Every scary story needs a formidable bogeyman, and for the story of skin, as far back as time goes, the bad monster has been stretch marks. Simple flaws like pimples and acne are not permanent, with Accutane and time they go. But with stretch marks, the cankerous streaks of elastin flesh that cover your body stay forever. They become one with your body.
In the 21stcentury, we have a myriad of photo editing tools to airbrush the undesirable wrinkles and present pristine perfection. They are on billboards, Instagram, and magazine covers until the hatred is ingrained in each woman’s subconscious. The message it sends; stretch marks are unappealing. Inevitably, this has led to countless women seeking for ways to get rid of them.
There is no reason to turn to history and ancient remedies to encounter the global, internalized terror of stretch marks. A simple Google search will provide results on advice and treatments for them. You will find at the top; “How to get rid of stretch marks”- ringing a chord of fixated self-hate, a narrative that has spanned over millennia. Yet in wide contrast to the obsessive fear of stretch marks, embodied in these Google searches and images, they remain virtually absent from the images we consume daily.
It shouldn’t be that way. Stretch marks are one of life’s natural conditions, appearing on most pregnant women and adolescent girls. Societies warped concept of beauty results in such an outlandish view of stretch marks. However, the sad reality is most girls will recount how at a young age they despised them.
I spent many days, perched in front of the mirror frantically lapping on miracle creams and praying my diligence would pay off. Although I never understood the content of the cream, I saw the promise of a soft, stretch mark free skin and that was convincing enough. I was dubious to the potential dangers. For 13-year olds become well versed in body insecurities.
Part of the fear surrounding stretch marks stems from the skin-care industry, and its lucrative profits of insecure women. The skincare industry has been globally valued at 1.2 billion USD in 2018 and is expected to expand by 2026. The skin-care industry is a maze of unexplored science and uncertain remedies, and since the FDA only investigates cosmetic products after they hit the shelves, a lot can go unnoticed.
Stretch marks are an internal occurrence, which renders any topical treatments useless. They develop when the collagen, the support for our skin, wears thin due to rapid growth or weight gain. This makes it impossible to get rid of easily, and only laser can be considered an effective treatment. Despite this, it would be a painful, long, and even then, may result in marginal improvement. Is it worth it?
I believe stretch marks should be viewed as a sign of growth and maturation. If it is a part of us why erase it?