Unedited fashion ad goes viral for showing swimwear model's stretchmarks - why did we ever see them as 'flaws'?


According to Hello Giggles, UK-based clothing brand Boohoo is being celebrated on social media for leaving a model's stretchmarks unretouched on its website.

The brand, also available locally on Spree.co.za, has done what many don't ever consider, opting not to smooth out, blur or alter a model's appearance in photos.

The model featured in this pic posted this status on Facebook, "I find this so amazing! That even on a massive clothing brand like Boohoo they haven't photoshopped away the models stretch marks! ?? This is what girl power is all about! And every woman has imperfections. It shouldn't be photoshopped away to give unrealistic expectations! Its what makes us who we are! Its reality."  

And earlier this year ASOS, another UK-based clothing brand, also left models unretouched, showing back rolls, stretchmarks and cellulite in their lookbook pictures. 

READ MORE: What ever happened to the ‘first black plus-sized model’?

Brands like MissGuided (also available in SA, on Superbalist.com) also stopped photoshopping models, showing breasts with stretchmarks and booties with cellulite. 

Hoorah for the honesty, guys. 

Erasing assumes there is a flaw. Stretchmarks are not flaws, but "battle scars," according to dermatologist Dr. Nomphelo Gantsho. “Stretchmarks happen when your body grows faster than your skin can keep up with. This causes the elastic fibers just under the surface of the skin to break, resulting in stretch marks,” she adds.

But why did we ever think of stretchmarks as 'flaws'? 

I typed "how stretchmarks" into Google search. These are the first four auto-completes:

So much negativity.

Dr. Gantsho says many people come for a consultation to remove their stretchmarks because they feel distressed and negative about the way their skin looks.

READ MORE: Kendrick Lamar celebrates stretchmarks in epic new music video

Having stretch marks decreases a lot of people's self-esteem as magazines show models sans stretchmarks. But, most pictures have been photoshopped to smooth out such areas.


Chrissy Teigen (above) on the cover of Sports Illustrated's 50th anniversary edition.

Yet, last year Teigen tweeted a picture of her stretchmarked thighs – making headlines and body-positive friends everywhere.

Image: Twitter

To me the caption encapsulated a shift.


This from a woman who makes (most) of her money from modelling. She also proudly posted about her stretchies in 2015 on Insta.

Bruises from bumping kitchen drawer handles for a week. Stretchies say hi!

A photo posted by chrissy teigen (@chrissyteigen) on

Models, who are often so glorified for being 'perfect' are standing up, much like celebrities, telling us that there is no such thing as 'being perfect'. 

According to Dr. Nomphelo Gantsho, people that feel most negative about their stretchmarks are teenagers (who mostly experience it on their legs, hips and the buttocks) and young mothers (stomach and the thighs - after delivery), because they don't feel sexy anymore.

The teenagers are embarrassed to wear the short skirts that other teenagers are wearing or short (cropped) tops.

READ MORE: African model recreates fashion ads to show lack of diversity in fashion

The severity of stretchmarks can be affected by genetics, the level of stress on the skin as well as your cortisone levels. Cortisone — a hormone produced by the adrenal glands — weakens elastic fibers in the skin. Medications like coritcosteriods used over a long periods can result in stretchmarks.

There are treatments, if one so chooses to lessen its appearance, says Dr. Gantsho: 

•        Retinoid cream (derived from vitamin A) This may improve the appearance of stretch marks less than a few months old. Retinoid, when it works, helps to rebuild collagen, making the stretch marks look more like your normal skin.

Problem: Retinoid can irritate your skin.
               Contra-indicated in pregnancy.

    •    Laser therapies (excimer laser and pulsed dye laser) A variety of light and laser therapies are available to help stimulate the growth of collagen or elastin in your skin.

Problem: Very expensive and may show poor results after spending a lot of money.

    •    Needling This type of treatment involves a hand-held device with needles that causes trauma to the skin, promoting the growth of new, collagen and elastin on the skin.

Problem: The procedure can be painful and uncomfortable and efficacy not guaranteed. 

    •    Microdermabrasion This type of treatment involves a hand-held device that blows crystals onto skin. These crystals gently remove a fine layer of skin, promoting the growth of new, more-elastic skin.

Problem: Can be painful and might cause scarring.   

But these are marks of growth - and should be celebrated more and more in media in order for us to change our perception of it as a 'flaw'. They signify pregnancy, growth and rapid weight fluctuation. Shouldn't we begin to accept it as the soft patterns and symbols of growth, rather than something which deems us inadequate?

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