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Teenage Wasteland (of Stretch Marks)

Jan09

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Dearest Amy,
I’m pretty sure you have probably addressed the issue of stretch marks due to pregnancy, but I have a different question regarding stretch marks.
My 15-year old daughter has gained quite a bit of weight in the past year and has rather large, gaping stretch marks on the sides of her waist. They remind me of the ones I got when pregnant with my first child. My oldest is now 18 and I don’t remember anyone telling me what to do to prevent stretch marks back then so I am clueless about what to tell her to deal with the stretch marks. We all know how sensitive 15-year old girls can be, and I don’t necessarily want to draw attention to her weight gain but I also think if there’s something I can do to help her with any self-esteem issues that may come up because of them, I’d be most appreciative.
For the record, I bought both my girls the Philosophy Miracle Set for Christmas (and one for me too, although at 45, I’m not expecting miracles), based on your recommendation here, and I mentioned to her that perhaps the Hope in a Jar cream might help the stretch marks since it goes on lightly and she might not need much for coverage. She just kind of looked at me and said, uh…ok. So I suppose it’s possible that the stretch marks bother me more than they bother her. But I doubt it. Any help would be greatly appreciated!
Thanks, Liz

So. The bad news is that there’s no miracle product out there for stretch marks — either for preventing them OR erasing them. The good news is that stretch marks are VERY common in girls your daughter’s age (as they rocket into and through puberty) and her age is actually her best defense against life-long noticeable marks.
My doctor recommended rubbing my enormous pregnant belly with cocoa butter lotions and oils to keep the skin extra-super-moisturized and thus, stretch-mark free.
Yeah. That didn’t work. My skin hit its elasticity limit right at 38 weeks and suddenly my stomach erupted in stretch marks. Skin IS very elastic and moisturizing CAN help to a certain degree, but there’s always a limit to how much it can take. If you want to avoid stretch marks during pregnancy, you’re going to have to bank on good genes and a non-gigantic fetus. I had neither one of those things going for me, so…uh…awesome!
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After the damage was done, I rushed out and bought some StriVectin, the (at the time, anyway) hot supposed miracle cure for stretch marks. It is extremely expensive. And I still have each and every stretch mark I had before using it, although they have faded to the point of being practically unnoticeable.
Which is exactly what will happen to your daughter’s marks, WITHOUT the help of expensive creams or treatments. (I credit my faded marks to good old-fashioned TIME instead of some space-age collagen-in-a-bottle or even Mederma.) As her weight levels out and her body finishes developing, her skin will get down to the serious business of healing itself. 15-year-old skin is a zillion times more elastic and resilient than ours, and while the scars may look “gaping” or red or purple, they will most likely fade to a shade just a tad bit lighter than her regular complexion.
The only time she may need to worry about them (like all of us) is when out in the sun in a bathing suit. Stretch marks will never tan (although they can burn, so wear SUNSCREEEEEEEN, PEEEEEEOPLE), so they can become a lot more prominent if she wears a bikini.
But more good news here — stretch marks DO respond to sunless tanners, so if she ever wants to conceal them pre-pool or beach party, any garden-variety self-tanner will do the trick.
In the meantime, make sure she wears that sunscreen. And while you’re on the right track with suggesting a moisturizer, I don’t think there’s any need to use the expensive Philosophy face stuff. A good body moisturizer will work — Curel, Aveeno, Lubriderm, cocoa butter, whatever, as long as she uses it. (So if that means something gaggily fruity-smelling from Bath & Body Works, so be it.) Again, moisturizing won’t erase anything, but it WILL help with the overall health and elasticity of her skin, thus upping the odds that she’ll just “outgrow” her stretch marks.
Related Content:
Do Strivectin (or similar products) work for Stretch Marks? (scroll down)

About the author

Amalah

http://www.amalah.com
Amalah is a pseudonym of Amy Corbett Storch. She is the author of the Advice Smackdown and Bounce Back. You can follow Amy's daily mothering adventures at Amalah. Also, it's pronounced AIM-ah-lah.

If there is a question you would like answered on the Advice Smackdown, please submit it to amyadvice@gmail.com.

Amy also documented her second pregnancy (with Ezra) in our wildly popular Weekly Pregnancy Calendar, Zero to Forty.

Amy is mother to rising first-grader Noah, preschooler Ezra, and toddler Ike.


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10 Responses to “Teenage Wasteland (of Stretch Marks)”

  1. mollyawesome Jan 09 at 11:16 am Reply Reply

    Stretch marks are seriously depressing, I think Liz is right in thinking that her daughter is more upset about them than she’s letting on. I first noticed mine when I was around 15, still in the middle of a growth spurt that would never end, and one day when my mom remarked on how long my legs were and how lucky I was, I exploded into a tantrum about the marks all over my knees and thighs and butt. Five years later, they’re still there, though some days they look a little better than others. But I’m still never going to reveal myself in public in anything smaller than a boyshorts bikini, and only when it’s dark.
    Anecdote aside, I’ve got a follow-up question… you said self-tanners work on stretch marks. Is there any solution for people who don’t tan and don’t want to tan? My dermatologist told me that getting color was the best way for me to lessen their appearance, but I only sunburn and I like being very pale. Is there such a thing as a self-natural-colorer that might work?

