjust the derma roller slightly, and repeat. Do this until you’ve covered the entire section of skin you’re treating.
  2. After rolling in one direction, it’s time to go back over the area you just rolled and repeat the process in the perpendicular direction. For example, say you finished rolling across your forehead vertically, now would be the time to go back and repeat that entire process horizontally.
  1. After you roll in the same place 6 to 8 times, adjust the derma roller slightly, and repeat. Do this until you’ve covered the entire section of skin you’re treating.

Contrary to popular belief, we do not need to roll diagonally. Doing so creates an uneven pattern distribution with more stress on the center. If you decide to do this, please be careful and take extra precautionary measures.

Step 5: Wash your face with water

After you’re done microneedling, rinse your face with water only.

Step 6: Clean your derma roller

Clean your derma roller with dishwasher soap. Create a soapy water mix in a plastic container, then swish around the roller vigorously, making sure the roller doesn’t hit the sides. The reason we use detergents like dish soap directly after rolling is because alcohol doesn’t dissolve the proteins found in skin and blood.

Step 7: Disinfect your roller

Disinfect your derma roller again by letting it soak in the 70 percent isopropyl alcohol for 10 minutes. Put it back in its case, give it a kiss, and store it somewhere safe.

Step 8: Continue your basic skin care routine

Follow up derma rolling with a basic skin care routine. That means no chemical exfoliates or active ingredients like benzoyl peroxide, salicylic acid, tretinoin, etc.

How often should you derma roll?

How often you derma roll also depends on the length of needles you’ll be using. Below is the maximum amount of times you can use a derma roller within a given time frame.

Needle length (millimeters)
How often
0.25 mm
every other day
0.5 mm
1 to 3 times a week (starting with less)
1.0 mm
every 10 to 14 days
1.5 mm
once every 3 to 4 weeks
2.0 mm
every 6 weeks (avoid this length for home use)

Use your best judgment here, and make sure your skin is completely recovered before starting another session!

Rebuilding collagen is a slow process. Remember it takes the skin a fair amount of time to regenerate itself.

What can I expect after microneedling?

After rolling, the skin may:

People often mistake the minor swelling they experience for overnight success, but the plumping effect you see initially will subside within a few days. But like mentioned earlier, repeated rolling does have permanent results!

There will be some minor erythema (redness) for about two or three days, and the skin might start peeling. If this does occur, do not pick at it! The peeling will fall off naturally as time passes.

Stainless steel vs. titanium derma rollers

Derma rollers come with either stainless steel or titanium needles. Titanium is more durable because it’s a stronger alloy than stainless steel. This means the needles will last longer and the sharpness won’t blunt as quickly.

However, stainless steel is inherently more sterile. It’s also sharper and blunts more quickly. Stainless steel is what medical professionals, tattoo artists, and acupuncturists use. But for all intents and purposes, both types will get the same job done.

Derma rollers can be found online. You don’t need to overcomplicate things and get an expensive one. The cheaper ones will work just fine. Some companies also offer package deals, offering both roller and serums, although their products may be pricier than purchasing everything separately.

When will you see results?

There’s very well documentedTrusted Source researchTrusted Source showing that people can achieve major improvement in acne scarring or wrinkling in as little as two to three sessions using 1.5 mm monotherapyTrusted Source. Of course, continued use delivers better results. But the researchers foundTrusted Source that the results after three sessions remain permanent even six months after the last treatment was concluded.

To see how these results worked on others, watch the video below:

This shows what the gradual improvement of three 1.5 mm sessions can do. Remember, if you do try dermarolling, never do it on active acne! If you have any hesitations or questions, consult your skin care professional before moving forward.

 

This post, which was originally published by Simple Skincare Science, has been edited for clarity and brevity.