You Need Help: Binding Breasts and Stretching Marks

Welcome to You Need Help, where you seek advice and we try our very best to give it. This has traditionally been done by way of individual Formspring accounts, Autostraddle’s Tumblr and a Formspring Friday column, which has all been very fun and insightful.

But, because Formspring has a character limit and we’re wildly optimistic w/r/t our time-management skills, we thought we’d go one further and let you use our ASS private messaging to share advice-related feelings, too.

For more info on sending in questions, see the bottom of this post. Let’s get down to bossing people around on the internet! Today we’re going to talk about your smokin’ hot body.dotted-divider2

Q: I have stretch marks EVERYWHERE. How do I get rid of them? Please I’m afraid nobody will ever want to date me.

Q: I’m 22 and have stretch marks on my stomach and thighs. Am I doomed? Who will want me?

Q: Is it okay to have stretch marks? 

Q: How much of a turn off are quite bad stretch marks to you? please be honest. Have you got them?

A: Firstly, regardless of whether or not it’s true, I’ve decided in my head that everybody has stretch marks. Is this just to make myself feel better? Perhaps. That being said *AHEM* I’ve seen a significant number of naked girls in my general age range over the course of my lifetime and I’m pretty sure most of them had stretch marks. (So do a lot of guys, too, for that matter.) Furthermore, when I answered one of these questions on formspring with the requisite “EVERYONE HAS THEM, DON’T STRESS!” I got heaps of comments from additional formspring users:

+ Stretchmarks are kiiiinda hot. ftr

+ I am a 21 y/o with the same except also on my boobs! I made a decision to stop feeling sorry for myself and push myself to develop other things that make human beings attractive/lovable/interesting

+ Lady with stretch marks: Stretch marks are nothing to be ashamed of, embrace your body, and someone else might too!

+ Heyyooo im 19, 5’8 and weigh 130 and have stretch marks. ITS ALL ABOUT YOUR LOVE BABY, NOT JUST LOOKS <3

+ Almost every girl have stretch marks!! Even Sasha grey and Tori black have ’em!!

So where are so many of you getting the idea that your stretch marks make you a very special exceptionally unattractive snowflake? News flash: you’re not! You’re not special at all! You’re just like everybody else. Welcome to our boat, the buffet is open all night.

Listen, obviously the health/beauty industry depends upon enhancing women’s body-related insecurities to the degree that said women subsequently are interested in purchasing various lotions and creams and potions and spa services to fix said stretch marks. Furthermore, stretch marks have been airbrushed from photos since the beginning of time and therefore there’s no evidence of stretch-marks for you to gaze upon in self-accepting reflection. So perhaps I shouldn’t be surprised by these concerns.

“I’ve got stretch marks. You know, that glow in the dark for some reason.”

-Jenny McCarthy

So my advice to you would be to deal with it. It’s you! It’s part of you!

When I was 16 and first pondering the possibility of revealing my naked body to other humans I was really obsessed with my stretch marks — the blue/purple lines slashing my hips/ass and chest — and Seventeen assured me that these lines would fade but I did not believe it for one second. But it really happened, they faded pretty quickly actually and most disappeared altogether.

The bruise from the longest fall was perfectly white in a few years. That astounded me most of all.

Stephen Dunn

And you know what else? If you get pregnant or gain/lose weight you’ll probably get MORE stretch marks!!  So you better get used to it, lady.

“My hips and thighs are like tigers.”

– Laneia Watson, mother of two

“I got highways for stretch marks, see where I’ve grown?”

Ani DiFranco

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Q: I’ve had underworks binders open in a tab for days now. I want one but I feel so weird about it. I don’t know anyone else who wears one. I’m not trans, don’t want to pass, I just want that look sometimes. Should I do it? How do I talk to my girlfriend about it?

via lesloveboat

A: Well, I don’t think you have to talk to your girlfriend about it, nobody has ever talked to me about it, they just go for it. Speaking of lesbians wearing binders, I asked my girlfriend for her advice re: your situation and now I’m gonna use the information she gave me to answer this question as if that information/insight came from my very own head. Furthermore, this answer will include legitimate thoughts from my very own head as well.

You don’t have to identify as anything or worry about what it means — if that’s the look you want, then that’s all there is to it. If that changes and you start to feel confused about your gender or feel like your feelings about/while wearing the binder are more complicated than you first realized/assumed, then you’ll cross that bridge when you come to it.

