Today I’m inspired by a recent question I received from a client, about how to heal pregnancy stretch marks.
What are stretch marks?
Stretch marks are the bane of many a woman’s existence. Whether you went through a recent weight gain, or are recovering from post-pregnancy weight, stretch marks tend to pop up because your skin is stretching beyond what its fibres can handle.
Stretch marks start as angry red marks which occur because the dermis, or under layer of your skin, tears when rapid stretching of the skin happens, which then develop into fine white to silvery lines on the skin.
Your skin grows in three layers. The first, or outermost layer, is known as the epidermis; this is the layer you can see. The second, or under layer, is called the dermis. The third, or innermost, layer is known as the subcutaneous stratum.
The underlayer of your skin, or dermis, is made up of collagen fibers. Collagen fibers are elastic by nature, and they give your skin the ability to stretch. However, skin can’t stretch indefinitely. When skin expands rapidly, the collagen fibers of the dermis can’t keep up; they tear, and scar tissue develops, causing stretch marks.
As I said, they may develop during pregnancy as the abdomen enlarges because of the baby growing inside. They may also appear because of sudden gains in weight and/or remain after weight loss, or as a result of breast-enlargement surgery. Rapid growth during puberty may also lead to the development of stretch marks, as can rapid growth in body-building.
In a few rare cases, stretch marks disappear with time. However, these unsightly lines may remain forever.
Stretch marks are a perfectly natural result of changes in the shape of our bodies. Where some women see them as something to be proud of – the proof of a health pregnancy – many women see them as ugly and unsightly.
Today I’m sharing a few ideas to help prevent and/or heal stretch marks.
Prevention is better than cure
As with many skin and health problems, working to prevent stretch marks helps to reduce their effect and, therefore, means they’ll be easier to heal if you do experience them.
So how can we prevent stretch marks? Here are a few tips…
Regular exercise is great for our overall health, yes, but it’s also great for the health of our skin. Exercise helps the body to flush-out toxins and all the bad stuff which we really don’t want building-up inside our bodies, which means our skin won’t be asked to pick-up the slack in this regard. This means our skin will be healthier and better able to deal with any changes.
Ensuring you eat enough proteins, and vitamin C- and E-rich foods will help. These foods promote the growth of new tissues and the healing of damaged tissues in the skin. Foods rich in zinc, such as nuts and seeds, help prevent the development of stretch marks.
Keeping skin well-moisturised and fed from the outside is a very important step in preventing stretch marks. There are some amazing natural ingredients which can be really helpful during pregnancy (and other times of change in body size). For example, shea butter is famous for its skincare benefits, as are cocoa butter, olive oil, and various other plant oils and essential oils.
How to heal
Prevention is all very well, but how do we heal stretch marks if we’ve already got them?
Firstly, all three points which I’ve mentioned above – exercise, eating healthily, and moisturising morning and evening – are still of utmost importance. But I also want to give you a few specific ingredients and recipes you can use to help reduce your stretch marks.
Shea Butter is naturally rich in Vitamins A, E, and F, as well as a number of other vitamins and minerals. Vitamins A and E help to soothe, hydrate, and balance the skin. They also provide skin collagen which helps with stretch marks, as well as wrinkles and other signs of ageing. Vitamin F contains essential fatty acids, and helps protect and revitalize damaged skin and hair. Shea Butter is an intense moisturiser for dry skin, and is a wonderful product for revitalizing dull or dry skin on the body or scalp. It promotes skin renewal, increases the circulation, and accelerates wound healing.
As mentioned earlier, if you are using shea butter to prevent the stretch marks that can occur with pregnancy, it’s best to begin at the start of your pregnancy, before the skin has begin to stretch at all.
Cocoa butter is a natural vegetable fat made from cocoa beans. Cocoa butter is naturally rich in vitamin E, an antioxidant vitamin that helps protect the collagen fibres in your skin from free radical damage. This helps make the collagen fibres in your skin stronger, to help them retain their elasticity and reduce the appearance of stretch marks after pregnancy.
Many commercial stretch mark creams are made primarily of cocoa butter.
Lavender oil is an often recommended home remedy in the treatment of stretch marks. When applied three times a day to the affected area, lavender oil induces the growth of new skin tissues to make the stretch marks gradually fade away.
Note: lavender is a uterus stimulant so be careful using it during pregnancy; it is best avoided completely during the early months of pregnancy.
Massaging the fleshy pulp, or gel, of aloe vera on stretch marks can help to tone and firm-up the skin. The enzymes present in aloe vera promote the removal of damaged tissues while keeping healthy skin hydrated.
If you don’t have an aloe vera plant from which you can harvest the gel, you can get it easily at most health food shops.
Natural plant oils such as olive, castor, coconut, as well as some more obscure oils such as hazelnut and baobab seed oils are all packed full of nutrients and vitamins which feed the skin from the outside-in. These oils are made-up of particles small enough to penetrate through the upper layers of the skin to reach the inner layer of skin where they are needed most.
I’ve already mentioned lavender, but there are other essential oils which may prove beneficial. Carrot seed, geranium, mandarin, neroli, and rose are all known to help with the regeneration of new skin cells.
As I mentioned with regard to lavender, some essential oils are uterus-stimulants (meaning they promote menstruation), so do take care if using them during pregnancy.
So there you have it, a variety of natural ingredients you can use at home to treat stretch marks. You may find some of the ingredients difficult or expensive to source. In this case, please get in touch. At Freyaluna, we’re always working to develop new products for specific skin concerns, and stretch marks is on our list!
Remember, I’m not offering any quick fixes. If you try any of these ingredients, you need to give them time to work – anything from two weeks to six months. Be patient. Good things come to those who wait.
For now, let me leave you with this thought…
Until next time,