Breaking The Stigma Around Stretch Marks On Thighs (And Everywhere Else Too)
Stretch marks are just one of those weird parts of life that don’t matter but also for some reason matter a lot. Stretch marks on thighs in particular are a “girl's worst nightmare.” I don't know what girls you are talking to, but stretch marks are the least of my problems.
1. Why do we get stretch marks?
- Media and the beauty industry especially create an unrealistic, airbrushed "beauty standard" without stretch marks
- Stretch marks are caused when the skin stretches or shrinks rapidly and they don't signify damage.
- If you want to get rid of stretch marks on thighs and elsewhere, don't. You can't reverse growth and you don't need to.
The media has everything to do with this. Images of models are illustrated as perfect, smooth airbrushed surfaces and anything other than that by default is ugly, aged and undesirable. However, reducing the appearance of wrinkles, stretch marks and other blemishes is not new. Even back in ancient Greece and Rome women would use olive oil to reduce the appearance of stretch marks on their bellies after pregnancy. Skin without stretch marks is mentally associated with youth and newness.
Why do we get stretch marks?
A stretch mark is a scar that appears when our skin shrinks or stretches quickly. Rapid change causes collagen and elastin within the skin to rupture. As the skin heals, stretch marks may appear. Not everyone gets stretch marks, and it is elusive as to why, but hormone levels and genetics play a role (a great reason to not feel bad or look down upon them). The most common time to develop stretch marks are during:
- Growth spurts in puberty
- Times of rapid weight loss or gain
- Weight training when you have rapid muscle growth
Stretch marks can be red, purple, pink, reddish-brown, or dark brown when they initially appear, depending on your skin tone. Early stretch marks might be itchy and feel somewhat elevated. The color fades over time, and the tiny bands seep into your flesh. When you run your finger over a mature stretch mark, a tiny depression is generally felt.
Caring for stretch marks
Early stretch marks should be treated with a moisturizer if you are looking to reduce its appearance. On adult stretch marks, treatment appears to have minimal effect. Apply the product of your choosing (hyaluronic acid, cocoa butter, vitamin e, coconut oil are great options to try) to your stretch marks and massage it in.
Keeping your skin properly hydrated greatly affects how pliable the skin is. It also may be more effective if you take the time to properly massage the product into your skin due to the possibility of breaking up the scar tissue. It is recommended to use a daily moisturizer and this includes stretch marks on things, bellies, legs, arms... For weeks, take extra care of possible stretch marks, if you notice any results, it will take weeks for them to appear.
Embrace the stripes
There are a myriad of treatments and products advertised that claim to reduce or remove the appearance of stretch marks on thighs, bellies, butt… but another option is to just live with them. An even better option is to embrace them, Stretch marks after all are just a sign of growth. The “beauty standard” is incredibly unrealistic and also tiger stripes are cool.
But really, view your stretch marks, scars in a positive way. Or even just a neutral way. Your body changes, but it's always there to carry you around and keep your organs in place. Stretch marks on thighs, and anywhere else on your body are cosmetic; they pose no physical harm to you and there is no reason you should allow them to cause you mental harm. During an interview done by Refinery29, 5 women were interviewed and asked their opinion of stretch marks and their unique perspectives were really interesting:
- College student in Indiana - always had stretch marks on arms from growth during childhood, developed stretch marks on belly in college. She never had negative feelings toward the ones on her arms but the newly developed stretch marks made her have mixed feelings. She said about them: "On some days, when my confidence is already feeling low, the stretch marks are something that intensifies those feelings of being inadequate," and, "Sometimes I accept them as being a part of who I am and beautiful in their own way."
- Female radio presenter in South Africa - “absolutely loathed” her stretch marks at age 16-17, as an adult thinks, “acknowledging that society will always have its own opinion of what's beautiful and attractive, and that their opinion shouldn't define how I view myself. I like referring to them as 'tiger stripes' because they make me fierce."
- College student in Michigan - loves her stretch marks that come from working out. "I was [working out more and] trying to gain muscle, and they showed me I was still making progress and growing. Every time I see them now, I honestly smile because it reminds me of the progress I’ve made in my fitness journey."
- English Teacher in Spain - had stretch marks that started appearing at 11 on her thighs, butt, arms, basically her whole body. Hates them still but works to reduce them. She also started a skincare routine that she loves to share saying: "I know that there are other women out there who hate their stretch marks as much as I do, so that is why I decided to share some of my tips because they have really worked for me."
- Linguistics student in Qatar - Battled anorexia around 15-16 and simultaneously had stretch marks appear on her hips and butt. Now they remind her of self-love. She says, "My stretch marks tell a story. All of the pain and suffering I went through while battling anorexia is on my butt and hips, and I think that’s the most beautiful thing about me. It shows what I went through and how strong I am."
Stretch marks are normal, common and un-harmful. Let's be real, the stigma around them is insanity. The fact that so many women go through mental anguish because of societal expectations is crazy. Love yourself, love others, and embrace your stretch marks.
Written by Kiana St. Onge
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