What are you afraid your girlfriend might say? “Why are you interested in binding suddenly”? If you’re not sure how to answer it, I’m sure she’d be satisfied with, “It’s a look I want sometimes, no other reason really.”  Maybe ask yourself what it is about binding that you’re judging or maybe have fears around, because there must be something negative that you’re imagining she could say about it?

Maybe a good parallel would be a straight girl who’s always been a little tomboyish getting an alternative lifestyle haircut. Maybe she worries the cut will make everyone assume she’s gay even though she’s not, and although she’s got nothing against being gay, she’s sick of being misread or evaluated as a closet case when all she wants is just a cute dykey haircut on her head, not a cute dykey haircut attached to a cute dykey lady between her legs. And sometimes constantly being misread can lead you to frequently question your assertion that you’re being misread, but it doesn’t have to.

Wanting a flat-chested look and wanting to pass or wanting be trans are like, eons apart. Especially if you’re wearing men’s clothes I imagine sometimes it works better with your shirt. Also it doesn’t mean you hate your breasts, either. I have a padded bra I use just for shirts that don’t look right w/o significant breasts, you know?

“I bought a cowboy hat. It’s a look I want sometimes. Doesn’t make me a cowboy.” – my g/f


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Please keep your questions to around, at most, 100 words. Due to the high volume of questions and feelings, not every question or feeling will be answered or published on Autostraddle. We hope you know that we love you regardless.


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Riese is the 36-year-old CEO, CFO and Editor-in-Chief of Autostraddle.com as well as an award-winning writer, blogger, fictionist, copywriter, video-maker, low-key power lesbian and aspiring cyber-performance artist who grew up in Michigan, lost her mind in New York and then headed West. Her work has appeared in nine books including "The Bigger the Better The Tighter The Sweater: 21 Funny Women on Beauty, Body Image & Other Hazards Of Being Female," magazines including Marie Claire and Curve, and all over the web including Nylon, Queerty, Nerve, Bitch, Emily Books and Jezebel. She had a very popular personal blog once upon a time, and then she recapped The L Word, and then she had the idea to make this place, and now here we all are! In 2016, she was nominated for a GLAAD Award for Outstanding Digital Journalism. Follow her on twitter and instagram.

Riese has written 2509 articles for us.

56 Comments

  1. I always hear girls being sad about their stretchmarks/cellulite, and then it makes me sad. Where were their moms??? Come on! I actually get a bit frustrated about it sometimes. I’m thin but I’ve got both, but I saw that my mom/every other woman has them too. No big deal ladies! They are a little tiny thing that does not take away from the Big Naked Picture.

    • Well, just seeing that other women have them too doesn’t necessarily help. I mean, I grew up knowing my mom had stretch marks all over, and I knew that because she was constantly going on and on about how disgusting and ugly they are and telling me to be careful not to gain too much weight too quickly because I’d get them too. :/

  2. I have tons of stretchmarks but I didn’t think anyone would think I was attractive with them until I realized that I sorta think stretchmarks on other women are super hot. It’s all about perspective!

  3. I really do think almost all women have stretch marks. I’m in my mid-twenties, stopped growing in 8th grade, have remained a size 0-3, and I have cellulite and stretch marks. They’ve faded from purple to pink to white, but are still visible.

    I’d be surprised to date a girl who didn’t have them, frankly. Really, you have nothing to worry about!

  4. I bind and I’m not trans. It all began when I started wearing men’s clothing and I thought I might look better if I bind my breast. So I tried it out and liked it a lot so now I wear it every day. Since youre looking into underworks binders, I would recommend the tri-top chest binder that’s the one I have and it’s great for just binding the breast and not your hips as well. Also I have another binder thats neat cuz it zips up and is kinda like a sports bra but I would say the tri-top binds better.

    Also my girlfriend doesn’t mind my binding. I just told her the truth. That I like how I look when I bind my breast. I also said that I wasn’t trans but she never even thought that.

  5. “So where are so many of you getting the idea that your stretch marks make you a very special exceptionally unattractive snowflake? News flash: you’re not! You’re not special at all! You’re just like everybody else. Welcome to our boat, the buffet is open all night.”

    This made me exploding-awkward-closed-mouth-snort-laugh. In a good way.

    I’ve got stretch marks on my stomach despite being pretty thin. I’ve never gotten any complaints, despite the fact that I used to be so self-conscious about them that I once apologized to a girlfriend because of them (first time sleeping together, no less — awkwarddd).

    They aren’t ever going to change, so I figured I had better start liking them instead of apologizing for my body. And now I don’t even notice them, on me or anyone else.

