The Beauty Industry Spends Millions Hiding The Truth About The Scars Weight Gain Leaves Behind

I came to terms with my stretch marks a long time ago. Join the club.

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Narrator: You know the thing that gets me about stretch marks is that the number one descriptor is unsightly. How do you get rid of unsightly stretch marks? Do you have unsightly stretch marks? What to do about all those unsightly stretch marks? A more accurate descriptor would be ordinary. Do you have ordinary stretch marks? Are you freaking out needlessly about your ordinary stretch marks? Do you really want to try to get rid of ordinary stretch marks because it costs a lot of money and, well, they're kind of just ordinary, so...

Stretch mark question number one. Who gets them? Answer: A lot of us. Depending on the age group and ethnicity you're looking at anywhere from 50% to 90% of the population has stretch marks. If you were to line everybody up in their swimsuits around the pool, every other person if not more would probably have some degree of stretch mark. Not just women, but also men, and teenagers.

Stretch mark question number two. Why do they happen? Stretchmarks occur as a combination of tissue stretching and hormonal changes. You often hear that stretch marks are especially associated with things like puberty, pregnancy, obesity, and body building. What all those things have in common? Bodies changing sizes. Sometimes when our body start growing rapidly the tissue beneath our skin starts to stretching, actually change structure, because it can't produce two key proteins, collagen and elastin, fast enough. Without that key protein combination our middle layer skin, or the dermis, will sometimes break in places and those fibers might show through to the epidermis or our visible layer of skin. Between those broken fibers the blood vessels underneath that might also show through, hence the red or purplish appearance of stretch marks.

More recent research has suggested that the hormonal change is associated with things like puberty, pregnancy, and weight gain contribute to that slowing down of collagen production which then contributes to stretch mark development. Some studies have also identify genetic components that predispose some of us to developing stretch marks, whether you like it or not.

Which brings me to stretch mark question number three: How do we get rid of these unsightly... wait, no, ordinary stretch marks? The simple answer is: you can't. Or at least, not entirely. Particularly with puberty and pregnancy related stretch marks dermatologists usually raise their patients that they eventually go away on their own. Those blood vessels showing through the epidermis will actually constrict and the red and purplish coloring will fade with time.

If you're looking to go out and buy a miracle cure for stretch marks, I have a little bad news for you which is that scientific research has not found one. See also, miracle cures for cellulite. If you look at a number of products for treating stretch marks, you'll probably see a common list of ingredients: Vitamin A, retinol, glycolic acid, vitamin C, botanical oils, and vitamin E, all of which some studies suggest might help the dermis repair its collagen production. However, as the Mayo Clinic explicitly states these products, as well as medical treatments, cannot completely erase stretch marks.

It's said in the case of pregnancy, dermatologists would probably recommend that woman moisturize their tummies to reduce the potential severity of stretch marks that will develop in those three trimesters, but when it comes to completely avoiding them, ain't going to happen, even with microdermabrasion and laser treatments. At best you'll walk away with slightly less visible stretch marks, sure, and also hundreds if not thousands of dollars less to your name.

Statistically speaking, having stretch marks is far likelier than being left-handed, and you know what? I'm left-handed and I have stretch marks, and I also have cellulite, and I'm still here, somehow. If we could just acknowledge that they are ordinary and that they happen to us during all phases of life post-puberty, then maybe we wouldn't freak out about them so much. Maybe we could love our bodies a little bit more, stretch marks and all.

There may be small errors in this transcript.

This video is from Stuff Mom Never Told You by If you're totally over this stretch mark thing, don't forget to share.

Jul 18, 2014

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