We've all seen them - those squiggly, textured, and discolored lines that reach across our bodies. Although some people label stretch marks as unsightly, they're not dangerous, ugly, or unusual.
Even though well over half of all people have stretch marks, there are a lot of misconceptions about stretch marks. The most common one is that stretch marks are ugly, or we should feel ashamed for having them.
Stretch marks are a completely normal part of life and the natural human response to growth. It’s estimated that 80% of people (or more) have stretch marks—so if you’ve got them, you’re not alone.
And many people with stretch marks—women and men—feel self-conscious about the appearance of their stretch marks.
In this article, we’re going to cover how you can manage your stretch marks physically and emotionally by:
- empowering you with knowledge about stretch marks
- teaching you different methods for stretch mark prevention and treatment
- giving you tools to manage insecurity around your appearance
What are Stretch Marks?
Stretch marks are simply scar tissue that forms in the second layer of your skin from—you guessed it—stretching. Stretch marks occur whenever the skin stretches or shrinks at a rapid pace.
What Causes Stretch Marks?
When you grow, your outermost layer of skin begins to stretch out. And, if you grow too fast, that layer of skin begins to tear apart. Luckily, you’ve got more layers of skin. Your second layer of skin “fills in” these gaps, and where it does, you can see the stretch marks. When the marks are fresh, they appear “raw” with a pink, red, or purple hue. Over time, stretch marks fade like any other scar and become a light tan or white color.
Everyone’s skin stretches throughout their lifetime, and that’s why there are so many different causes for stretch marks, including:
- growth during puberty
- sudden weight gain or loss
- rapid muscle growth
- hormonal changes
- certain medications, including topical steroids
Whenever the body grows or changes at a somewhat fast pace, it’s not uncommon for the skin to struggle to keep up. Men and women both experience stretch marks, especially during growth spurts as teenagers. On all genders, they can be found almost anywhere, but the most common areas are:
- the inner thighs and hips
- the chest, breasts, or under the arms
- the buttocks
- the abdomen and belly
- the lower back
If you’re not sure if you have stretch marks, here’s how you can tell:
- Your marks are in a fatty area of your body (like one of the places listed above) and not on your hands, feet, or face.
- Your marks appear as pink, red, or purple streaks. If they’re older stretch marks, they may appear a shade lighter than your skin tone.
- You recently lost or gained weight through pregnancy, puberty, weight gain or loss, illness, a new medication, or muscle growth.
Can You Remove, Treat, or Prevent Stretch Marks?
Although there are many methods to treat stretch marks and reduce their appearance, there is no “cure” for stretch marks, and they can never be completely removed. These proven methods to treat and prevent stretch marks can still help, though.
How to Treat Stretch Marks?
The easiest way to treat stretch marks is with topical medicated creams. However, the research on which topical ingredients work best to treat both early- and late-stage stretch marks is lacking. Still, most people turn to calming body butters and lotions to reduce the appearance of stretch marks.
- Rub in Body Butter or Use a Body Scrub: The act of rubbing in lotion or using a body scrub on your stretch marks can improve blood flow which will reduce discomfort and may reduce appearance over time. Bellavana's Lactic Acid Body Scrubs smooth and even out complexion. The Hyaluronic Acid and Ceramide Body Butters replenish moisture and maintain a healthy skin barrier. Both products used together make a great pair to care for stretch marks and the rest of your skin, too. Professional Laser Removal
- Laser Removal: Laser removal (including micro-needling, non-ablative lasers, and fractionated lasers) has proven to be a more effective method of removing stretch marks than topical creams in clinical studies, but it is a more invasive treatment.
- Cosmetic Surgery: If your stretch marks cause you extreme discomfort or dysphoria, a surgery that removes excess skin, like an abdominoplasty (which is casually known as a tummy tuck), may be an option.
How to Prevent Stretch Marks?
Whether you already have stretch marks or simply want to avoid them, preventing stretch marks before they happen is much easier than removing them once they’ve appeared.
- Manage Your Weight: Keeping a steady weight with little to no weight gain or loss will help prevent stretch marks. If you want to gain weight or lose it, try to reach your goals at a slow pace.
- Keep Your Skin Hydrated: The absolute best way to keep your skin hydrated is for you to be hydrated. Make sure you drink 64 oz of water a day. You can also use the same lotions and creams that you would on your stretch marks on your skin daily.
- Eat a Balanced Nutrient-Rich Diet: To prevent stretch marks, you want to eat foods that are good for your skin. These are foods filled with essential nutrients like zinc, and vitamin A, C, and D. That includes:
- citrus fruits
- sweet potatoes
How Can You Feel Less Self - Conscious about Stretch Marks?
If you want to avoid getting stretch marks or reduce the appearance of your stretch marks, that’s completely understandable. However, if your goal is to become less self-conscious about your appearance, your inner work will have a much greater impact than changes to your outer self.
Consider managing your negative self-talk by looking at your stretch marks in the mirror. Then, practice positive self-talk—literally, speak to yourself nicely about your stretch marks.
Imagine that you’re talking to a close friend who is concerned about their appearance, and show yourself some love.
Cultivating compassion for yourself isn’t easy, but it is possible. Practice these affirmations:
- “I am beautiful, regardless of whether I fit into beauty standards or not.”
- “Stretch marks are a normal and natural part of life, and they can be beautiful, too.”
- “It’s okay to have stretch marks, it's a normal process, regardless of what society deems as acceptable.”
- “My body is beautiful, strong, and worthy.”
- "My stretch marks were created with the divine gift and creation of life and for that, they are an amazing part of my motherhood journey."
Stretch Marks are a Normal Part of Life
Women’s bodies are constantly changing. We often bear the joy and the burden of pregnancy, which takes an enormous toll on the body. And, even when we don’t, we experience hormonal changes that alter our bodies in ways we have little control over.
If you have stretch marks, I encourage you to embrace them because they’re a part of what makes you, you. Your stretch marks may be a remembrance of your growth in life (spiritual, physical, and emotional!) or a marker of a new life that you brought into the world.
Whatever moment in your life that your stretch marks signify, they are beautiful. And you are, too.