I don't like my stretch marks and that's OK

I don't like my stretch marks and that's OK

October 12, 2021

Stretch marks have become a massive symbol of self-love and body positivity on social media.

Many have called them ‘tiger stripes’ or have painted them with glitter to help in the quest of accepting your body. 

But I have to admit, I don’t like mine – and it’s OK to not like yours either. 

I’ve had stretch marks since I was 11. When I started puberty, these dark, purple stripes on either side of my hips appeared. They looked aggressive and I thought they were the ugliest thing ever. I would pull my girl boxers past my hips so nobody could see, and I’d hide them from my friends whenever we got changed at school. 

I’d put foundation on them, or only wear trousers that were high-waisted, so I knew if I bent over they would be completely out of sight. I outright refused to wear a bikini. 

I’d spend hours online, searching: ‘How do you get rid of stretch marks?’ I tried everything – including a tip involving coffee granules. My mum would shout: ‘Who drank all the Kenko?’ when, in fact, I was furiously rubbing it on my hips, in the hope that I’d wake up the next day and they’d have vanished. 

I tried bleaching cream, in an attempt to make them lighter – that failed. Then, Bio-Oil arrived. I’d spend all of my pocket money on it – rubbing it on my stripes morning and night and praying I would see the change. Months went past and still – they remained. I remember feeling so disappointed. 

Having stretch marks made me feel like there was something wrong with me. Why were they so dark? Why did none of my friends have them? I felt ashamed of my body. 

I devoured many myths that implied that they fade with age, and eventually disappear. But they are still here, 13 years on.

We live in an age where women are encouraged to openly love their bodies and their lumps and bumps. But what if I cannot love those visible and dark marks on myself just yet? 

When I look at my own personal Instagram feed I am glad to see so many people on there who unapologetically show off their rolls, armpit hair and stretch marks – but what about those, like me, who aren’t quite ready to? 

We live in a time where brands are showcasing models with stretch marks and scars, and celebrities are passionate about #nofilter pictures more than ever. They understand transparency is essential when connecting with their audience, and so #stretchmarksarebeautiful is often tagged. 

While Kourtney Kardashian can be praised for ‘owning’ her stretch marks, on Poosh – the website for her lifestyle brand – there’s a write-up on how to minimise the appearance of stretch marks. So, what are we supposed to believe? 

The stretch mark treatment industry is projected to reach £2.8 billion by 2026. I don’t think I am the only woman that feels this way and that’s why treatments targeting these marks will continue to grow and profit. 

Stretch marks aren’t like acne, they’re stretched skin and – for many women – that might represent something traumatic. What if you hated your body while pregnant? Gained weight due to stress and anxiety? Or lost weight due to a family loss or a bad break-up? For many of us, it’s hard to come to terms with them being something to be proud of.   

It makes me sad that companies are profiting from our insecurities, but I’m not surprised. We live in a society where women are taught to aspire to an unattainable ideal of beauty, and there’s a whole patriarchal system in place to profit from this very thing.

Whether it’s anti-ageing or cellulite, women are constantly offered products that they must purchase to ‘correct’ or ‘improve’ these things. Stretch mark creams are no different. Although – in my experience – these creams, claiming to reduce stretch marks, don’t help very much.  

How can women be expected to love stretch marks when we have grown up in a society where the majority of us never saw women showing them off, pregnant or not. It’s hard to unlearn and reprogram that they are something to be hidden, especially when the appearance of them often looks harsher on darker skin tones.  

But we shouldn’t be giving stretch marks much thought at all if we don’t want to. And I don’t think we need to tell women to be ‘proud’ of their stretch marks –  that is still reducing us to what we look like. It is OK to feel ‘meh’ about them.

I wore a bikini for the first time this summer because I am trying to challenge myself to do things that scare me (swimming in water will come soon!) My first thought was: I look great, why did it take me so long? I can’t believe I let my stretch marks rob me of the experience of wearing colourful bright bikinis. Did anyone stare? No. It wasn’t as bad as I anticipated and I wish I’d done it sooner. 

Do I love my stretch marks? No. One day will they become less of an upset for me? Probably, but not yet, and that’s OK. I don’t feel bad about that. 

I would rather my stretch marks weren’t there, but I appreciate they will be part of me for a long time.  

I don’t have to like every single part of my body, and neither do you. After all your body, your choice.

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