  6. I have stretch marks on my boobs, because they grew so fast, and my calves/knees, because I’m a skinny twig with big calf muscles. It took me forever to get over that and accept that everyone has em 🙂

  7. I love my girlfriend’s stretch marks, especially the ones on her belly. They’re just part of her.

    Stretch marks seem to be something that we hardly notice on others but that are horribly magnified on ourselves. I honestly believe all girls have them somewhere.

  8. This is why I love AS. Just a few days ago I was looking at binders and thinking “Maybe I will get one. I don’t identify as trans but I think I’d like that look sometimes.” and BAM this shows up.

  9. I have had hella scars and stretch marks on my thighs/hips and shoulders. I rub Vitamin E on bad scars and it’s like a magic eraser- I’ve gotten rid of a lot of bad scars this way. Try it for stretch marks!
    You can buy it in a little chapstick-like form or buy the capsules and break them open. You can’t go wrong with this stuff. Rub it all over you.

  10. I gotta say– I appreciate the positive stretch-mark solidarity here. I’ve been (mostly) comfortable with my size for a few years now (curvy) (like Ms. Monroe, as I choose to see it) but I still feel super uncomfortable showing too much leg lest someone see my marks o’embarrassment.
    Glad to hear that there’s maybe nothing really to be embarrassed about.

  11. No mention about any of the health stuff surrounding binding and long-term risks? If folks aren’t planning on eventual surgery and get used to wearing the binder, find that’s the way they feel most comfortable, it can lead to some pretty serious health problems over the years (diminished lung capacity, cracked ribs, soft tissue damage, muscle loss, posture problems) and even make chest surgery harder (if that is what a person is interested after binding for an extended amount of time).

    So many folks I care about have been in some really serious pain after binding for years and I get really frustrated when I see conversations about binding for non-trans identifying people without a big, serious health warning.

    • You’re absolutely right I shouldve mentioned the risks involved with binding in my comment. I did research on binding before I started doing it myself. For starters I don’t use duct tape or ace bandages. I use products designed for binding. I don’t wear them when I’m exercising or sleeping and I don’t wear them too tight and whenever I feel like its causing me problems then I take a break from binding. All that helps decrease the risks involved and there are a lot of risks. The ones off the top of my head are bruising, damage to sternum and ribs; lung problems; decrease in blood flow to heart; numbness; back problems; blood clots; and more.

      Thanks for pointing out the risks, I can’t believe I forgot.

  12. if there was a naked lady in front of me right now i would NOT be looking at her stretch marks, that’s for damn sure. i have stretch marks on the inside of my thighs and no one who’s had their face down there has ever said anything about them.

    also i googled “fuck yeah stretch marks tumblr” with high hopes but alas. doesn’t exist. someone please create this?

  13. Hey do binders work for someone who’s got DDDs? Obviously it won’t make me flat, but if a binder would help rein these puppies *jiggles titties* in at all, that would be awesome.
    Oh and stretch marks: I’ve had em since I was 12. Gaining a lot of inches suddenly can make you look like a zebra it turns out

    • Well I’m only a 36C but I have heard of people with large breasts getting the Ultimate Chest Binder Tank (another Underworks binder) which is designed to cover your hips but instead they roll the bottom up over the top half so youre double binding. I don’t know the specifics but you could look into that if you’d like. Just be careful. Binding can be dangerous as mentioned above.

    • I’ve got 34DDs at the moment and have been bigger (up to small G(=DDDD) I think?). It totally works—I actually wrote a whole primer about binding for the big-chested….

      I don’t know what you’re looking for in a binder, obviously. It probably won’t make you look like you have smaller boobs; it probably will make you look like you have flattened boobs and/or an oddly-shaped male chest. There are clothing tricks that can make you look surprisingly flat-chested, but if that’s not your goal, then it’s probably more pain, health risk, and trouble than it’s worth.

      The biggest thing about binders is that they *will* change the shape of your chest over time. A.k.a. binding will make you saggier. Maybe (like me) you won’t care and you’ll be happy with your newfound ability to get a flatter bind. But it’s worth thinking about.

  14. <3 talking about stretch marks and cellulite.

    I think if the person you're going to be getting naked with is the kind of person who would judge someone else for having stretch marks or cellulite, they don't deserve to see you naked. I really really believe that. Screw that noise.

  15. So so so true about stretchmarks, I cannot reiterate too many times how SO true this is.

    They do fade a lot (mine are slightly reflective now but the same colour as my skin), you do gain more as you change shape throughout your life (but these fade too), pretty much EVERYONE has them. I’ve seen the skinniest girls with stretch marks so it’s not necessarily about weight gain – but more about sudden growth spurts throughout your teenage years, and after.

