I knew I’d get stretch marks when I got pregnant, since statistically speaking the rough estimate is that 90% of American women will get them to some degree in the third trimester of pregnancy. But man, I got OWNED by stretch marks. Big, deep, wide and vibrant marks in streaks of deep purple to blood red. All along my hips, my thighs, my stomach… pretty much, everywhere you “might” get them in pregnancy.
I take the blame for this though because 1) I was not as hydrated as I should have been throughout my pregnancy and 2) I didn’t use any body moisturizers or take any preventive steps for stretch marks. That’s honestly my biggest regret with my pregnancy. (And as far as regrets go, I’ll take it!)
So now I’m playing the damage control game. Because here’s the unfortunate truth:
Stretch marks are permanent. They never go away.
How Stretch Marks Work
Stretch marks or striae (as they are called in dermatology) are a form of scarring on the skin when the elastic middle layer of skin, the dermis, is continuously stretched. The collagen fibers that allow the skin to stretch and snap back into shape break down and form scar tissue that shows through to the upper layer of skin, the epidermis. Initially, the blood vessels dilate, causing the reddish or purple color of early striae. Eventually, though, the loss of pigment-producing melanocyte cells leaves mature stretch marks almost completely white.
Softening and moisturizing skin will smooth out the tone and texture of it, making scars look less noticeable. However, because of the nature of stretch mark scarring, the marks are permanent and no amount of topical treatments will ever make them disappear completely.
That bears repeating:
Over time the stretch marks may diminish, but they will not disappear completely.
So when it comes to “treating” stretch marks, the goal is to:
– Improve the elastin in skin tissue to speed skin recovery.
– Reduce the discoloration in the skin.
Fresh off the delivery table, I didn’t quite realize this. After Tessa was born I started a daily routine of slathering preventative moisturizers on my belly – which certainly didn’t hurt – but I quickly became discouraged when after 10 weeks of rubbing pure coconut oil on my body day and night, the marks were as fresh as when they first ripped.
So, as always, I did a little research on the matter. Most stretch mark creams are really just good moisturizers, which are essential for the long run, but do little to nothing for discoloration in the short term.
To start seeing immediate results, you need to first promote moist, healthy skin from the inside out. Next, keep up the topical moisturizers with an additional skin bleaching active ingredient. After trying a couple batches of homemade all natural remedies, this is the one I’ve settled on for my daily skin care routine and I can personally vouch for it.. this salve WORKS! I saw results in one week. By week two my stretch marks were undeniably lighter in color. The purples faded to reds and the reds started taking on a pinkish hue.
How To Make It
1 cup raw cocoa butter
½ cup coconut oil
1 cup castor oil
¼ cup sweet almond oil
Melt the cocoa butter and coconut oil over low heat until they’re completely liquid. Slowly stir in the castor oil and sweet almond oil. Once fully incorporated, allow the mixture to chill in the refrigerator until it begins to firm, but has not turned completely solid. Using a hand mixer, whip the semi-solid mixture until white peaks form. Scoop into a glass jars and allow to chill for an hour in the fridge.
Apply this salve twice a day – I do mine first thing in the morning and right before bed. Apply gently over stretch marks, never rubbing across the marks, but rather along them. (You don’t want to stretch out the skin more than it already is!)
How It Works
Raw Cocoa Butter – Cocoa butter is widely noted for its ability to help prevent stretch marks. For our stretch mark treatment salve, it acts as an emollient. An emollient is a substance that softens and soothes the skin, which can break up the scar tissue of the stretch marks to aid quick healing, and keep new stretch marks from forming. The high quantity of fatty acids and vitamin E in cocoa butter hydrates the skin deeply, and it is also high in antioxidants, which help fight off free radicals. Make sure you use pure raw cocoa butter though! Many products claiming to contain cocoa are in ”refined form”, with additives and ingredients that may not heal your skin.
Coconut Oil – Coconut oil contains high levels of Vitamin E and is excellent for hydrating skin. It sinks in deep, conditions, moisturizes, and softens skin. Coconut oil mimics the sebum in your skin and so it naturally and gently clears away dirt, grime, and dead skin cells. It even has some antibacterial and anti-fungal properties, killing off harmful bacteria.
Castor Oil – This is the main stretch mark discoloration fighter. Castor oil has been used for centuries as a skin tonic and cure-all and is best known for treating “age spots” and “liver spots”. It is an anti-inflamatory and has been used to treat sunburn and acne. It does little to nothing in healing your skin or building up collagen (which is why the cocoa butter, coconut oil and sweet almond oil are in the mix!) but it works wonders in fading pigmentation on the skin. It can be applied directly to skin to help remove darker pigmentation, but the most important thing is to help your skin to HEAL. So it’s best paired with heavy hitting moisturizers (like this DIY salve!).
Sweet Almond Oil – Works as a moisturizer and an emollient. It works to softens skin rather than hydrate it. It also acts as a humectant to help prevent the loss of moisture.
To get immediate results (though temporary in the long run) you can pair this stretch mark salve with a weekly natural bleaching body mask – recipe soon to follow.
Keep In Mind
Ultimately, unlike acne or other skin conditions, there’s no chance of a stretch marks getting infected. There’s absolutely no biological reason to get rid of them, they’re completely benign and totally natural – a condition that is only skin deep. Yet we spend plenty of time agonizing over how to make them disappear.
While there’s nothing wrong with taking steps to naturally speed up healing and beautify our bodies, let’s always keep in mind that those “unsightly” lines are really treasured battle scars, displaying the beautiful struggle of bringing a priceless, precious life into the world. Before embarking on a stretch mark reducing regimen, take a moment to accept those scars as beautiful markers of how far we’ve grown in body and spirit and what we have accomplished.
Because I know at the end of the day, my baby girl is sooooo worth it, stretch mark salve or no. ^_^
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