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Kendrick Lamar has sung their praises. Rihanna and Chrissy Teigen have proudly shared theirs on Instagram. But it’s OK if you don’t find your own stretch marks visually appealing.
When skin stretches or shrinks quickly, its collagen and elastin may rupture. As skin heals, scars sometimes form. These are called striae, or stretch marks.
Pregnancy is the best-known culprit, but growth spurts, dramatic weight loss or gain, and even rapid muscle growth can cause them.
Unfortunately, “scar” is the key word here. There isn’t a foolproof cure that works for everyone. But there are a few home remedies that may be effective at gradually minimizing their appearance.
8 at-home remedies
Truth: If you’re hoping to completely erase your stretch marks using natural methods, you may have to reset your expectations.
Young stretch marks are more likely to fade with early treatment. You can tell whether they’re new by the color. Depending on your skin tone, new marks often look red, purple, pink, reddish-brown, or dark brown. They may also feel slightly raised and itchy.
More mature stretch marks look silver or white. A daily product regimen may have little effect on their appearance. If it does, it may take weeks to see results.
The upside? You may already have these possible fixes on hand in your kitchen or bathroom cabinet:
- vitamin A
- aloe vera
- hyaluronic acid
- coconut oil
- argan oil
- rosehip oil
- gotu kola
If your beauty routine includes retinol, then you’re already (somewhat) familiar with vitamin A.
Creams, lotions, and gels containing medicine derived from vitamin A are called topical retinoids. Retinol and retinaldehyde are retinoids that are available over the counter.
There are also prescription forms, including tretinoin, isotretinoin, adapalene, and alitretinoin.
Retinoids can help skin look smoother and more youthful. The more powerful forms are commonly used to treat acne, acne scarring, sun damage, and even melasma (a form of chronic pigmentation).
More research is needed to conclusively determine the effect of retinoids on stretch marks. But a 1996 study did find that tretinoin significantly improved the appearance of early, active stretch marks after two months of application.
Over-the-counter retinoids are associated with a few common side effects. If you decide to try a topical treatment at home, follow these steps:
- Apply it every other night at first, until your skin’s tolerance develops.
- If your skin feels irritated, apply it less often; if your skin is not irritated, apply it every night.
- Wear sunscreen every day.
If your skin begins to peel or turns red, the retinoid may not be suitable for your skin.
Ingesting vitamin A
If retinoids aren’t your bag, try upping your intake of vitamin A by eating more of these foods:
- goat cheese
- cod liver oil
- hard-boiled eggs
- sweet potatoes
- raw spinach
- pink or red grapefruit
Microdermabrasion is one of the few clinically proven ways to help stretch marks fade. Some people consider sugar scrubs a homeopathic version of that treatment.
Research on sugar as a microdermabrasion substitute is lacking, but sugar is a natural physical exfoliant. This means it can slough off dead skin cells, boosting the health and appearance of your skin and even allowing skincare products to penetrate more deeply.
DIY sugar scrub
Making your own sugar scrub is pretty simple.
- Combine 1 cup sugar with ¼ cup of a softening agent, like almond oil or coconut oil.
- Mix to create a thick, course consistency (like wet sand).
- Add some lemon juice.
Scrub this mixture over stretch marks for 8 to 10 minutes, and then rinse. Use it several times a week.
If you just can’t, try a ready-made scrub.
Aloe vera is basically the Windex of plants. The succulent has many medicinal purposes, but it’s most commonly known for its gel, which is a natural healing agent.
There’s little clinical evidence to support pure aloe vera as a stretch mark remedy. But a 2018 study found that aloe vera and sweet almond oil helped reduce itching caused by stretch marks unrelated to pregnancy.
Since scratching can make scarring worse, aloe vera could be a simple solution to soothe stretch marks and help skin heal faster. If you can’t get your hands on an aloe plant, make sure to choose a gel that’s 100 percent aloe vera.
Maybe it’s good genes, maybe it’s… hyaluronic acid!
Hyaluronic acid is a naturally occurring polysaccharide that gives skin that plump, hydrated, youthful look. It’s also believed to stimulate the production of collagen.
Collagen is a protein that, among other things, supports your skin’s structure and elasticity. But your body produces less and less collagen over time, and research has shown that lower levels of this protein can result in the formation of wrinkles and — you guessed it — stretch marks.
Some studies have shown that collagen supplements may improve hydration and elasticity. But there isn’t definitive proof that increasing your collagen intake will lessen or prevent stretch marks.
If you don’t want to commit to collagen capsules or powder, you can try boosting your levels by eating more chicken or egg whites.
For a topical solution, buy a hyaluronic acid cream (though hyaluronic acid is also available in pill form).
Newer, more visible stretch marks may benefit from coconut oil.
A 2010 study on rats found that virgin coconut oil helped heal wounds. More research is needed to establish whether humans would experience similar effects, but regardless, coconut oil makes a great (smelling) body moisturizer.
Chances are you’ve heard people singing the praises of argan oil hair products. But the Moroccan import is also gaining traction as a skin treatment.
Made from argan tree kernels, the oil can help your skin when used topically or taken orally. And since a 2016 study found that argan oil helped increase skin’s elasticity, some researchers believe it may help reduce or even prevent the appearance of stretch marks.
Rose bushes aren’t just pretty. When their blooms die on the plant, they leave behind tiny edible fruits. These fruits, called rose hips, can be used to create tea or oil.
Since rose hips contain vitamins A and C, there’s anecdotal evidence that they may help reduce the appearance of scars and stretch marks. But there’s little scientific evidence to support that claim, aside from a 2013 study.
The trial showed that rosehip oil was more effective than a placebo at reducing the severity of new stretch marks on pregnant women with existing stretch marks.
Try applying rosehip oil as a moisturizer or directly onto your stretch marks.
Gotu kola has long been a staple in traditional Chinese, Indonesian, and Ayurvedic medicine. Practitioners believe this herb can treat a range of skin concerns, and there’s some clinical evidence to support their claim.
A 2013 study found that gotu kola increases collagen production and improves skin’s strength. This means it could possibly help prevent new stretch marks from forming (or even heal existing ones).
To test the acclaimed herb for yourself, apply a cream containing gotu kola daily.
If at-home remedies aren’t working for you, there are other — more pricey — options for removing stretch marks.
Laser therapies like pulse dye, fractional photothermolysis, and excimer aren’t guaranteed to eliminate stretch marks. But they can reduce the appearance of stretch marks, depending on your skin tone and the maturity of the scars.
Microdermabrasion may be an effective solution, particularly for more mature stretch marks. The treatment involves deep exfoliation and may bring out newer skin with less visible scarring.
A relatively new option is needling, which involves injecting collagen beneath the skin’s surface. A 2016 study even concluded that this treatment may be an effective way to manage stretch marks.
It’s a common misconception that only women get stretch marks. Women are genetically predisposed to them (shocker), but men can get them too.
Pregnant women are more likely to see stretch marks form as their bodies change and grow. Other factors that may increase your chances of developing stretch marks include:
- corticosteroid medication
- rapid weight loss or gain
- breast augmentation
The most effective way to treat stretch marks is to, well, prevent them altogether. That’s easier said than done, but you can take some simple steps every day to help reduce your risk.
- Stay hydrated. Drinking enough water may help soften your skin.
- Stay moisturized. Topical creams (like coconut oil) may make stretch marks less likely.
- Lose weight gradually. Rapid, dramatic weight loss may cause your skin to shrink quickly, resulting in stretch marks.
Regardless of whether you scrub, soften, or soothe your stretch marks, they’ll likely fade with time. After all, patience is a virtue.