  2. Karen S Jan 09 at 1:23 pm Reply Reply

    I too have had stretch marks due to weight gain. Time is definitely the key when it comes to fading.
    Amongst my many stretch mark afflicted friends and acquaintances in the UK, every single one seems to swear by Bio Oil. The website has US stockist information at bio-oil.info
    I used Palmer’s Cocoa Butter. I’m not convinced it helped the marks fade, but I’m pretty sure a nice heavy moisturiser with added elastin and collagen helped things snap (well, gradually ease) back into place as I lost the weight.

  3. JustStudying Jan 09 at 1:24 pm Reply Reply

    Hi All, (first time commenting). I wouldn’t be so sure that your daughter is more upset about the stretch marks than she is letting on. I am only a few years post-teenagerhood and my advice to Liz is that you should be very cautious about what you say to her that might reinforce (or even trigger) her self-conciousness about the stretch marks. My mother once (and only once) made a comment about my calves being fat and it has taken me years to get over it. I think that mothers have a huge influence on their daughters self-esteem and so even though you are trying to *help* by worrying about her stretch marks, there is a fine line between you looking out for her best interest and you demonstrating to her that her stretch marks *are* a problem (translated in teenage brain as “stretch marks make me ugly/unworth of anyone’s love”). Hope this helps.

  4. Caleal Jan 09 at 2:23 pm Reply Reply

    Yeeeah. I have strech marks. Totally un-weight gain related, so chances are your daughter may have ended up with them anyway.
    I have them on my KNEES, people. KNEES. Who knew?
    Anyway. I grew olderish, and they kind of went away. I can still see them, expecially when I’m tan. But self tanner works just as well as Amalah says it does. So it’s a nonissue, once you get done growing.

  5. leahkay Jan 09 at 3:02 pm Reply Reply

    I agree with JustStudying. I think that mentioning the stretch marks once is enough (if not once too many). If mom is noticing the stretch marks, daughter probably has too, and I think pointing them out repeatedly and then suggesting that something needs to be done to them is only going to create some hurt feelings and self-consciousness.

  6. Olivia Jan 09 at 4:29 pm Reply Reply

    Stretch marks are mostly genetic. I got them on my breasts and hips when I hit puberty. I tried the lotions and oils and nothing worked. I’m 29 now, and the old ones are faded and nearly unoticable. However, I have new ones because of weight gain, but wevs, there are worse things in the world.
    I agree that it shouldn’t be brought up to the daughter anymore unless she seeks her mom out for advice. Chances are she hasn’t thought about it much, but bringing them up will make her more self concious.

  7. nimblesixpence Jan 09 at 5:57 pm Reply Reply

    Just thirding (or fourthing) the whole “don’t say anything else” comments. I have stretch marks now that I must’ve gotten during puberty, but I wasn’t nearly as aware of my body back then, and was blissfully oblivious.
    If my mother had said something about them, it would’ve wrecked me temporarily, and I know I would remember it to this day.
    Until your daughter brings up her body issues (i.e. what bothers her), DO NOT mention anything. Why give her a complex about something she may not even be thinking about? Moms do have so much power.

  8. suzannemarya Jan 10 at 2:49 pm Reply Reply

    Maybe I’m just oversensitive, but I got goosebumps everywhere when you told your daughter that Hope in a Jar might help her stretch marks. I’m sure you had the best intentions but that comment had to make her feel pretty miserable. I think you’re risking putting up a real wall between yourself and your daughter, even though, as I said, your heart was in the right place. I know that is the kind of remark that would have had me cutting off communication for a long time with my mother at that age. I would spend less time worrying about stretch mark products and more time reminding your daughter that she is a beautiful woman. Good luck!

  9. koz Jan 11 at 2:27 pm Reply Reply

    Yeah, everything suzannemarya said. Exactly.
    I’ve had ‘em since early teens, and they were never a big deal to me. I always wore one pieces, anyway. And my thin sister had them as well.
    I had a nurse comment on my “babes” having “left their mark” one time — I was childless and in mid-20s at the time. Nice.

  10. nicola Dec 11 at 9:45 pm Reply Reply

    im a 17 year old girl. Had stretch marks since i was like 13. Dont get me wrong i get a bit upset that i have them as iv got them on the back of my legs!!!!! . but then again lifes far to short to wory about a perfectly natural thing. stretchmarks r just like freckles. some people have them some people dont. people have got way worse things 2 worry about in life. so as a 17 year old girl id say everyone should think like me and not worry about them. what good does it do worrying. you only live once. enjoy life & dont let it get you down. iv learned my lesson:D:D

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