Let’s talk about stretch marks. No matter your size, chances are you have them. The linear lesions can be found anywhere on the body, but the most common areas include the breasts, butt, thighs, and stomach. Hormonal and physical factors are to blame, plus studies show that there is also a familial predisposition to stretch marks. And while it’s estimated that 80 percent of Americans have them—with roughly 70 percent of them developing during the teenage years (my thighs were first lined after puberty in junior high)—stretch marks are still considered unsightly.
We are constantly being pushed miracle creams and home remedies to fade them, but one artist has set out to turn these flaws into flawless art. Sara Shakeel, a Pakistani artist, used photos submitted by her followers to create a stunning series on body empowerment, which she shared on social media. Instead of retouching the stretch marks out of the images, something we’ve come accustomed to seeing in ads and on glossy magazine spreads, she highlights them with glitter.
“I have never felt so powerful [and] liberated and so f*cking proud of my stretch marks in my entire life!!!” she writes on Instagram.
After dropping out of dental school, Shakeel decided to explore her creative side and taught herself to use Photoshop. She was inspired to create this series after photographing one of her friends who asked for her stretch marks to be removed. Shakeel’s goal was to draw attention to perceived imperfections like cellulite and stretch marks. “Little did I know the world needed this empowerment,” she told Teen Vogue. “I feel honoured and worthy every time I do that.”
The response has been overwhelmingly positive. In the comments, many followers say that the art has helped them accept their bodies as is. “So beautiful, this makes me feel a little better about my own. Thank you,” writes one.
“Each picture heals a part of me [and] I hope it heals a part of you too,” writes Shakeel. Check out some of her glitter marks below.