Most women have stretch marks, even some teenagers develop them during growth spurts. Bodybuilders and athletes get them due to muscle growth during training. Pregnant women develop them in the later stages of pregnancy. Prevention is better than cure but there are natural ways to treat stretch marks at home. Now, there is nothing wrong with having some tiger stripes. They are natural and shouldn’t bother you at all but if you are like me, and you don’t like the look of them, then by all means, try some of these remedies to lighten and fade them. However, you should never feel ashamed of your body for any reason!
What are stretch marks?
Most of us either have them or will get them at some point. Stretch marks are small tears in the dermis (middle layer of the skin) that show through the epidermis (outer layer of the skin) where the skin has thinned due to rapid growth or weight gain.
Blood vessels and tissue from the dermis layer will show through the upper layer of strained skin which is why they appear purple at first. They usually develop in areas with thicker underlying fat deposits
Before they appear the skin becomes thin, pink and itchy. When the blood vessels eventually contract as the dermis heals the marks become white or silvery in colour.
What causes stretch marks?
Puberty: Rapid growth during childhood can cause stretch marks in adolescents. It usually presents on the back (boys) or underarms and hips (girls). The skin simply can’t keep up with sudden growth spurts during puberty.
Pregnancy: The body produces hormones during the last stages of pregnancy to soften ligaments and muscle fibres in the abdomen and pelvis to allow women to give birth more easily. Unfortunately, these hormones also soften the collagen fibres in the skin around this area which is why stretch marks will form on the belly and hips during pregnancy.
Rapid Weight Gain: If we put on weight rapidly over a short period of time, the skin simply can’t accommodate the sudden change and connective fibres will tear in the dermis layer. Leaving us with stretch marks on our hips, arms and breasts.
Rapid Muscle Growth: Some bodybuilders and athletes will develop stretch marks during times of muscle growth.
Genetics: Some families simply have a genetic predisposition to weaker collagen and elastin in their skin. If other members of your immediate family have stretch marks, chances are, you will get them too.
Medical Conditions: There are two known medical conditions that can cause stretch marks. Cushing’s syndrome affects the production of the hormone cortisol in the body which is thought to cause stretch marks. Marfan syndrome is a faulty gene that weakens skin and connective tissue which reduces elasticity and can cause stretch marks.
Corticosteroids: They are usually used to treat skin conditions like eczema by reducing inflammation. Like cortisol, it reduces the skin’s ability to stretch. There is also evidence that it reduces the amount of collagen in the skin. Collagen is what gives our skin the ability to stretch. Less collagen, more stretch marks.
How to treat stretch marks:
From the Inside:
Vitamin K: This lesser known vitamin is great for the skin. It improves skin elasticity and helps to improve the look of stretch marks by encouraging cell growth. You can find Vitamin K in kale, cabbage, spring onions, Brussels sprouts and broccoli.
Sweet Potato: It contains a high concentration of Vitamin A which helps to increase collagen production, improve skin elasticity and cell turnover to fade stretch marks.
Gelatin: Gelatin is a water-soluble protein that promotes collagen production and improves skin elasticity. It also helps with wound healing. The best way to get gelatin is by making bone broth and drinking a cup at least three days a week. There are some vegan alternatives that are made of algae. You can also buy supplements.
Coconut oil: Because of its molecular structure, coconut oil melts easily and penetrates deeply. This allows it to be absorbed more easily leaving almost no oily residue on the skin. Coconut oil is full of antioxidants that help the body to protect collagen and repair it which improves elasticity.
Sweet Almond Oil: This light oil contains vitamin E that helps to repair skin and restore elasticity. It also contains vitamins A, F, B2 and P as well as unsaturated fatty acids linoleic, oleic and palmitic acid. This aids in fortifying cell membranes and restoring elasticity. It also promotes the production of collagen and elastin. It really is a powerhouse and is highly recommended for the treatment of stretch marks.
Apricot Kernel Oil: Like sweet almond oil, apricot kernel oil is rich in linoleic and oleic fatty acids as well as vitamin A, B and E. It tones and softens the skin and is easily absorbed. Apricot kernel oil is used in many baby products because it is gentle and calming to the skin. It can be used to treat the inflammation and discomfort associated with eczema and dermatitis.
Castor Oil: Castor oil may taste terrible but it is wonderful for hair and skin. It helps to make eyelashes and eyebrows grow but it’s also a lifesaver if you have stretch marks. Castor Oil penetrates the skin easily and moisturises deeply. It contains high concentrations of a fatty acid called ricinoleic acid that stimulates the production of collagen in the skin, improving elasticity.
Rosehip Oil: It smells lovely, it really does. Aside from that it also penetrates more deeply than most oils providing the skin with those essential fatty acids and vitamins that help it repair itself. Rosehip oil has a high concentration of linoleic and oleic fatty acids as well as vitamin A and C. It actively, improves skin texture, reduces wrinkles, discolouration and stimulates collagen production.
