Stretch marks are common among women after pregnancy. You might have fine lines mostly in the areas prone to fat accumulation like breast, hips, arms, abdomen, tummy and thighs. They may develop due to hormonal changes or sudden fat loss in these regions. Here, MomJunction tells you how to get rid of stretch marks through home remedies, and medical treatments.
It is not possible to get rid of stretch marks completely as they only get lighter with time (1). Massaging creams, lotions, and oils cannot make the marks disappear but only turn your skin smooth and supple.
Over the months and may be years, the marks gradually turn into fine lines which are almost closer to your skin tone. Though you may have to bear the natural ‘battle scars’, they become less visible in three to six months after delivery, write Janet Arenson and Patricia Drake in their book Quick Look Nursing: Maternal and Newborn Health.
Home Remedies To Remove Pregnancy Stretch Marks:
There are certain effective home remedies you can try to reduce the appearance of postpartum stretch marks. Most of these remedies are from The Big Book Of Home Remedies, written by Samuel Billings (2).
1. Oil Treatment:
Massaging the affected areas with oils make your skin smooth and help reduce the stretch marks. Some of the popularly used oils include:
Olive Oil: Olive oil moisturizes and exfoliates your skin. It also improves the blood circulation and removes stretch marks to a great extent (3).
- Take some oil in your palms and gently massage the area.
- Let it remain for 30 minutes so that the vitamins A, D and E in the oil are absorbed into the skin.
- Take a bath after the massage.
- Though it is a time-taking process, it gives you results when you follow it regularly.
- Or you can also prepare a mixture of olive oil, water and vinegar, and apply in the nights.
- Extract the oil from vitamin E capsule.
- Mix with any moisturizer you use regularly and apply on the stretch marks.
- On regular usage, it gives effective results by fading off the marks.
- Apply castor oil on the stretch marks and massage the area gently in circular motion for about five to ten minutes.
- Use a plastic bag to cover the area, roll a hot water bottle on it for about 30 to 40 minutes. The heat opens the pores and the oil gets absorbed into the pores.
- Clean the area and repeat it every day for at least a month to see good results.
Other Oils: Various oils like coconut, almond, avocado, castor and vitamin E can be mixed in equal proportions and applied on the skin. You can also use them to massage the region. You can also use any one oil and use as a massage oil.
Essential Oil Treatment:
- Take regular oils like almond or coconut.
- Add a few drops of essential oils like rose, geranium, lavender, myrrh or helichrysum.
- Use this mixture to massage on the stretch marks for at least 30 minutes. It will help reduce the stretch marks quickly.
2. Aloe Vera:
Aloe vera promotes healing and soothes your skin. Use fresh gel rather than the one available in the market.
- Rub it directly over the skin, leave for 15 minutes and wash it off using lukewarm water. Apply on the affected areas regularly.
- You can also prepare a mixture of one-fourth cup of aloe vera gel with oil from five vitamin A and ten vitamin E capsules. Rub it over the skin until it is completely absorbed. Apply it twice a day.
The antiseptic property of honey works in reducing stretch marks.
- Take a small cloth and apply honey on it.
- Place the cloth on the affected area and let it remain until it turns dry.
- Rinse off using warm water.
- Or you can prepare honey scrub by mixing it with salt and glycerin. Apply it on the stretch marks, leave until it dries and rinse off using water.
4. Egg White:
Egg white is rich in protein, which helps rejuvenate the skin and makes it look fresh.
- Beat two egg whites using a fork.
- Clean the affected area with water and apply a thick layer of egg white using a makeup brush.
- Let it dry and then rinse off using cold water.
- Apply some olive oil to keep the skin supple and moisturized.
- Repeat it every day for at least two weeks. It helps improve your skin tone, and the marks fade away slowly.
5. Shea Butter Or Cocoa Butter:
Shea or cocoa butter can be used just like oil treatment. They are also the primary ingredients present in most of the body lotions.
Take some shea or cocoa butter and apply on the stretch marks regularly. Rinse off the area after some time.
This remedy improves the skin elasticity, prevents dryness and reduces the stretch marks. Cocoa butter is an excellent moisturizer and helps nourish your skin.
Sugar is one of the best remedies for stretch marks. It exfoliates your dead skin, and your stretch marks turn lighter.
- Take one tablespoon of sugar, mix with some almond oil and a few drops of lemon juice.
- Use it as a scrub before you go for a shower.
- Do this every day for a month.
7. Lemon Juice:
The acidic property of lemon juice works in healing stretch marks.
- Rub fresh lemon juice on the affected area.
- Leave it for about 10 minutes so that the juice soaks into your skin.
- Rinse off using warm water.
- Apply every day for better results.
- Or you can also make a mixture of lemon and cucumber juice in equal proportions and apply it on the stretch marks.
