Seven Women On Their Stretch Marks

“Stretch marks are the badge of a real woman” goes one of my favorite quotes in the film For Keeps? by John G. Avildsen. Growing up, I was always embarrassed of my stretch marks—especially in gym class. Back then (it wasn’t really that long ago), I never talked about it, which just made me feel more uncomfortable in my skin. But that’s the thing about teenage years: Everyone’s a little uncomfortable in high school. Since then, I’ve become more confident in my “imperfections,” partially because every woman can have stretch marks, no matter her shape or form. In an effort to spread that confidence to everyone, I decided to photograph and interview other “real woman,” as Avildsen would call them, who are also proud to show off their own zebra stripes.

—Dana Boulos

Alexia Louise Harris-Gomez 

“I first discovered the stretch marks on my stomach when I was eight months pregnant with my son in May of last year. I learned a lot about my body during that time. Before I had a baby, I would complain about my stomach and how I didn’t like it but now that I have a bunch of stretch marks, I think of how crazy I was dwelling on my body. I would always be comparing myself to celebrities and internet pictures of girls’ bodies. Now I try to stop beating myself up about my body issues, even though seeing these marks on my belly makes me have insecurities. But the best advice I can give is to stop comparing yourself to other people and give yourself time to really appreciate the skin you’re in.”

Alix Vernet

I recently and rather abruptly stopped ballet and the weight gain caused some stretch marks. I remember being really surprised because I thought stretch marks only occurred in older or pregnant women—my mom had stretch marks and the idea that I could get them was extremely bizarre. I also had this very pre-pubescent body and having marks that I associated to mature womanhood made me much more aware of myself. I see so many images showcasing ‘flawless’ women, which makes me start to feel a hatred towards my imperfections. But it also completely alienates me from my own body—it turns my physical self into some sort of logical impossibility. I never saw stretch marks in the media growing up and therefore assumed they were both flawed and that they didn’t really exist…and how weird is that? When did our own bodies become so visually foreign? Never be ashamed of loving yourself and don’t be afraid to reveal your marks, because if people see that you love yourself, maybe others will learn to love themselves, too.”

Mercedes Mesquivel

I first noticed my stretch marks pop up around my hips when I was 15 years old. I felt insecure just like everyone else my age. But I learned that stretch marks can be cute! I call them the stripes of life—they show how far we’ve come, whether caused by growth spurts, weight loss or pregnancy. Whenever I feel insecure about my stretch marks I just remind myself that it’s never the first thing people will notice about me.”

Kyle Beechy

“I got stretch marks at a super young age…I was like 10 or 12. I was a little terrified that my skin seemed to be ripping or something. My mother explained to me that this was normal and nothing to be embarrassed about. Everyone on this planet has stretch marks! Let’s be real—you can’t be embarrassed about them. Just dont be! They fade, they come back and they are totally out of your control. Besides, there is a beauty to them, the patterns they form. There is also something so inherently feminine about them, although men can get them, its not the same.”

Carmela Geronca

“I remembered discovering stretch marks on my body around the age of 8 or 9 while vacationing in the Philippines with my family. I was hanging out in my swimsuit after going to the beach, and saw some on my thighs. Honestly, I would have rather seen a new bug bite. But I learned to think of my stretch marks as something that makes my skin mine. No one else will have these marks on them exactly as you do, just as no one will have the exact moles and fingerprints as you. It adds to the list of what makes you special and YOU.”

Dani Vee

“When my body started to develop, that’s when I saw stretch marks. They started on my thighs and moved up to my hips. I never actively tried to make them go away or prevent them because they don’t bother me at all. I’ve found them to be a natural part of growing as a human that I like to call My Booty Stripes. Don’t feel nervous to bare those beautiful stripes. You aren’t alone!”

Sydney Lopez

“I got stretch marks on my hips when I got curves, and I guess I had no choice in the matter. I work in an industry trying to push that perfection. People are scared of real bodies and that’s unfortunate, but that’s been changing recently. I will admit that when you’re young, it feels more intense and you’re more aware of the imperfections on your body. All of us have imperfections and that’s OK!”

