I’m 14 and I got stretch marks from my growth spurt on my back and I don’t know how people will react. None of the other guys have stretch marks is there a way of reducing their visibility?
Thanks for your great question. So there are three bits to your question here:
- The visibility of the marks
- You worried being worried about how people will react
- How we are taught to compare ourselves with others and to be self-critical
How visible are stretch marks?
Stretch marks from growth spurts is totally normal and actually really common. Your skin has stretched during your rapid growth and that has caused marks to appear. As this NHS page explains: “The stretching causes the middle layer of skin (dermis) to tear, allowing the deeper skin layers to show through, forming stretch marks.”
Stretch marks happen on the back or on hips, boobs, thighs and tummy — depending on your hormones.
I guess if they are visible to you at the minute then they might be a bit reddish/pinkish right now? Over time that will be much much less visible — it might take a few weeks or months. There are lots of products which say that they will reduce visibility or speed up the process of stretch marks being less visible (if you google Boots or Superdrug and then ‘stretch marks’ you will see a bunch of things). The NHS page on stretch marks seems to be a bit -side eye- about them but some of them aren’t too expensive so it might be worth a go.
Just the effect of applying a moisturiser onto your body might feel nice too. If you rub your hands over the area it may feel nice because it might reconnect you to your body a bit.
Growth spurts and your body
Puberty can feel like a weird time for a lot of people because their bodies can change really really quickly. Usually changes to our bodies happen at a slow enough speed that we have enough emotional capacity to deal with them. But when your body changes that quickly it can be a little bit scary and it might take a while for your brain/feelings time to catch up. Growth spurts happen so quickly that they can cause stretch marks.
Often the best advice I give to people is the hardest for them to actually do. Sorry about that. But the best advice is to try to help your brain catch up with your body, rather than just to try to cover your body up. If you can find a product that can help you then that’s great, but can you also find a way to be more chill about your stretch marks?
Being inside your body
One way of helping you feel better about your body is to try to be inside your body, rather than outside it looking in. This is known as being ‘embodied’. Because of society’s obsession with ‘perfect bodies’ our first instinct is to judge a thing based on how it looks. But if you could also think about how it feels from the inside then you can really start to feel differently about it.
Think about times when you feel really inside your body, for example: like when you’re having a huge belly laugh; or cosy in bed in the morning; or that feeling of having a really perfect-for-you temperature bath or shower. Maybe write a list of the times when you are feeling really in your body and how you feel about yourself at the time.
Can you learn from this and try to apply the same tools to how you feel about your stretch marks? So when you are rubbing your cream into it can you maybe feel how much you’ve grown. Notice how it feels under your fingers. Feeling how your layers of skin are growing and adapting. Think about how your muscles fibres and bones have stretched your skin from the inside.
The ‘perfect’ body obsession
Our society’s obsession with ‘perfect bodies’ means that not only do we judge our own bodies but also everyone else’s. Our fear of this happening to us is really huge and you are now wondering how people are going to react. I’m sorry to say that I can’t tell you how other people are going to react, but I can only give you advice about how you can react.
Positive self talk
If you can have a saying ready it might help you to be more chill and confident about stretch marks
So as well as the other advice about treating the stretch marks and how you feel about your body, maybe you can just practice having a saying ready.
“Yeah it’s stretch marks and it happens when skin can’t keep up with the growth of the rest of the body”
“It’s chill. It’s a puberty thing apparently and it will go away in a few weeks/months.”
“It’s very common in teenagers and I’ve some. Whatever.”
If you have an explanation or a phrase ready for people then you might be able to sound a bit more chill, which will make them think it’s no big deal (and then might make you think this about yourself too — it’s a circular thing).
Everyone has their own thing they are uncomfortable about
The other thing to remember is that everyone will probably have their own version of stretch marks that they are feeling uncomfortable about. If other people take the piss or bully others for how they look, can you challenge that and try to change the culture with the people around you? If you can be to others how you want others to be with you then that really is a sign of growth.
Thanks for writing to me about it. Part of why people may worry about stretch marks is that there is not enough good sex education teaching people about stuff like this. So now, thanks to you, there’s this. Hopefully you and other people will find this useful.
Feeling Better About Your Body – in this great piece by guest blogger Vanessa
Being A Man – means it can be harder to have conversations with guys about what makes you vulnerable, find out the cheat codes. Also here’s a video about it with me and my face
© Justin Hancock, 2017