Looking in the mirror and noticing some faint lines on your skin can cause insecurities in many people. While stretch marks are natural and harmless, they are capable of harming a person’s self-esteem, especially when in visible areas.
Stretch marks are a common skin condition that occurs when the skin is stretched too quickly or beyond its elastic capabilities. They occur in men and women alike.
According to Durban-based dermatologist Dr Thembelihle Zulu, stretch marks are a common condition that does not cause any significant medical problems but can be of cosmetic concern for some people.
Mandisa Mazibuko from Newcastle in KwaZulu-Natal hated herself after noticing dark, visible lines on her body and wanted to get rid of them by all means possible. She says she has, however, learned not to let them take away her confidence and is slowly accepting their normality.
“I hated myself when I started noticing my stretch marks and had very low self-esteem. As a result, I never wanted to wear anything short or even something a bit revealing because they were more on my thighs and my back. I felt like people would be disgusted when seeing them.
“I tried bio-oil and tissue oil, and they are now less revealing but still there. Although I haven’t made peace with the ones on my stomach, I’m embracing my confidence better than before,” she says.
Not just a women’s issue
Having stretch marks as a male is also common but not widely spoken about, says Kamogelo Mingeli from the Northern Cape. He explains that he has never been in a room where men openly speak about stretch marks, dark spots, and other insecurities, so hiding his stretch marks and keeping them to himself was his first instinct.
“I think my stretch marks were caused by my inability to maintain a stable weight. Hiding parts of my body has been my main thing, and being in a relationship was the most terrifying thing ever, until now.
“I started using Vaseline and castor oil without any expectations, just as a day-to-day routine, and I witnessed my stretch marks becoming lighter and less noticeable, though I don’t mind having stretch marks anymore. I think I am slowly accepting my body and I’m learning to be comfortable in my skin,” he says.
Nothing to be ashamed of
He hopes that men can learn from women.
“Nowadays, women are redefining stretch marks as body art and beauty, which is the most phenomenal thing ever. I hope this gives men the courage to embrace what the world labels as flaws and an error in beauty standards the same way people embrace scars and give them meaning.
“It’s okay if you don’t like your stretch marks and if you want to fix them, but do that while loving yourself enough to be comfortable in your own body and having no problem with how others appreciate theirs,” Mingeli adds.
Dealing with the problem
Zama Ngubane from Durban shares that stretch marks made her confidence drop to zero because it was something she never thought she would experience because of her healthy body weight.
“I was so shocked when I noticed them. Tears streamed down my face at school because they were red and a bit purplish since I’m very light-skinned, and I think gaining weight and growing up caused them because I relocated. I was happy and content with my life then.
“As time went on, I tried tissue oil, and it faded and looked like my original skin tone. I received compliments from my dormitory mates every day, and that just boosted my confidence,” says Ngubane.
Zulu points out that the gender-neutral skin condition affects 70% of adolescent girls and 40% of boys. Furthermore, she mentions that they occur in certain areas of the body where the skin is subjected to continuous and progressive stretching.
- Abdomen and breasts in pregnant women
- Adolescents undergoing growth spurts (thighs, buttocks, and breasts)
- Shoulders in bodybuilders
- Obese or overweight people
“They can also occur from prolonged use of oral or topical corticosteroids and also from anabolic steroids used mainly by bodybuilders, and they are also a feature of diseases such as Cushing syndrome. Rarely, if extensive, they may ulcerate or tear easily in an accident,” she explains.
Over time, stretch marks become less visible and generally require no treatment. While they also cannot be prevented, Zulu says no home remedy has proven successful to date and highlights treatment options that can be tried to assist with improvement.
The following can help to minimise stretch marks:
- Topical retinoid therapy
- Chemical laser therapy
While stretch marks may seem like a nuisance, Zulu adds that they are usually a cosmetic problem and should not be a source of embarrassment or shame. Turn it into something positive, so embrace your body, marks and all.
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