The skin should be well-hydrated to erase the stretch marks and other skin conditions. Consume at least 10 to 12 glasses of water every day to keep your skin hydrated and protected from toxins. It keeps your skin supple and restores its elasticity. Try avoiding tea, coffee and soda as they are dehydrating agents.
- Deseed the fruit and cut into small pieces.
- Crush the fruit in a blender to make a paste.
- Apply on the stretch marks, leave for 15 to 20 minutes.
- Rinse off with lukewarm water and repeat regularly.
Potato contains phytochemicals, polyphenols, and carotenoids, which improve the skin texture.
- Cut a potato into two halves and rub one-half over the stretch marks.
- Allow the juice to soak into the skin and let it dry.
- Then rinse off the area using lukewarm water.
- You can notice the difference in a few months.
- Or you can use potato juice or pulp.
11. Turmeric And Sandalwood:
They are known for their ability to promote brighter and even skin texture.
- Prepare one spoon of sandalwood paste by rubbing sandalwood stick in a bit of water.
- Prepare a smooth paste of fresh turmeric root.
- Mix both in equal proportions and apply on the skin.
- Leave until it dries almost to 60% and then scrub your skin until all of it comes off.
- Repeat every day for at least six months to see the improvement.
12. Milk, Sugar And Green Coconut Water:
Scrubs are effective in boosting the skin regeneration process, and they are one of best ways to remove stretch marks after birth of the baby.
- Mix two spoons of raw milk, a few drops of lemon juice and cucumber juice, half a spoon of sugar.
- Apply on the stretch marks and scrub for around five minutes in a circular motion.
- Rinse off with water and pat the area dry.
- Apply coconut water in excess and allow it to dry until you can sense the stretch on the skin.
- Then apply shea butter or aloe vera gel.
- After some time, rinse off the area and then apply moisturizer.
- You can use this remedy three times a week to help remove marks and lighten the skin.
- Repeat not more than 3 times a week.
Alfalfa leaves are a great source of protein, essential amino acids, and vitamins E and K. Their antifungal property detoxifies the skin and helps heal the stretch marks.
- Prepare a smooth paste by mixing the powder with a few drops of chamomile oil.
- Massage it all over the stretch marks.
- Apply two to three times a day and you can notice stretch marks fading away within a week.
- Alfalfa powder is available in food stores.
14. Home-Made Moisturizer:
Moisturizer helps improve skin elasticity. You should choose it depending on your skin type. If your skin is dry, you should use the one with cocoa butter and if your skin is oily, use cream which contains aloe vera or a clay moisturizer.
- Mix olive oil, aloe vera gel and wheat germ oil in equal proportions.
- You can use it as a moisturizer if you have dry or combination skin type.
- The above mixture can be mixed with clay if your skin is an oily type.
15. Home-Made Lotion:
- Take a quarter cup of aloe vera gel and a half cup of extra virgin olive oil.
- Extract oil from six vitamin E capsules and three to four vitamin A capsules.
- Mix all these ingredients, take in a glass bottle and store in the refrigerator.
- The natural stretch marks removal lotion can be applied every day.
16. Home-Made Cream:
- Mix half a cup of cocoa butter, one tablespoon of vitamin E oil and two tablespoons of grated beeswax.
- You may add apricot kernel oil and wheat germ oil as well.
- Bring the mixture to boil until the wax gets melted.
- Store it in a bottle and refrigerate it.
- you can use every day.
You can try doing exercises that work on the muscles of the areas with stretch marks. They tone the skin and help regenerate the tissues. It tightens the loosened skin and helps diminish the stretch marks. A combination of exercises and balanced diet helps you feel better, and you can see yourself the stretch marks before and after vary a lot.
They have a significant effect on the skin. They improve the blood circulation in the subcutaneous tissues (4) and enhance skin elasticity. All you need to do is alternate your shower between hot and cold water for micro-circulation.
Medical Treatments To Remove Stretch Marks After Pregnancy:
Doctors suggest that natural remedies are far better than medical treatments, especially if you are breastfeeding. But if you are too tired of the pregnancy stretch marks to try home remedies, here are the treatment options. However, some of them could pose serious complications.
1. Chemical Peels:
Chemical peels, also referred to as derma peeling or chemexfoliation, use a chemical solution on the stretch marks (5). The solution contains chemicals like trichloroacetic, glycolic, lactic, salicylic or carbolic acids, which when applied on the stretch marks result in blister formation. The blistered skin is later peeled off for the formation of a new skin layer.
This treatment also has risks including, a color change of the skin, abnormal skin pigmentation if you have a history of brown discoloration or if you are on birth control pills, scarring and cold sores (in herpes patients).