Photographed by the author.

Click here for five years worth of beauty wisdom from ITG’s community. 

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Tracey Cunningham’s One Tip For Getting Your Hair Colored

When I first pitched this story, I had a grand plan. Give Tracey Cunningham, kolorist to the Kardashians (and also Lily Aldridge and Jessica Biel) a stunning picture of Karmen Pedaru (above) Tom took during Fashion Week and have her run a diagnostic of sorts. I wanted to write a “Get The Color” story. Karmen, of course, doesn’t dye her hair. Her color is an amalgam of going bleach a couple of years ago, some streaks from the sun, and her natural color. Which is to say, you’d need a pretty expert colorist to recreate it for you.

So I called Tracey after her last appointment of the day and right before she hopped on a jet to Dubai (oh, to be Miss Cunningham) and asked her: How would you highlight, balayage, and tone your way to this level of perfect? Put it in layman’s terms.

“Bring a picture,” Tracey said. But, is there a way you would recommend— “Emily, bring a picture,” she said again.

This is not the first time I’d heard this from her. She says the same thing every time she’s asked about the proper chair-side manner for both clients and colorists (I heard it when I was her hair model at a master class back in August). Turns out, people are not good at either explaining color complexity in conversation, understanding conversations about color, or both. So take words out of the equation because your definition of ash-y blond and your colorist’s definition could be drastically different. When in doubt, “Bring a picture.”

Greg Ruggeri was also there—I had no idea he’d seen my hair on display until he mentioned it to me during an appointment at his salon last weekend. I relayed my conversation with Tracey and he agreed. But he also had an addendum.

“Bring two pictures,” he said. “One of what you want, and one of what you don’t want. That way, you can show the difference.”

It’s simple. It’s brilliant. All it takes is an Instagram search or two. Color problems, solved.

The second step is knowing just what to ask for—using ITG’s Haircut Dictionary

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Inside The World Of Natural, Inexpensive Beauty Products

Clutching a bag of Go Raw Spirulina Super Chips and an oversize container of kale cauliflower salad because your yearn for preserved lemons cannot be sated, you make a vow: You will now check out at Whole Foods. You will not pass Whole Body. You will not spend $200.

You’ve come to this hub of carob snacks for a few modest treats and Marcona almonds. You already have all the witch hazel and aloe vera lotion you could wish for in your bathroom. You do not need baobab oil. But you are powerless. You are in Aisle 10, arms laden with Dr. Hauschka products and soap that smells like Mother Nature and you don’t know how you got there.

Maren Giuliano is thrilled. As the Executive Global Coordinator for Whole Body, it is up to Giuliano to make sure that a Yerba Prima Tampico Skin Brush seduces you. And she is very good at her job. She knows the allure of Jason Smoothing Coconut Oil. Giuliano started at Whole Foods almost two decades ago, scoring a job on the floor at the Beverly Hills location. Now, she oversees how stores all over the world choose which personal care products to stock on shelves.

When we spoke, she gushed over luxurious oils and talked Whole Body standards and shared a DIY lip scrub. She wondered what kind of a person is not in love with avocados, winning my heart forever. No matter your stance on the best invention since and for sliced bread, you should read this.

What are the criteria for a product to be considered for Whole Body?

In all Whole Foods stores, we have standards for each department. In Whole Body and in the personal care area, we have baseline standards for ingredients that are required. Before we even have a conversation with a brand, we make sure that they’ve done their due diligence and that they don’t have any of those ingredients that we don’t allow in their products. We won’t even look at a product unless it meets the baseline standards. Right now, we have about 50 ingredients that we don’t allow at all. And then we have a second-tier higher standard of about 500 ingredients that we don’t really want to see. And actually, that’s our preference—that brands go for the premium standard.

How often do you revise the standards? Do they change from year to year?

It’s like a living, breathing document, really. Since Whole Foods has been around, the standards are always evolving. We have a team, and that’s really all they do. They focus on the quality standards. They do research all the time, especially when new ingredients come to market. We never just bring them in. We see what studies have been done and what they’ve proven about the safety of the ingredient.

