You wouldn’t know that stretch marks even existed looking at the images around us—they’ve been carefully photoshopped out of almost every picture we see. Of course, the reality is that an estimated 80% of people have stretch marks as a result of growth, hormonal fluctuations, or weight gain or loss.
Stretch marks aren’t that scary when you think about them physiologically: They’re made up of scar tissue that’s formed in the second layer of our skin. They form when our skin is overstretched and collagen production is disrupted. As common as they are, stretch marks have long been considered unsightly and a source of embarrassment. Lately, however, we’ve been seeing both greater acceptance and celebration of stretch marks on social media, art, and on celebrities. Rather than critiquing them as flaws, we’re now starting to look at stretch marks as normal parts of life and associate “earning our stripes” with significant experiences such as pregnancy. This visibility and the chill attitude toward stretch marks very well might make us finally accept this totally natural human phenomenon.
Sound good? Check out these body-positive places that celebrate stretch marks.
Most people who have stretch marks don’t go out of their way to draw attention to them, but that’s something artists such as Sara Shakeel and Cinta Tort Cartró are changing with their artistic enhancements of them. Using paint or glitter, these artists highlight women’s “blemishes” and turn them into something beautiful. Both artists want to challenge aesthetic norms and encourage onlookers to rethink how we see women’s bodies. Their work combats the aesthetic pressures many women feel and also celebrate a diversity in body types. The way they fill “stripes” with colors and glitter is unexpected and stunningly beautiful.
Celebrity Role Models
Aside from being one of only three women of color to ever earn the accolade, another exciting thing happened when Jasmine Tookes was selected to wear the Victoria’s Secret Fantasy Bra last year. Un-retouched images of the model surfaced, which showed that she had stretch marks on her upper thighs. It caused quite a ripple, as Victoria’s Secret is famous for using airbrushed models that embody near-impossible beauty standards.
Notably, these images were only published on Getty Images, an image-sourcing platform, not in any Victoria’s Secret ads. It may have only been a small nod to admitting that everyone has imperfections, but the response from consumers was extremely encouraging. Since then, brands such as Aerie and ASOS have published un-retouched images, showing that everyone, even models, has stretch marks.
Also, celebrities such as Padma Lakshmi and Chrissy Teigen have proudly shown us their stretch marks, pulling back the curtain on unattainable beauty standards.
Some might argue that Instagram has made us more superficial, but in certain instances, the social platform has become the perfect destination for body positivity. The Instagram handle @takebackpostpartum showcases stretch marks and women and their bodies post-birth. Women share their stories, and rather than criticize their bodies, revel in the journey it’s gone through. Similarly, the account @stretch__marks serves as a “positive page to celebrate bodies with stretch marks” and features men and women of all ethnicities showing their stretch marks on various parts of their bodies. In a world where almost all blemishes are photoshopped, this open celebration of “flaws” on social media feels refreshing and empowering.
Next up: Four women share how they learned to accept the features society calls “flaws.”