11 Beautiful Images of Real Women's Scars

We're taught that scars are a sign of damage—imperfect and unattractive—but scientifically, scars are a sign of the body's strength. It's amazing that when our skin is wounded, the cut often heals without leaving a trace, but sometimes, scarring is inevitable. Our bodies are actually designed that way. “Evolution has selected for scarring,” cosmetic surgeon and researcher John Newman told NBC News. “Scarring is the result of a system that has learned to respond extremely quickly to a wound.”

As soon as the skin splits, the body starts pulling the edges of the cut together, working at a rate of about one millimeter every 24 hours. Collagen-producing cells underneath also flock to the wounded tissue to help strengthen it. With a minor cut, those collagen-producing cells, called fibroblasts, form a strong neat lattice of collagen. But when the cut is deep or irregular, they go into emergency-response mode and start laying down collagen in a more frantic way. “It is kind of like nailing down a crisscross of two-by-fours over a hole in a deck,” Newman explained. “It seals the hole, but it doesn’t look very nice.”

The resulting scar is made from a bunch of haphazardly organized collagen in the dermal layer of the skin.” Over time, the tissue may reorganize a bit, softening the look of the scar, but it never goes quite back to normal, leaving a forever mark of a time when your body worked really hard to heal itself, unconcerned with aesthetics.

Women survive so many trying feats—from C-sections to cancer—that result in scars. We're taught to revile skin that doesn't look airbrushed, but the following 11 images of real women's scars show that "imperfections" can be badass and beautiful.