Formal guidelines aside, how do you decide what makes it onto your shelves?

Well, the other part, too, is we also are very, very picky about label claims. If you claim you’re “organic,” you have to be certified organic. If you claim that the product does something, we want test results or clinical studies that back that. But what makes a product something we want to carry is we really want a brand to align with the values and mission that we have here. We really like for there to be a bigger purpose behind the brand beyond the function of it. What’s the story? Where are they sourcing their ingredients from? Do they give back?

Alaffia, for example, is a big brand partner that we work with. They source all of their shea butter from Togo, Africa. They support women’s co-ops and women’s empowerment. They use the sales of the products to build schools. They give a percentage back. Those kinds of stories are very important to us, because it motivates the people that work at our stores. They feel better about selling it. And then of course it has to smell good and feel good. We want the packaging to be great. We want our products to fill a niche. We’re really picky about how many, you know, bars of soap we stock. We want products that are compelling and different.

Where do you discover new products?

We’re really lucky—we’re a very decentralized company. We allow buying and discovery to happen at every single store. That’s a really cool thing. So we have big brands that we deal with on a national or a global scale, and then we have brands that might be a local soap maker or lip balm maker who make a connection with the store. When a product gets into a store and does really well, more stores pick it up. And it’s amazing—word just spreads throughout the company. The next thing you know, it’s everywhere. Waxelene, which is an alternative to Vaseline, is the best example of that. It started in Northern California as this little local brand. And then they got a loan from Whole Foods. Now it’s in every single store. Discovery happens at the store level. It happens at trade shows. Sometimes, it happens at farmers’ markets. For us, there’s never going to be one person doing the buying. We have our whole company involved. We share a lot of stories between us, which is how brands make their way up.

What excites Whole Body customers? What do they look for in products?

They want to know that someone has done the homework for them. What they look for in products are the same things that they look for in food—natural ingredients and safer alternatives to some of the other stuff out there. Our customers respond really well to simple products. Our unpackaged, bulk bar soap is one of our best-selling items. They really like those pared-down products that just work and smell good. Because of aromatherapy, essential oils are really popular. Natural scents and fragrances are always popular.

We want to make that connection between food and beauty. It used to be that people would say, “Oh, I buy all my produce at Whole Foods, but I buy all my other stuff somewhere else.” It’s like, “Wait a minute. If you care about what you’re putting in your body, you should care about what you’re putting on your body.” I think that’s happening more and more.

How often do you experiment with new products?

I change my routine constantly. I will allow my skin to go through some pretty interesting phases, because it’s important to me to try a lot. I just started using these samples I got from a brand we carry—Andalou. I decided to get rid of everything else and just focus on this brand and see what it does for me for a little while. Then there are the products I try to keep in rotation all the time. I like to use an exfoliator a few times a week. I like serums and day and night creams. But I’ll switch brands out all the time. I’ll try them and give them a month to see how they react.

Are there any products you love so much you’ve never replaced them with something new?

Very few. I was very attached to a blush from Mineral Fusion. They have this color I love—Creation. I’ve used that for years. But it’s so funny actually, because I just decided that I would expand and try some new brands. I do have a lip balm, and it’s really the only one that I use. It’s called Lizard Lips. It smells like vanilla and it has SPF in it. I’ve used it for years. It’s the one thing I won’t give up. But makeup, shampoo, lotion, body wash—those things I always trade out.

When you wander into the produce aisle, what are your favorite “beauty” foods?

Well, avocados, of course. Avocados are a must. Who doesn’t love avocados? I make a lot of smoothies, so I’ll use hemp seeds and flax seeds to get some essential fatty acids, which I think are really good for the skin. And obviously, hydration is so important. I drink coconut water and just a lot of water, in general, to stay hydrated. But I put food on my face, too. We do a lot of DIY stuff.

Avocados are pretty luscious. As far as skincare goes, what is your favorite indulgence?

