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The Science Behind Stretch Marks


Whether they're from puberty, pregnancy, or weight gain, most of us have stretch marks. The marks range from silvery lines to thick, red slashes and can appear anywhere from your breasts to your knees and your thighs. And now scientists have figured out exactly why and how these lesions happen. (Check out these 10 Celebs' Quotes on Body Image and Aging Gracefully.)

Stretch marks, officially known as striae gravidarum, are actually a disruption in the elastic fiber network that runs through our skin, according to a new study published in the British Journal of Dermatology. As our skin expands during periods of quick growth, like puberty and pregnancy, the elastin in the skin stretches on a molecular level. And, just like the elastic in your favorite pair of comfy panties, it never completely regains its original shape or tightness.

But we're not a stretched-out pair of undies. And how we feel about our "tiger stripes" or "life scars" can seriously impact how we feel about our bodies—and showing them off. Raise your hand if you've ever kept your shorts on at the beach or skipped the bikini because you were afraid of showing your stretch marks. Yeah, us too. (But not some women—find out about the Instagram trend "thigh reading.")

"Some women feel like their self-esteem, quality of life, and willingness to engage in certain activities are affected," said lead researcher Frank Wang, M.D., an assistant professor and dermatologist at the University of Michigan Health System, adding that this is why research into stretch marks is so important.

Yet the development of these lines isn't anything we have much control over. Wang said genetics and weight gain are the two biggest factors in getting stretch marks—and while we have some control over the latter, we may just have to accept "inelastic skin" as one more trait we inherited from mom. And know this: The fact that the stretch marks start on a molecular level, deep in the dermis, means that none of those fancy creams will do anything other than lighten your wallet, Wang said.

We were super inspired by model Robyn Lawley's take on the subject (it's true! Super models have stretch marks too!) when earlier this year she posted a snap of her post-pregnancy bod on Facebook that featured her stretch marks, writing, "because they are some bad ass ‪#‎tigerstripes!"

"We put an unbelievable amount of ridiculous time consuming pressure on women to care so much about their flaws [that] they forget how truly beautiful they are today," Lawley added. "F*** them, who cares, be you, be loud, be proud."

We can't stop them and we can't fix them? May be time to just accept them for part of who we are and see the beauty in a life fully lived!


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