Women struggle to accept stretch marksFARGO - Kelli Schatz’s self-confidence has taken a hit from her pregnancy-related stretch marks. “Don’t get me wrong, I fully appreciate what my body can do. I mean, honestly, it created two tiny little people already, with one due this spring,” she says. However, the scars left behind make it difficult for her to see herself as attractive.
By: Meredith Holt, INFORUM
FARGO - Kelli Schatz’s self-confidence has taken a hit from her pregnancy-related stretch marks.
“Don’t get me wrong, I fully appreciate what my body can do. I mean, honestly, it created two tiny little people already, with one due this spring,” she says.
However, the scars left behind make it difficult for her to see herself as attractive.
“It’s hard to think of yourself as desirable by anyone, even your own husband, when you step out of the shower and see these red/purple jagged lines that now cover what used to be a tan, fairly tight body not so long ago,” says Schatz, 30, of Fargo.
Whether they’re from puberty, pregnancy, weight gain or other body changes, stretch marks on the breasts, upper arms, stomach, hips and outer thighs are both accepted and hated.
While some women embrace their “tiger stripes,” others bemoan them and will go to great lengths to try to reduce their appearance.
In her work, Dr. Susan Mathison of Fargo’s Catalyst Medical Center helps women find that balance between self-acceptance and the desire for self-improvement.
“Sometimes people have a hard time seeing that that’s a part of a continuum,” she says.
There are plenty of products on the market geared toward pregnant women that claim to help prevent stretch marks from forming or help minimize their appearance.
Although Mathison says gels, lotions, creams and oils aren’t entirely preventive, they can help the skin tolerate the stretching that comes with carrying and delivering a baby.
During pregnancy, she says women should stick with cocoa butter-based moisturizers or whatever feels best to them, then switch to more aggressive treatments after birth.
Vitamin C and glycolic acid are among the most effective ingredients, especially in the early phases of the formation of stretch marks.
Fargo mom Schatz says she’s only tried skin-firming lotion.
“I’m too busy taking care of others to really take care of me,” she adds.
Though topical treatments and laser therapy can help lighten them, stretch marks are permanent.
“Once you get them, you know they’re probably not going to go away completely,” Mathison says.
When stretch marks first appear, they’re typically more reddish or purplish in color. As time goes on, they lighten to pale or whitish streaks.
Mathison says the process typically takes six to nine months.
“Yes, they fade some,” Schatz says, “but about the time mine start to fade, I’m pregnant again and a new crop begins. After my daughter is born this spring, since she will be the last one, I hope to see them fade to a pink or white.”
Once they’ve lightened naturally, fractional lasers can be used to build up collagen in the skin to make it thicker and the stretch marks less noticeable, but Mathison doesn’t often recommend laser therapy for them.
The best results she’s seen at her clinic has been about a 40 percent improvement in stretch marks on the sides of a woman’s hips.
“I think the laser companies tend to only show the home runs,” she says. “A few people are going to hit home runs, but not everybody.”
Mathison recommends that all patients who are concerned about their stretch marks try topical treatments first, like Bio-Oil Scar Treatment or Kelo-cote Advanced Formula Scar Gel.
No matter what women try, Mathison wants them to keep in mind, “There’s really no amazing, permanent cure that’s going to give you back the skin you had when you were 16 years old.”
But for some, that’s OK; skin changes are part of becoming a woman, and, for some, becoming a mother.
Schatz says of her husband of four years, Bobby, “He has a ton of self-confidence, something I wish I had, but he seems to see past the big belly, breakouts and stretch marks that have come with every pregnancy and after and still tells me I’m beautiful.”
• Bella B Tummy Honey Butter ($15.80 for 4 ounces, Amazon.com)
• Clarins Stretch Mark Control ($50 for 6.7 ounces, Sephora.com)
• ErbaOrganics Mommy-to-Be Stretch Mark Cream ($16.99 for 4 ounces, Drugstore.com)
• Mama Mio Goodbye Stretch Marks ($70 for 3.4 ounces, Drugstore.com)
• Mederma Stretch Marks Therapy ($39.99 for 5.29 ounces, Ulta.com)
• Mustela Stretch Marks Double Action ($41 for 5.07 ounces, Sephora.com)
• Palmer’s Massage Cream for Stretch Marks ($5.75 for 4.4 ounces, Drugstore.com)
• The Spoiled Mama The Original Bump Gloss ($21 for 2 ounces, TheSpoiledMama.com)
• StriVectin-SD Intensive Concentrate for Existing Stretch Marks Cream ($139 for 5 ounces, Ulta.com)
• Weleda Stretch Mark Massage Oil ($19.49 for 3.4 ounces, Target.com)
List compiled from “best” lists and user reviews
Readers can reach Forum reporter Meredith Holt at (701) 241-5590