Last year, Tbear87 confessed to the members of r/skincareaddiction — a subreddit mostly dedicated to how to treat acne — about the insecurity he had around his stretch marks. “I know it’s nothing really to be ashamed about but it’s easier said than done,” he wrote.
We tend to think of stretch-mark anxieties as the sole province of women, particularly those who’ve had children. But trawl the depths of Reddit — in forums dedicated to weightlifting, skincare and weight loss — and you’ll find a surprising number of men like Tbear87 with deep insecurities about their stretch marks.
Tbear87 saw his as a product of Accutane, a particularly strong acne pharmaceutical he took years earlier. The medication cleared up his skin, but he suffered depression and anxiety and gained a substantial amount of weight. He had since dropped 20 pounds, but the resultant stretch marks left him self-conscious about going to the beach.
Similarly, five years ago, an 18-year-old Reddit user turned to r/LoseIt, a dieting and weight loss support community, for advice on how to manage the stretch marks that occurred during his growth spurt. “Within the past year & 1/2 I’ve gained a lot of height, and a lot of weight. I’m focussing on losing that at the moment, but my stretch marks cause me embarrassment (showering at the gym, swimming etc).” [All sic — here and in any other quote directly from Reddit below.]
“Its just so unmotivating to know that no matter what i do, i can never have a hot looking stomach, it will be a bit saggy and its covered with stretch marks,” wrote Reddit user Disturbia1 in the Fitness subreddit a couple of years ago. He was frustrated with his body despite having lost 90 pounds.
Strangely enough, stretch marks can also be the unsightly byproduct of the gains achieved by adding muscle. While this may carry less of a stigma than gaining the wrong kind of weight, it produces the same kind of stretch-mark anxiety. “I’ve been going to the gym for a year now and recently I’ve been getting some stretch marks, I think because of it,” a then-18-year-old Reddit user wrote four years ago. “Its getting to the point where I am to embarrassed to take my top off, and I really need help.”
The reassuring (as well as sad and frustrating) thing about our collective stretch-mark freakouts is that no one else really notices, let alone cares, about them.
“Has a girl ever rejected you because you had stretch marks?” asks a thread on the popular r/AskMen subreddit. The universal response: Absolutely not.
- “She’ll never notice,” writes one user who self-identifies as female.
- “Honestly if I’m that close to your dick, the last thing I’m thinking about is your stretch marks,” writes another.
- “This mentality goes for both genders,” confirms a male respondent.
The bigger issue?
There’s no good treatment for stretch marks. Stretch marks are scars that occur in the skin due to periods of intense weight gain or weight loss, and like all other scars, they become less conspicuous with time, but they will never completely fade away.
And so, the best piece of advice for coming to grips with your stretch marks is from a comment left by Reddit user Tourney on Tbear87’s post from a year ago. He says the only way to overcome them is to completely reframe how you think about them.
“I developed stretch marks the same way that you did, and the only thing I’ve found that works is time,” he writes. “They’re not signs that you have some terrible gross disease, or that you don’t shower or something. They’re like battle scars. If people notice them and ask about them, you can say you went through something really tough and you defeated it and now you’re bouncing back. Think of them like claw marks from a monster that tried to get you but then had to let go because you kicked its ass.”
In the meantime, wear a T-shirt in the pool and say you don’t want to get sunburn.
Psychological breakthroughs take time, man.