There are so many. I love Trilogy. They’re a somewhat new brand. They have this Rosehip Seed Oil that I love. It’s so rich. I like to put it on anytime, but it’s especially good before bed. It just soaks in. It’s really, really nice. I love John Masters Blood Orange and Vanilla Body Milk. I love serums—all serums. Those are my go-to treats, especially if they have a really good fragrance. And Evan Healy products have the most amazing essential oils in them. They have a Rose Petal HydroSoul Mist Toner. You feel like you’ve gone to a spa every time you use it. It just transports you.

On the flipside, what are your favorite in-office snacks?

My latest discovery is a good one. I’m totally addicted. The brand is called LesserEvil, and it’s popcorn made with coconut oil, and it has Himalayan pink sea salt on it. That is my latest addiction. It’s so good.

What’s next for Whole Body?

You’re going to see a lot more from our private labels in the department. We’re going to branch out into our own brand and offer a lot more products with our own label. It’s a big initiative. We are definitely focused on and really excited about the beauty category in general—facial care and cosmetics. We’ve had a lot of the same great brands for a really long time, so we’re really exploring some new brands that are out there. Customers know that we’ve vetted these products, but they really want to play with them and touch them and experience them in the store, so we want to enhance that experience for them.

Bonus! Her recipe for a lip scrub:

– 4 teaspoons brown sugar
– 3 teaspoons 365 Everyday Organic Expeller Pressed Virgin Coconut Oil
– 1 teaspoon jojoba or apricot kernel oil
– 3 teaspoons honey
– 2 drops of Aura Cacia essential oil, such as peppermint or sweet orange

Place all ingredients in a small bowl and stir until combined. Transfer to an airtight container. To apply, scoop out a dime-size amount with your finger. Gently rub over lips. Rinse with water.

—Mattie Kahn

Still prefer the produce aisle? Try this salad made up of beauty foods. Got a growing collection of essential oils? Consider the aromatherapy inhaler.

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Friends Of ITG Share Their Brow Selfies

Right now, ITG is all about the brow. In celebration of Glossier’s upcoming product launch, we’re hosting Brow Month—a time to explore where those arches have been, where they’re going, and how best to care for yours. So, read on for your daily dose of brow, or click this way for related stories.

Like everything else, selfies are subject to trends. The main point of reference here is probably Kim Kardashian’s tome, Selfie, but anyone with an Instagram account can probably hack together a vague timeline. It started with the duck face to highlight the cheekbones. That morphed into the subtle pout that makes the lips appear ever-so-slightly enlarged. There was the nose-to-boob selfie, disregarding the eyes and making the argument that a slightly agape mouth and a good neckline are truly the windows to the soul. Now there’s the Snapchat screengrab selfie because who doesn’t want to vomit a rainbow?

A subset of these (and not just because we’re all about brows right now) is the brow selfie. It’s also a perfect segue for some more brow stories (they never get old; keep them coming). Above are some exemplars of the brow selfie genre, coupled with their corresponding brow story below. Got a selfie? Stick in the comments.

Andreea Diaconu
“A makeup artist in Japan suggested I shave [my brows] when I was 15, but luckily I stood my ground. I’ve bleached them a couple of times, but besides the zebra effect that happens if you don’t dye them back, everything was ok. I once plucked them into a upside down ’90s style Nike swoosh, but [my] mother made me put castor oil on [them] everyday and they came back. I was quite young, so don’t count on the castor trick—it works for some.”

Lily Collins
“When I moved to the US at such a young age, I was incredibly self-conscious of my bold brows. I thought they made me stand out when all I wanted to do was fit in. However, the older I got the more I realized that’s a positive thing! Standing out and being different is way more fun than blending in. I embrace them as one of my unique features because they make me, me.”

