Our perception of stretch marks is changing. Thanks to celebs like Chrissy Teigen and Kelly Rowland, as well as influencers like Kayla Itsines showing off their stretch marks with pride, we’re finally learning to love them. For many mums who have ended up with pregnancy stretch marks, it’s a badge of honour that they wouldn’t change for the world. Hilary Duff said in an interview with Shape about the stretch marks she got from having her son Luca, “if I have a few of these battle wounds from having you, I don't really care." Jessica Alba has similar thoughts on her pregnancy-induced stretch marks, telling Self magazine: “Even though some might consider them a flaw, I’ve learned to love my stretch marks - pregnancy was the most incredible experience I’ve ever had, so I’ll take the stretch marks”.
But, even though we’re all about loving your body just the way it is, we also know that stretch marks can get in the way of self-confidence and body love. Kim Kardashian opted for a stretch mark removal treatment. "After breastfeeding North, I wasn’t happy with the stretch marks on my boobs, so I had the area Coolbeam lasered by Dr. Ourian. It made SUCH a difference," she shared on her app.
If you’re thinking about getting rid of your stretch marks, here’s everything you need to know.
What are stretch marks?
Also referred to as striae or ‘tiger stripes’, stretch marks are smooth but slightly depressed scar-like marks on the skin that form when the skin rapidly stretches. The abrupt change causes collagen and elastin in skin to rupture, resulting in minute tears in the support tissue of the dermis.
Stretch marks are commonly white, but they can also be red or purple in colour in the early stages of formation - this is because the blood vessel can be seen through the skin. If you have a dark skin tone, they may appear reddish-brown or dark brown. While they don’t hurt, they can sometimes feel itchy.
What causes stretch marks?
The most common causes of stretch marks are weight loss or weight gain and pregnancy. They can also occur during adolescence if the body goes through a sudden growth spurt.
Where can you get stretch marks?
According to a study conducted by Justin Lewis Research on behalf of Palmer’s Australia, 70 per cent of Australian women surveyed had developed stretch marks on the stomach, 55 per cent on the thighs, 51 per cent on the hips, 32 per cent on the bottom, and 22 per cent had stretch marks on the chest.
For pregnant women, their bellies are most at risk of getting stretch marks as this is the part of the body that grows at a fast rate. But other areas like breasts are also prone, and stretch marks on the bum are possible, too. Stretch marks on the back are most common in adolescent men who have experienced a growth spurt, however anyone who gains weight rapidly is susceptible. Stretch marks on the thighs and stretch marks on the legs are most likely to occur during puberty, pregnancy and weight gain.
How to prevent stretch marks
This is a tricky one. If you’re pregnant, there’s not much you can do about the rapid rate at which your skin is stretching. Same goes for puberty - you can’t stop growth spurts. However, if you are gaining or losing weight, you can try to steady the rate to minimise the potential of stretch marks appearing.
Many mums-to-be swear by certain products for preventing stretch marks from appearing. It’s hard to know for sure if these products are the reason behind their lack of stretch marks (sometimes good genes or luck may be at play), but there’s little harm in giving them a go! The only thing to keep in mind is if you’re pregnant or breastfeeding, run the product you plan to use past your doctor first as some products contain ingredients, such as retinol, that can be harmful to babies.
These are some of the stretch mark products celebs swore by when they were pregnant:
Miranda credits her own KORA Organics Noni Glow Body Oil for keeping stretch marks at bay during her pregnancy. “I used Noni Glow Body Oil throughout my pregnancy, and I didn’t get one stretch mark, even though I had a 10-pound baby. If you use it religiously morning and night, it really helps prevent stretch marks. It also helps minimise the appearance of stretch marks you may already have,” Miranda told W magazine.
Victoria’s Secret Angel Candice Swanepoel told The Telegraph UK that Bio-Oil was her pregnancy must-have. “I use a lot of body oils and I did so during pregnancy too, as I was terrified of stretch marks.” Kate Middleton is also rumoured to have used the cult oil during her pregnancies.
During her pregnancy with her first child to Adam Levine, Behati posted a snap on Instagram of “Stuff I’m loving right now”. The line-up of products included Mama Mio The Tummy Rub Oil, which contains a blend of natural oils that instantly soothing dry, itchy tummies and increases skin elasticity.
While Khloe Kardashian was pregnant with baby True, she took to Instagram to reveal ALL the products she was using during her pregnancy. There were a lot - among them were Bio-Oil, Mama Mio The Tummy Rub Butter and Palmer’s Cocoa Butter Tummy Butter Stretch Marks Cream.
On her Twitter account, Victoria Beckham revealed that she used Elemis Japanese Camellia Body Oil Blend when she was pregnant: “Pregnancy tip!!!! I have used this through every pregnancy, it's amazing!! X VB.”
Australian beauty Rebecca Judd sang the praises of this Switzerland stretch mark gel, Stratamark Stretch Mark Therapy Gel, on her Instagram story, saying, “I measured at 47 weeks by the end with the twins and I didn’t get a stretch mark…I use this every day.”
How to get rid of stretch marks
There are A LOT of stretch mark treatments out there. If you’re looking for something more hardcore than the celeb-approved products we’ve already mentioned, here are two other treatment options that can help fade stretch marks. Remember: There are no serious long-term health risks of stretch marks, so if you do get them, it’s completely up to you whether or not you want to treat them. Some stretch marks will fade on their own over time, too.
Fractional laser treatments
Coolbeam laser, which is a type of fractional erbium laser, was the stretch mark treatment Kim Kardashian opted to have done. On her app she explained, “The Coolbeam lasers are the best for removing scars, stretch marks and skin imperfections. They treat stretch marks by resurfacing the top layer of skin, which increases collagen regeneration. The best part is that there’s very little pain and downtime!" While this specific name of resurfacing laser isn’t available in Australia, most skin clinics will simply refer to the same or similar treatment as erbium laser or fractional laser on their treatments list.
You can opt to have microneedling done in a salon, but if you want an at-home option, you can use a dermaroller like O COSMEDICS Skin-Inject Derma Roller. While the results aren’t as quick as a professional treatment, you can still see an impressive improvement in your stretch mark scars. The way microneedling and derma-rolling works to heal scars and stretch marks is by stimulating the skin’s natural healing response. This non-invasive procedure creates tiny puncture channels with microscopic needles in the epidermis and dermis (don’t worry, it’s only a tad uncomfortable if you have a low pain threshold), which encourage skin cells to renew and regenerate. You can use your at-home dermaroller two to three times a week.
Celebrities with stretch marks
The queen of keeping things real, Chrissy has showed off her stretch marks on social media again, and again, AND AGAIN!
Fitness influencer Kayla Itsines posted this photo on Instagram, saying, “This one is for the ladies asking me if I have stretch marks anywhere, yes I sure do 😍😘..... and if any of my friends or family are on here you know how much I love them!! I am a woman, and I am proud to be one and have these marks!”
In response to rapper Kendrick Lamar’s release of his ‘Humble’ music video, which features the lyrics: "I’m so…sick and tired of the Photoshop / show me something natural like afro on Richard Pryor / Show me something natural like a-- with some stretch marks,” Kelly Rowland decided to oblige by sharing a pic of the stretch marks on her bum.
When Rihanna posted this photo, a fan praised her for showing off her ‘tiger stripes’. While Riri clarified that it’s actually the sun’s rays that can be seen in the pic, she did admit to having stretch marks: "I got stretch marks but that's just the sun 😂."