Stretch marks are scars that appear on your skin due to sudden changes in body size. This usually happens during pregnancy, rapid weight gain or loss, and puberty.
However, stretch marks are not caused only by overstretching of skin. Certain factors, such as a genetic predisposition, can increase your likelihood of developing stretch marks.
Nevertheless, you can take some preventive steps to try to avoid this problem. The best course of action is to keep your skin healthy and hydrated to improve its elasticity. There are many additional steps you can take to minimize the chances of such marks appearing.
Here are the top 10 tips to help prevent stretch marks.
1. Apply coconut oil
Using coconut oil is perhaps the best natural way to keep your skin moisturized.
- Rub coconut oil generously on your skin.
- Massage the area to aid absorption into the skin.
- Do this two or three times a day.
If you do not have coconut oil, you can use olive oil, cocoa butter, shea butter, avocado oil, emu oil, or just some baby oil.
2. Use castor oil packs
Expectant mothers often are advised to use castor oil to prevent stretch marks. People have used castor oil to prevent and reduce fine lines, winkles, spots, blemishes, and other skin problems for ages. It works as a humectant, helping your skin retain moisture.
- Apply a thick layer of castor oil on your skin.
- Wrap the area with plastic wrap or saran wrap.
- Apply heat with a heating pad or hot water bottle for at least 20 minutes.
- Repeat the process daily or several times a week.
If you want to thin the oil, combine one tablespoon of castor oil with two tablespoons of sweet almond oil and then apply the mixture.
3. Stay hydrated
Drinking plenty of water throughout the day will help keep your skin hydrated. This keeps your skin supple and helps maintain elasticity, thereby making your skin layers less prone to tearing. For best results, drink at least two liters of water each day.
4. Enjoy a nutritious diet
Eat a balanced and nutritious diet that is rich in vitamins C and E, zinc, silica, and other nutrients to nourish your skin. Vitamin C, in particular, is essential for regenerating connective tissue.
Minerals like zinc and silica are also useful, as zinc helps in collagen synthesis and silica helps produce collagen. So, include a variety of foods such as strawberries, blueberries, spinach, carrots, green beans, collard greens, nuts and seeds in your diet.
5. Stock up on vitamin E
Vitamin E is a powerful antioxidant that protects the collagen fibers in your skin from damage due to free radicals. This keeps the collagen fibers strong and promotes skin elasticity.
To get the maximum benefit, eat foods high in vitamin E (almonds, olives, sunflower seeds, spinach, avocados, pumpkins, etc.) and massage your skin with vitamin E oil or cream several times a day. You can take vitamin E oral supplements as well.
6. Moisturize with oil blends
You can create some interesting oil blends by combining different essential and base oils and using them to moisturize your skin.
- Combine one cup each of olive oil and coconut oil. Add four tablespoons of vitamin E oil and the contents of six vitamin A capsules. Regularly massage your skin with the mixture.
- Mix some coconut oil, cocoa butter, and shea butter. Melt the mixture in a microwave or a double boiler. Finally, add a little vitamin E oil and apply it on your skin. This is a great homemade “belly butter” for preventing pregnancy stretch marks.
- You can also add a few drops of orange oil in vitamin E oil and then apply it on your skin.
7. Try dry brushing
Dry brushing is great for your skin in many ways. It exfoliates the skin, opening the pores and removing the buildup of dead skin cells and dirt. This, in turn, helps the skin absorb moisturizing oils, creams, and lotions better. Dry brushing also stimulates circulation and helps mobilize fats and eliminate toxins.
- Before bathing or showering, brush your bare skin with long, sweeping strokes toward the heart using a soft, natural bristle brush.
- Do this for about five minutes, especially on your thighs, arms, abdomen, and buttocks, daily or every other day. Avoid brushing areas with delicate or sensitive skin.
As the name suggests, dry brushing must be done on dry and not wet skin. When purchasing the brush, opt for one that has a long handle so you can use it easily on hard-to-reach areas. You can find them in the bath section of any department store and in many drug stores.
8. Do not gain or lose weight rapidly
If you are working hard to lose some extra pounds, it is best not to lose more than one pound a week as rapid weight loss can leave you with ugly stretch marks. Similarly, rapid weight gain also can lead to stretch marks.
For example, they can appear during pregnancy or intense workouts to build muscles in a short amount of time. It is normal to gain about 22 to 28 pounds during pregnancy, but women should be careful about “eating for two” so as not to gain more weight than is necessary to support the baby’s development.
As for muscle building, stretch marks are more likely to appear when you lift heavy weights with low reps to bulk up quickly. So, to prevent stretch marks, build lean muscle mass by using moderately heavy weights and increasing the reps.
9. Exercise regularly
Regular, moderate exercise promotes circulation, which in turn nourishes the skin cells. Also, it tones the muscles and improves skin elasticity.
Furthermore, regular exercise helps regulate hormones and induces sweating to eliminate toxins from the body. Pregnant women can include light exercises or a workout designed for pregnant women in their routine after consulting their doctor.
10. Avoid prolonged use of corticosteroids
Frequent and prolonged use of topical corticosteroids, such as ointments and creams, is associated with a greater risk of developing permanent stretch marks. Such use can cause skin atrophy (thinning of the skin). So, it best to use these medications intermittently.