2. Laser Therapy:
Laser therapy is a common and proven treatment for stretch marks removal. It works on both older, deeper marks as well as newer marks. It involves removing, vaporizing and breaking down of affected skin tissues to enhance new cell production. The two costly options are pulse-dyed laser and fractional non-ablative laser therapies, both of which remove the stretch marks and improve skin’s texture, writes the Oprah Magazine. It results in permanent stretch marks removal. But it is very costly.
3. Glycolic Acid:
The alpha hydroxy acid has peeling properties. It restores collagen production in the skin, increasing its elasticity, and therefore making the stretch marks less visible (6). Glycolic acid capsules are available in drug stores, but you should consult your doctor before taking them.
4. Tretinoin Cream:
Your dermatologist may prescribe tretinoin cream, also known as Retin-A, if you are not breastfeeding. It can be used alone or by mixing with other creams.
A study shows that applying 0.1% tretinoin cream can reduce stretch marks (7). It is noticed that the stretch mark length is reduced by 14% and width by 8%. Another study reveals that the length is reduced by 20%. However, there is not much evidence of its absorption into the breastmilk. Hence, it is good to avoid while breastfeeding.
5. Skin Regeneration Activators:
You can get good quality and result oriented creams for stretch marks removal. They primarily smoothen the skin, blend the pigmentation and gradually remove the red or silvery appearance on the skin. Most of the products include cocoa butter and vitamin E oil along with some other organic ingredients.
A good anti-stretch marks cream contains any of these following ingredients:
Retinol: Every anti-stretch cream contains retinol as it helps in hydrating the skin and regenerating the skin tissues.
Collagen and elastin: These are proteins that improve skin elasticity and regeneration.
Jojoba oil and shea butter: These both are found in good anti-stretch or cellulite creams. They improve blood circulation in your skin.
Vitamins and amino acids: These are prerequisites for rapid skin regeneration.
Essential oils: They improve the total metabolic weight in the skin and increase its elasticity.
They are cost effective, convenient to use and easy to get. However, these marketed products are not safe to use in the lactating stage, and can cause discoloration of the skin.
Surgery is not recommended for stretch marks removal. The surgical procedure (dermabrasion) involves removal of layers of skin, which have the stretch marks so that it regenerates. It results in incision scars that are worse than stretch marks. It also has several risks involved.
How To Prevent Stretch Marks During Pregnancy?
There are no magical measures to prevent stretch marks during and post pregnancy. However, some things can help minimize the marks. The best option is to keep your skin healthy and hydrated so that it maintains its maximum elasticity.
It is the best moisturizer for the skin. Take some, and massage on the stretch mark prone areas such as abdomen, breasts, thighs, hips, buttocks and lower back.
Usage: Massage until the oil is absorbed into the skin. Doing it twice or thrice a day will help. If not coconut oil, you can also massage with olive oil, avocado oil, shea butter, cocoa butter or any baby oil.
2. Castor oil:
This is an age-old remedy for preventing many skin problems including wrinkles, fine lines, spots, blemishes and more. Its humectant property helps retain skin moisture. Therefore, it can also be used to put a stop to stretch marks.
Usage: Apply one thick layer of castor oil on the skin. Wrap it using a saran or plastic wrap. Use a heating pad or a hot water bottle on the area for some 20 minutes. Repeat it several times in a week. You can also mix the oil with almond oil for a thinner consistency.
3. Drink more water:
One of the best ways to keep your skin hydrated is to drink enough water. It improves the skin elasticity and makes it less prone to tearing.
4. Nutritious diet:
Include a balanced and nutritious diet rich in zinc, silica, vitamins C and E, and other nutrients that nourish the skin. Vitamin C regenerates connective tissue. Zinc synthesizes collagen and silica produces collagen. Try eating foods rich in these sources such as blueberries, strawberries, carrots, green beans, collard greens, spinach, and nuts.
5. Vitamin E:
The powerful antioxidant protects the collagen fibers from being damaged by free radicals. It, therefore, strengthens collagen fiber and improves skin elasticity.
Include vitamin E-rich foods such as olives, almonds, spinach, sunflower seeds, avocados, pumpkins and more. You can also use vitamin E oil or skin cream.
6. Low impact exercises:
Exercise is another way to improve your skin elasticity as it stimulates circulation. Moreover, you can also stay off from putting that extra weight.
You can include Kegels, simple stretches, and other movements only after checking with your practitioner. Pilates and yoga can also be helpful.
7. Apply sunscreen:
Always make sure you use enough sunscreen before going out in the sun or swimming. Apply the lotion on your chest, belly, and sides, the areas where stretching may occur.
If you still develop stretch marks after pregnancy, take them positively. They will fade with time and appropriate care. Until then you can have them as a sweet memory of your pregnancy.