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Some Hard Truths About Stretch Marks

When new mum Kristyn Dingman showed off her stretch marks on Instagram the 27-year-old was slammed for "promoting an unhealthy lifestyle."

"I have had people tell me that I will never truly be happy because of my body or tell me that I will not find love, even though my high school sweetheart loves every curve of my body," Dingman, from Arizona said. 

She shared the snaps to empower women and show other mums that they're not alone -- and she's right.

"Stretch marks are a common form of scarring," dermatologist Dr Deshan Sebaratnam, a staff specialist at Liverpool Hospital and UNSW senior lecturer told 10 daily.

Their scientific name is striae distensae and they are caused by alterations within the skin -- specifically a thinning of the top layer known as the epidermis and abnormal collagen within the dermis itself.

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According to Sydney dermatologist Dr Natasha Cook, stretch marks occur when the skin's collagen fibres fragment and break during periods of "rapid mechanical strain" such as during growth spurts and the third trimester of pregnancy when rapid weight gain occurs.

If you've ever wondered why some women get them and others are seemingly stretch mark-free, well we hear you.

"It's not well understood why some people get them and others don't," Dr Sebaratnam said.

Things like pregnancy, obesity, sudden weight gain, smoking and some medical conditions such as Marfan syndrome, chronic liver disease and medications like corticosteroids can increase the likelihood of stretch marks, he explained.

You can also thank your parents for your stretch marks -- or the absence of them, according to Dr Cook.

"Some women are more genetically predisposed than others based on their type of collagen fibres," she said.

Here's the not-so-great news -- there's nothing we can do to avoid stretch marks, either.

"To the best of our knowledge, there is no way of preventing them," Dr Sebaratnam said.

Not only that, research has shown that there are no creams or ointments that can help to prevent them.

"If you're gonna get them you're gonna get them," Kaye Scott, founder and co-director at Sydney's The Clinic told 10 daily.

The fade out

It's not all doom and gloom -- stretch marks can sometimes "fade out naturally over a year or two," said Scott.

There are cosmetic treatments that can help improve the appearance of stretch marks -- if you wish to, that is.

"Specific lasers and light-based treatments such as broadband light can help with treating redness," Dr Sebaratnam said.

Here's what Scott recommends:

IPL

IPL or intense pulsed light therapy is an effective rejuvenation treatment that breaks down the melanin in the skin, reversing pigmentation and creating an even skin tone. It's ideal for people with fairer skin and pinky-purple-reddish marks.

SkinPen

Also known as micro-needling, the SkinPen works to stimulate your body's own collagen remodeling process for skin rejuvenation and is effective in reducing the appearance of fine lines, pigmentation or scarring. It's great for people with darker skin and deep, dark and textured marks as it doesn't make the skin sun sensitive afterwards.

Fraxel

This is a non-invasive laser therapy that penetrates the epidermis to target the deep layers of the skin for collagen remodeling. It's really effective for pigmentation, discolouration, freckles, sun spots, age spots, acne scarring and overall rejuvenation.

Scott is not treating Dingman but she said that the new mum would be a perfect candidate for Fraxel to "smooth out the bumpiness" of her marks.

How many sessions are needed to make a difference? Scott recommends people try one and "if you see improvement then keep going until it stops."

Embracing the marks

Before we all get too excited, Dr Sebaratnam pointed out that no magic treatment, cream or oil can ever make stretch marks disappear entirely.

So why not embrace them just like Dingman? It's not easy, we know, but she's not the only one who's done it.

Back in 2015, model and all-round-truth-talker Chrissy Teigen posted a photo to Instagram that showed off the then-29-year-old's light-coloured stretch marks on her inner thighs.

READ MORE: Rihanna Has Stretch Marks And Leg Hair. Rejoice.

Chrissy said hi to her "stretchies" and we couldn't love her more. Image: Instagram/@ChrissyTeigen

Her motivation for posting the photo? "I think we forgot what normal people look like now," the Sports Illustrated regular revealed on The Meredith Vieira Show.

Award-winning visual artist Sara Shakeel runs an art project on Instagram -- @glitterstretchmarks -- that celebrates stretch marks by covering them in beautiful, sparkly glitter.

"Let’s heal through ART!" she wrote.

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Feature image: Instagram/@mrsdingman.mama.