Stretch marks 101: What they really are and how to get rid of them
Earn your stripes
It may just be the optimism talking, but if there's one thing getting exposed this 2019 (beyond the chilling allegations against R.Kelly that is), it is the toxicity of Photoshop in advertising. From Kerry Washington's 100% Photoshop-free Neutrogena campaign to Kendrick Lamar insisting we show him something natural in unforgettable shade anthem, "Humble", it appears that we are approaching a modern age of realism.
And with the arrival of a new era, we hope, comes an awareness of realistic beauty standards and real issues faced by women. Think acne, eczema, and most notably: stretch marks. Commonly misconstrued to be limited exclusively to the older, pregnant, and, uh, Chrissy Teigen, this form of scarring is almost always: a) airbrushed into non-existence; or b) regarded as a symptom of some faraway plague — which is bizarre, considering how a whopping 50 - 90% of women of every size experience it, according to a study by the University of Michigan Health System.
With numbers like these, chances are, you, dear reader, are probably within said percentage. And, chances are, you're probably harbouring some fallacies (and questions about said fallacies) about this pesky phenomenon. So we dug out everything you need to know about the scarring situation at hand — from what they are to what to do if you're dying to be rid of them.
What are stretch marks?
Less commonly referred to as striae, stretch marks are a form of scarring that varies in appearance according to the individual. This applies to hue, shape, and size. They could look like anything from white jagged streaks to purple lesions.
What causes stretch marks?
The rapid growth of the body including but not limited to puberty, pregnancy, rapid weight gain, or even increased muscle mass from working out. No one is safe, not even all 'em spritely youth out there. A rare exception: those thick in skin and character. We're not joking. Thick skin is more elastic than thin skin, therefore those whose skin is genetically blessed with density are less prone to developing stretch marks.
How are they formed?
Dr. Nazarian from Mount Sinai Hospital Department of Dermatology claims that stretch marks appear when the dermis — the second layer of skin — gets torn. Or, to be more specific, it appears when the collagen bundles found within your dermis is torn. When skin is stretched, aforementioned collagen bundles tear, leading the epidermis — the top-most layer of your skin — to appear wrinkly and bumpy as it is no longer supported by the same collagen structure underneath.
Where are they normally found?
It differs from individual to individual, though some common areas include the stomach, breasts, butt, thighs, hips, and upper arms.
Is it possible to get rid of stretch marks?
Sorry, guys. Eradicating them completely is an impossible feat. That said, their appearance can be minimised. The Internet is rife with supposed cure-alls, ranging from the controversial breast milk (!) to the conventional almond oil. And while one is always welcome to experiment, Dr. Arash Akhavan, a board-certified dermatologist, disagrees — citing creams and moisturisers that contain retinoids as the best way to go.
Retinoid contains high amounts of Vitamin A which helps build and strengthen those torn collagen bundles, thus fading out stretch marks. Bear in mind, retinoid is not suitable for those presently pregnant, and neither does it serve as a preventive measure.
Bio-oil is also an alternative is revered by celebrities and A-listers; Meghan Markle and Kim Kardashian West are reportedly fans of this affordable drugstore oil. Its natural blend of calendula, lavender, and rosemary oils work wonders not only on stretch marks but various other forms of scarring.
When all else fails, you may opt to disguise stretch marks with a camouflage tattoo. Utilising skin-coloured ink, this technique ensures that stretch marks are hidden permanently, as seen above.
Whether you choose to get on the #loveyourlines movement (power to you!) or to pick up a bottle of Bio-oil on your way home tonight, how you see and deal with your stretch marks remains entirely personal — much like the individualistic nature of stretch marks. As Ms. Teigen so aptly put it re: her stretchies, "whatevs."