    I have the marks wherever my body changed into the typical-woman-shape, so on my hips, thighs and chest. I absolutely hated the marks as a teenager and was convinced I was the only ugly duckling who had them. Wrong!

  16. I had/have stretchmarks on my thighs but the main reason I didn’t like them was because they were purple and really obvious, especially in summer. So I got a bottle of Bio Oil and used that twice a day for a couple of months and it turned them pale and silvery. Basically it just fades them in a short period, as opposed to slowly over time.

    I’m happy with the choice I made, so if you *seriously* don’t like the visibility of your stretchmarks I’d say that something like this is pretty effective.

  17. At some point I would like to possibly do something about my scars and stretch marks, but I still wonder if I want to keep them because they’re a roadmap of my life. Most of my scars are a result of surgeries that are the only reason that I’m even on this earth to contemplate them, so I have a deep connection with them, and I have absolutely no regret for having them. The only reason that I would consider getting them fixed/removed would be cosmetic, and that would probably only be after I lose quite a bit of weight and get some serious hair removal, if I felt that it was necessary.

  18. This article could not have come at a better time! I am 9+ months pregnant, so my stretch marks are like HELLO! right now. I know they may fade/change color, or they just may not. I am a little nervous to see what my body will look like, but at this point I think of the baby I will have and think how could I possibly care about something like little lines on my body!?
    Laneia: your quote was perfect. I love tigers…rawr!
    I often have to think about something I heard a while ago from some guy on tv (I have no idea who it was). He said that the little tiny things that women pick apart about themselves are not seen by men(and I’m gonna throw in women too). When someone sees a naked woman, they are not looking at each little inch, one at a time. They are seeing a naked woman as a whole!!! And like one commenter said, if your partner is going to call you out on stretch marks/cellulite, they do not deserve you. AT ALL.

  19. I have stretch marks on my butt. I was like WHAT THE FUCK ARE THESE MARKS ON MY ASS AND WHERE DID THEY COME FROM?!

    I googled it and found out this was normal. Now I just think of it as proof of ba-donk-ery.

    On other people, I think are kind of beautiful and artistic. Like tattoos or scars.

  20. I… don’t think I have stretch marks or cellulite… this doesn’t make me feel pretty it makes me worried that I don’t know my own body well enough.

    My boyfriend has them on his back so it’s not just a girl thang. I love tracing them with my fingers 🙂

  21. my girlfriend binds and in general is very queer and passes for a dude reasonably often and when we first met she was like SUPER FREAKED that i was going to flip out about the binder thing? i was all “what, why would i care about that, do people really freak about that, this is not like a big deal or anything, who cares?” so go for it, you do what makes you feel good, your girl can deal and chances are good that won’t be as uncomfortable as you think.

  22. wearing a binder in public for the first time was the happiest I’ve felt in a really long time. I know there are long-term effects and health risks, which is why I’m saving up for reduction surgery and careful not to wear it too long, but for me it’s completely worth it. I feel more like *me*.

    food for thought for the OP or whoever else may be thinking about binding.

    • Hey appreciate this comment, I’m non-binary and am considering chest reduction surgery and top surgery. I think reduction feels like the right choice. I have a lot of friends who have gotten top surgery, but not a reduction, and am looking for more resources/support around making this decision. Do you know of any good resources? Thanks!

  23. I decided to test products on the newest stretch marks I had, which were also the worst ones I’ve ever had and was really looking forward to get rid of. They were bright red, quite long and deep.

    I’ve tried Avon stretch mark lotions, Mederma for stretch marks (which I hated and was over-priced), scar removal products, bio-oil, and plain cocoa butter lotions. None of those products worked, but Made from Earth’s Aloe & Jojoba Creme Therapy seems to be doing well. I’ve used about 1/3 of the product (for almost 3 weeks now), trying to remember to use it twice a day but sometimes only once. The product itself has a light citrus fresh smell (which I’m thankful for, the Mederma one I used smelled strongly of hospital soap, ew.), it has a consistency of whipped butter, it’s not oily.

    The reason I decided to review it is because I actually do notice a difference which obviously surprises me since I’ve tried SO many things. They’re definitely not as bright red, more of a dull red. They’re a lot softer and not as deep. Once I’ve finished with this container, I plan on getting another one. I really think the Aloe & Jojoba Creme Therapy was a worthwhile purchase. If you do decide to buy this, just remember to use it twice a day and stay patient. I really didn’t notice a difference until almost 3 week’s use, but the difference is obvious.

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