Madeline Poole
“I’ve had thick, coarse black eyebrows since I was a wee child, and in middle school and early high school I plucked them, trimmed them and bleached them—I’m surprised they grew back! I had a breakthrough with them recently. I always thought my face was lopsided and that one of my eyes was higher than the other but it turns out my eyebrows were just uneven. I used to pencil them in before my breakthrough. Recently, my friend Paloma Elsesser—another girl with great eyebrows—took me to Pinky’s Village Spa, an eyebrow threading salon in the East Village. I was scared, but in a daring mood, so I let Pinky reshape and dye them. She uses this henna dye, which is meant to stimulate hair growth and it actually works (or at least it worked on me)! My face is way more symmetrical now and I no longer use any type of makeup on my brows. It’s really funny when you have the dye on because it’s thick and black. For the first day you might notice the dye on your skin, but it washes away after a day or two. Anyway, I’ve been going there the whole summer and it’s honestly changed my day-to-day life, and I can get ready so much quicker.”

Aurora James
“I basically abandoned my eyebrows a year ago. After fixating over them for my entire life, I said, ‘Que sera, sera,’ and just let them be. A makeup artist friend of mine gave me a Twinkle, which I will use to trim the tops of them up every now and then if I feel so inclined.”

Shay Mitchell
Kelley Baker is my brow guru. Brows are so important and I always trust her to make mine look good before any event or shoot.”

Adesuwa Aighewi
“I used to not like my eyebrows because they grow in this weird shape—the Asian male eyebrow—and I would over-pluck them trying to get an arch. One time I dyed them, and I really liked not having to deal with them after that…but I think the look scared babies. Every now and then, I fill them in I’m when going out, but I also have this fear that rain will come and it will just melt off, so for the most part I let them be. I think confidence in your eyebrows is a must—if you like them then no one can tell you differently.”

Maryam Nassir Zadeh
“In the mid-’90s when I was in high school, the trend was very thin brows. I remember a few times I botched my brows by making them too thin, and changed my brow shape by taking too much hair from in-between. Those years of messing with my eyebrows permanently changed the shape. To counter this, I’ve hardly ever touched them since my 20s, and I let my eyebrows grow out naturally. At times I question if they get too bushy and that’s when—maybe every 4 months—I’ll go and get them cleaned up. I’ll get the bottom of the brows waxed to follow the natural arch and clean up just between my brows. I’m very paranoid about not having too much hair taken off.”

“The saying that ‘no two things are ever the same’ couldn’t be more appropriate when the topic is eyebrows. I stopped a long time ago trying to make them match. All I can say is the eyebrow pencil is a must-have in a cosmetics bag.”

Lindsay Ellingson
“In 8th grade, a friend convinced me to wax my thick Brooke Shields-esque eyebrows because ‘thin was in.’ Not knowing anything about beauty at the time, I continued to wax and pluck until the day I started modeling, and quickly realized it was a big mistake! After 10 years of trying and testing everything, I’ve turned into a brow fanatic. It’s my desert island beauty pick, even before mascara! I developed Wander Beauty’s new Frame Your Face Micro Brow Pencil to give a natural yet enhanced brow because I instantly feel more confident and beautiful when my eyebrows are beautifully shaped.”

Atlanta de Cadenet
“When it comes to eyebrows my philosophy is DO NOTHING. Or at least do basically nothing. I once got my eyebrows waxed when I was 15 years old, and I suffered from such severe PTSD as the lady took so much off that I haven’t touched them since. Sometimes on shoots, makeup artists will pluck stray hairs here and there, but I pretty much stay away from them. I use Bobbi Brown Natural Brow Shaper and Touch Up in Clear to brush them up, and a pencil by Anastasia to fill them in a bit if I’m going out to an event.”

Jenny Slate
“One of my favorite people ever ever ever was my grandfather, Lester Gilson. He owned and worked every day in a candy factory. As a little girl, I recognized that I had his exact same eyebrows, and so I was always proud of them. They have a natural peak, are fairly bold, and are very dark. In middle school, I got a little scared of having a unibrow (even though it wasn’t really happening, I heard other people being teased about it and I got paranoid), and I think I plucked out like a fourth of both brows. In college, I started to learn to clean them up a bit, plucking out the strays that weren’t a part of the natural shape. But I’ve never made them really thin or tried to change them, because they remind me of someone who I loved so much, and who had so much true beauty. Plus, eyebrows are such a wonderful tool for expressing ourselves! Why minimize that? Also, I mean, they’re just eyebrows. It’s all ultimately fine.”

