They’re often a mark of motherhood, but one that many of us don’t feel comfortable showing off. According to a study in the Journal of American Academy of Dermatology, more than half of all pregnant women will develop stretch marks, but according to the number of frumpy, thigh covering tankinis I ordered as a new mom, some of us still feel bad about them.
Luckily, Pakistani artist Sara Shakeel has brought her body positive art to Instagram, using glitter to highlight the beauty of stretch marks on a platform known for a curated, filtered version of beauty.
Using collage techniques, Shakeel’s images show stretch marks as being filled in with glitter, highlighting a much maligned part of so many bodies. "Stretch marks are something I relate to on a very personal basis," Shakeel told Cosmopolitan after her photoshopped images went viral.
“Nothing is more powerful than giving confidence to myself along with so many women and men out there,” she wrote in a recent Instagram caption. “My hopes are unreal and so are my dreams! The stretch marks story will continue and I have so many other ideas and plans in mind.”
Hopefully, Shakeel’s message of body positivity will continue to spread, and women will feel confident in their skin even if that skin has a few lines. According to Dr. Frank Wang, a dermatologist at the University of Michigan Health System, I’m far from the only new mom to be excessively covered during baby’s first swim.
“Stretch marks may compound the stress of new motherhood for many women,” Wang said after his study of stretch marks was published in the British Journal of Dermatology. “Some may feel like their self-esteem, quality of life and willingness to engage in certain activities, like swimming in a bathing suit, are affected.”
We can’t let our quality of life be impacted by something that impacts so many mothers. Next time I look at my stretch marks I’m going to try to see them the way Shakeel does: Full of glitter and beauty.