By Dr. Megan Stubbs, EdD, ACS
I just recently returned from a vacation in Japan and had the wonderful opportunity to visit my first onsen. Onsen is the Japanese word for hot spring. Being a volcanic country, this provides the perfect environment for there to be many located around Japan. These public bathing facilities are great for the countries tourism, but moreover, just a great place to relax.
While using the onsen, you are not allowed to wear any clothing. This is quite the liberating experience, especially when you go with family members. Now obviously it isn’t polite to stare considering that everyone is naked, but you’re bound to look around.
While I was submerged in the heavenly hot and mineral rich water, I took in the scene around me. There were around 100 plus women in the facility at the time and their ages varied from toddlers to those who were well into their 80’s. Something struck me as very peculiar as I was surveying all of the bodies. Despite their lean and lithe build, I noticed that almost every woman had stretch marks. That was the point where it really hit me that stretch marks can happen to anyone.
Stretch marks are a type of scarring that can happen when there is rapid growth and stretching of the skin. They often occur during puberty, pregnancy, and can even happen during muscle building. The marks can appear anywhere on the body, but are usually found in areas where there are high amounts of fat stored, like the abdomen, breasts, arms, thighs, hips, and buttocks.
Stretch marks are commonly a darker, reddish color, which later fade into a lighter hue over time. The dark color is from the dermis (the inner layer of skin) being torn and exposing the blood vessels in the skin. As the tears heal, the stretch marks return to a color similar to the surrounding skin. They pose no health risks but can often cause some mixed feelings to those who have them.
The largest sexual organ on our body is our skin. And when there are perceived flaws on it, it can be the source for many negative thoughts. The prevalence, let alone the normalcy, of stretch marks should be known and in no way are an indication of damaged goods. If you’re still stressing over the stretch marks, there are topical creams and laser procedures that you can undergo. The results are varied, and in some cases, can be very expensive.
Please consider embracing yourself for all that you are. You are more than the sum of your scars and imperfections. More love and less loathing. It starts with you. If you can’t love yourself, how is anyone else going to? Beauty is more than skin deep, so don’t let some scars get you down. And when it comes to sex, everything is OK here.
Dr. Megan is a Grand Rapids based Sexologist. She loves the media and currently appears on West Michigan’s morning television show, Take Five & Company, on WZZM 13, as a sexuality and relationship expert and also co-hosts the nighttime radio show, Holmes and the FreakShow, on 104.5 WSNX/Grand Rapids, 92-5 KISS FM/Toledo & on iHeartRadio worldwide. She also just started a NEW weekly podcast called ‘Sex and Sports’ on ESPN 96.1. When not sharing her voice across the airwaves, Dr. Megan writes articles for various online outlets and hosts workshops locally and around the country. Check her out at www.SexologistMegan.com. Follow her on Twitter @SexologistMegan and like her on Facebook at www.Facebook.com/EverythingIsOKHere.