Selfies are just the start. Plenty more brow talk this way.

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Get To Know: @Lotstar

It would be cliché to call Lottie a star, but her Instagram handle does it so we don’t have to. We’ve been watching Lottie stand out via her social channels—OK, mainly Instagram, but also Twitter—and would like to invite the rest of the general population to join in. But you can only glean so much from social before you’ve got to call someone up and tell them you’re interested in more. Which is exactly what we did. What followed was a mutual admiration email thread, some of which is below. Because sharing is caring, and we didn’t want to keep Lottie to ourselves, everyone, please meet @Lotstar:

Did you have a big break?

I would say my big break came before I moved to New York. I’m actually a California native and now live back and forth between LA and New York—though my theory is that all Californians eventually come back. But anyway, before I moved here, I was approached by Mia Tyler to be her personal makeup artist on a TV show. It was such an amazing experience—she let me experiment with different looks, and we had a lot of fun. It gave me the confidence to go out on my own as a freelancer full time.

So how long have you been working as a makeup artist now?

I’ve been freelance for 12 years.

Did everything fall into place quickly for you?

I don’t think anything is ever that easy. It’s all a process. I went to school for graphic design and interned at a magazine as a student. It was there where I saw firsthand that makeup—something I was always interested in—could be an actual career outside of working makeup counters. After some time in England working office jobs, I began practicing makeup looks on all my co-workers and friends.When I moved back to LA, I was introduced to a young photographer also starting out named Alex Prager. Alex and I began to work together, and that’s how I built my first portfolio. Once you have that portfolio going, you can start working fashion shows—I did shows with Smashbox in LA at the now-defunct LAFW, after which I took the plunge and moved to New York with hopes of working more in fashion.

Is there any work you’re particularly proud of?

I’m so proud of all my work with my girls Jamie Nelson and Alex Prager. I shot my first editorial for Vogue with Alex. Keying my first show in Milan is also a standout in my career.

Do you have a “look” you always go back to or does your work change with each job?

I approach my work in a very collaborative way, always. When it’s a shoot, I speak to the photographer, stylist, and hairstylist to get an idea for what we want to do. If someone suggests something I dont think will work on a particular model, I will always do my best to explain why and come up with alternative ideas. For example, doing crazy creative makeup on a very commercial-looking model or a model with features too strong can be a disaster. For red carpet, I like to see what the talent is wearing and how the hair will be before I make a final decision on look ideas. Then, I’ll propose an idea to the talent. The same goes for runway. I think there is a huge misconception with young and new makeup artists who don’t understand that it’s not always a “makeup show” on shoots. Sometimes—a lot of times—less is more. Balance is key.

What inspires your work?

I am usually inspired from the model and their features and always no matter what or how creative the makeup, always try to keep their beauty and let them be the star. I think my background in design definitely carries over and when it comes to my creative work, it always is about balance for me. When I first started, I wanted to put everything on the face. Lashes, glitter, rhinestones, stencil work all at once. It takes a lot of experience to know when it’s OK to push the makeup and when the makeup really needs to take a step back. In the end for me its about a beautiful final image.

Of course I have always been fascinated by the fantasy work of people like Serge Lutens and Topolino as well as paintings from my favorite artists like Edward Robert Hughes, John Waterhouse, and Gustav Klimt. Inspiration is so general, though, and can be super cliché. It’s so personal, but also relative, to the moment you’re in.

And finally, what do you love about your job?

I think beauty and fashion is just a wonderful artistic statement and always ever-changing, which makes my job the best in the world. We get to work with different people constantly while also building small-team families and creating magical images. For runway, it’s very gratifying for me to collaborate on a piece of fashion history. Every show I finish feels like an amazing accomplishment. I have been so lucky to work with some of the best photographers, artists, and have the best assistants who feel like family to me. And it’s only the beginning.

Photos via @Lotstar.

Behind a great makeup artist is a great first assistant. Three of the most talented in the industry talk about their careers.

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