Vitamin E Oil: We’ve all cut open a vitamin E capsule and used it on our skin to fade a scar or treat a dry patch at some point. Vitamin E oil boosts skin elasticity and slows down cell damage due to free radicals because it is a potent antioxidant. It helps with the appearance of stretch marks because it softens and moisturises the skin restoring elasticity.
Olive Oil: This one is probably the easiest to use because most of us have it in our kitchen cupboard for cooking purposes. Extra Virgin Olive oil is rich in Vitamin E and K as well as chlorophyll and carotenoids. These are all antioxidants that fight cell damage. Olive oil may be a little thicker than the other oils but it moisturises deeply and helps to restore skin elasticity.
Argan Oil: Argan oil works well as a preventative measure and to treat existing stretch marks. It contains high concentrations of Vitamin E and is also rich in fatty acids and Vitamin A. It is easily absorbed into the skin and promotes elasticity which stops stretch marks from spreading or forming in the first place. Omega 3 & 6 fatty acids reduce inflammation and promote healing.
Aloe Vera: Pure aloe vera gel is known to be high in Vitamins C & E which improves the production of collagen in the skin which restores elasticity. Gibberellins and polysaccharides stimulate cell production to heal the underlying tears in the dermis. Aloe Vera gel is easily absorbed and even has some anti-inflammatory properties. You can read more about Aloe Vera Here.
Retinoids/Vitamin A: DO NOT USE RETINOIDS DURING PREGNANCY. You can buy retinoid creams from the pharmacy to treat stretch marks but eating foods rich in vitamin A helps your body to rebuild collagen and increase cell turnover to heal the affected area. Carrots and sweet potatoes and easy sources of vitamin A.
Hyaluronic Acid: Some health food stores sell creams containing hyaluronic acid. It stimulates collagen production to improve elasticity in the skin.
Treatments in your kitchen
Lemon: Lemons are wonderful for treating most kinds of discolouration. It will not be effective for all kinds of stretch marks. Only the ones where the upper layers of skin are discoloured due to inflammation. It will, however, brighten the area and improve collagen production while exfoliating away dead skin cells. You can rub a slice of lemon on the area and wait for it to dry. Then cover the area with some olive oil to moisturise and let the lemon work. Lemons are rich in Vitamin C, vitamin K, zinc and several omega fatty acids.
Avocado: Avocados are rich in Vitamins A, E and D as well as folic acid. It improves the elasticity of your skin by strengthening connective tissues. Avocado oil is a heavier oil but penetrates well. You can also mash half an avocado and rub that on your stretch marks to soften the skin.
Tomato: Tomatoes are full of Vitamin C that helps to fade discolouration and lycopene which is an antioxidant that fights cell damage. Simply rub tomato on your stretch marks and leave on for 10 minutes every other day.
Apple Cider Vinegar: Its good for more than just salad dressing. Put some Apple Cider Vinegar on a cotton pad and apply to your stretch marks. It is helpful in removing dead skin cells because it contains malic and acetic acid.
Oats: Traditionally used as a breakfast cereal, oats are rich in antioxidants and full of natural oils that moisturise the skin. It is mildly anti-inflammatory and helps to soothe irritation. Saponins are a natural foaming agent found in oats. It helps to gently cleanse skin while the oats exfoliate the skin. Oats also contain zinc to help with healing and polysaccharides that moisturise the skin. Because it is hypoallergenic it is a great option for those with sensitive skin.
Honey: We all know that honey is great for the skin. It kills bacteria, seals in moisture and gets rid of inflammation. Raw honey and manuka honey are full of antioxidants that help to fight off cell damage and protect the skin. Use honey with oats or lemon as a mask to treat your stretch marks.
Turmeric: Turmeric isn’t just that yellow stuff in curries. It’s known for it’s healing properties. Cumin contains curcumin which is an antioxidant that helps to keep cell membranes healthy. Combine turmeric with lemon or cucumber juice to fade discolouration and soften skin. Read more about the beauty benefits of Turmeric here.
Yoghurt: Yogurt contains lactic acid that helps to loosen dead skin cells and fade discolouration. Combined with turmeric or honey it is a great treatment to soften the skin and fade any discolouration. Apply your yoghurt mixture to the stretch marks and leave on for at least 30 minutes.
As I said earlier, stretch marks are natural. They happen to most women due to weight fluctuations, pregnancy or skin conditions. It’s nothing to be ashamed of at all and nobody should make you feel bad about your body. I don’t like the way they look on me so I moisturise them religiously. My skin can be quite dry and it makes them more pronounced. I love coconut oil to treat mine as well as Palmer’s cocoa butter lotion that you can buy from the drugstore.